Tag Archives: Board of Agriculture

Board of Agriculture Approves an Emergency Loan Program for Farmers, Ranchers

Richard Ha writes:

Yesterday, the state Board of Agriculture approved an Emergency Loan Program for farmers and ranchers who suffered damage due to Tropic Storm Iselle.

Governor Neil Abercrombie declared the entire state of Hawai‘i a disaster area due to the high wind and rain associated with Iselle. This authorizes the expenditure of state monies for disaster relief.

The main elements of the Board of Agriculture's emergency loan program are:

  • Maximum loan amount: $100,000
  • Terms to be determined on a case-bycase basis as needed. Consideration will be given to the applicants based on prior performance and projected cash flow based on reasonable assumptions of revenue and expenses.
  • Interest rate: 3 percent (Federal loan program may have lower interest rate)
  • The credit elsewhere requirement shall be waived for loans of $50,000 or less. 
  • The 3 year residency requirement for U.S. Citizens and permanent resident aliens shall not apply.
  • Collateral requirements may be modified or waived, as necessary, on a case-by-case basis. Whenever possible, the provisions of Section 155-11, Security for Loans, should be followed.
  • Emergency Loan Applications can be accepted until December 31, 2014.

My Op-Ed: ‘We Need Cheaper Electricity’

Did you see the op-ed in yesterday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser? In case you didn’t, this is what I submitted to them:


We Need Cheaper Electricity

By Richard Ha

Here is the single most important need facing Hawai‘i today. Everything else radiates from it:

We need cheaper electricity.

It can be done. Recently the Big Island Community Coalition, along with others, helped stop some fairly significant electricity rate hikes from showing up on everybody’s HELCO bills.

And we are very lucky to have resources here, such as geothermal energy, that we can use to generate much cheaper electricity.

Here’s why this is so important:

• We need enough food to eat, and we need to grow it here, instead of relying on it coming to us from somewhere else.

Food security – having enough food to eat, right here where we live – is truly the bottom line. We live in the middle of an ocean, we import more than 80 percent of what we eat, and sometimes there are natural or other disasters and shipping disruptions. This makes a lot of us a little nervous.

• To grow our food here, we need for our farmers to make a decent living: “If the farmers make money, the farmers will farm.”

The price of oil, and of petroleum byproducts like fertilizers and many other farming products, keeps going up, which raises farmers’ costs. They cannot pass on all these higher costs, and they lose money.

We use oil for 70 percent of our electricity here in Hawai‘i, whereas on the mainland they use oil for only 2 percent of theirs—so when the cost of oil increases, anything here that requires electricity to produce is less competitive. And farmers in Hawai‘i also pay four times as much for electricity as do their mainland competition, which puts them at an even bigger competitive disadvantage. Fewer young people are going into farming and this will impact our food security even further.

HELCO needs to be a major driver in reducing the cost of electricity. We believe that HELCO is fully capable of providing us with reliable and less costly electrical power, and ask that the PUC reviews its directives to and agreements with HELCO. Its directives should now be that HELCO’s primary objective should be making significant reductions in the real cost of reliable electric power to Hawai‘i Island residents.

At the same time, we ask that HELCO be given the power to break out of its current planning mode in order to find the most practicable means of achieving this end. We will support a long-range plan that realistically drives down our prices to ensure the viability of our local businesses and the survivability of our families. All considerations should be on the table, including power sources (i.e., oil, natural gas, geothermal, solar, biomass, etc.), changes in transmission policy including standby charges, and retaining currently operating power plants.

This is not “us” vs. “them.” We are all responsible for creating the political will to get it done.

Rising electricity costs act like a giant regressive tax: the people on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder get hurt first, and hardest. If our energy costs are lower – and we can absolutely make that happen – our farmers can keep their prices down, food will be cheaper, and consumers will have more money left over at the end of the month. This is good for our people, and for our economy.

We have good resources here and we need to maximize them. Geothermal and other options for cheaper for energy. We also have the University of Hawai‘i, the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center and others that help our farmers.

To learn more about achieving cheaper electricity rates, consider joining the Big Island Community Coalition (bigislandcommunitycoalition.com; there’s no cost). We send out an occasional email with information on what we’re doing to get electricity costs down, and how people can help.

Remember the bottom line: every one of us needs to call for cheaper electricity, and this will directly and positively impact our food security.

Richard Ha is a farmer on the Big Island’s Hamakua coast, a member of the state’s Board of Agriculture, and chairman of the Big Island Community Coalition.



Ruderman’s Support for Board of Ag Reappointment

Richard Ha writes:

I very much appreciated Senator Ruderman’s support for my reappointment to the Board of Agriculture.

From Big Island Video News (video here):

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The reappointment of Hamakua farmer Richard Ha to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture was confirmed by the State Senate on Friday.

The unanimous vote was not without some initial controversy. Puna State Senator Russell Ruderman, adverse to Ha’s support of GMO farming, devised an email and social media campaign against Ha’s return to the ag board when it first came up for a vote.

Ha received a flood of support from across the state.

Eventually Ruderman changed his tune. There was even a meeting between the two at the Capitol in which the two bonded over Ha’s support of organic farming and even Ha’s tomatoes, which Ruderman purchases for sale at his Hawaii Island market chain, Island Naturals.

On the floor of the Senate during the final vote, Ruderman rose to clarify his position and his apology to Ha…. See the rest

When Senator Ruderman and I met and talked, I made it clear that my agenda is always about what happens to the rubbah slippah folks.

It’s also important to note that my agenda is not “pro-GMO,” as Ruderman states. I am pro-science, and I will go wherever science takes us.

One of his concerns, he told me, was regarding supporting organic farmers. I wrote about this, back in February, in my blog post Why Organic & Conventional Farmers Need Each Other:

…Both organic and conventional farmers in Hawai‘i are at a disadvantage. And we need to work together to lower each other’s costs, not fight about methods and labels and all that. Read the rest

I appreciate Senator Ruderman’s positive vote and I look forward to working with him.


The People I Turn To Re: Energy Issues

Richard Ha writes:

It is clear to me that the most important issue we face here on the Big Island right now is that of energy costs. There is a huge risk associated with the rising price of oil, it’s going to affect us all, and we don’t have the luxury of time to deal with it. We need to figure it out now.

We have resources here and ways to address this. It’s not rocket science.  It’s all a matter of cost and common sense. What I find is that the rubbah slippah folks get it quickly.

It comes down to a matter of attitude. Instead of being the people who look for a thousand ways why, “No can!” we must become people who look for the one reason why “CAN!!”

Energy issues are completely interconnected with agriculture – together, they all lead to our food security, or lack thereof – and I appreciate all the supportive testimony from so many people re: my renomination to the state Board of Agriculture. Here is a full list of the testimony, which includes support from some of the very knowledgeable people I turn to to learn about and confirm information about energy issues.

If it sounds like I know what I am talking about re: energy, it is because I have spent a lot of time at conferences and also learning from these experts, whose testimony you can read at that link above:

#7 Mayor Billy Kenoi. Mayor Kenoi recognized early on that geothermal would play a crucial role in our energy future and that’s why he helped the Geothermal Working Group, authorized by SCR 99, accomplish its work. I was part of a delegation he took to see geothermal operations at Ormoc City, Philippines. We visited a geothermal plant sited on the flanks of a volcano that last erupted 100,000 years ago. (In comparison, Mauna Kea last erupted 4,000 years ago and so is likely an even hotter spot for geothermal.) The mayor also formed a task force to evaluate the health effects of geothermal on the community.

#204 Henk Rogers. Henk is founder of the Blue Planet Foundation and understands and appreciates the potential of geothermal base power energy. He operates his own grid at Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Ranch. He also has a fully functional hydrogen refueling station on site. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are coming to the Big Island. Henk is a doer more than a talker. When he does talk, it’s likely to be with the King of Bhutan or Sir Richard Branson about energy issues.

#89 TJ Glauthier has operated at the highest level of our national government. He was second in command in the Department of Energy in the Clinton Administration. His list of accomplishments is so long that when I introduced him to the senior assets managers at Kamehameha Schools, I did it like this: TJ has an extremely long list of accomplishments but let me just describe him this way: He is a “good guy.” That’s all I needed to say. Here in Hawai‘i, we all know what that means. He is a good friend and we are in constant contact.

#257 Robert Rapier. Like Mayor Kenoi, Robert Rapier is a “scrappah.” His was the lone voice that opposed Vinod Khosla’s biofuel projects because the net energy did not add up. Several hundred million dollars of subsidies later, Robert proved to be right. He knows his stuff. He has actually operated industrial-scale chemical plants, and yet he can explain scientific concepts in a way that is easy for the layman to understand. I can call him at all times of the day or on weekends. We have become good friends.

#82 Nate Hagens. Nate was editor of The Oil Drum blog, where academics, oil industry professionals and investors came to see what was new. If you participated, you had better know what you were talking about. These folks did not suffer fools lightly. The Oil Drum did not stop publishing because Peak Oil was dead; I think it stopped because we know all we need to know. Now it’s time to do something about it.

Charlie Hall. (See his testimony at this post.) Charlie Hall is a world-renowned systems ecologist. He does not speak about biology from an individual silo but talks about how it involves energy and its effects on real people. Environmentalists who are not systems-oriented sometimes forget about the effects on people. Charlie is known as the father of modern day Energy Return on Investment (EROI). I helped arrange lectures for him to speak at UH Hilo as well as UH Manoa. His wife Myrna, Charlie and myself have become good friends.

#84 Gail Tverberg. Gail is a former insurance actuary whose job was to price risk. She has a stark view of the future. Although I cannot find fault with her view of things,  I am the eternal optimist and spend my time looking for workarounds. Gail wrote in support of our Big Island Community Coalition’s efforts to lower electricity rates. (As it turned out, we were successful in defeating the Aina Koa Pono biofuel project, which would have cut off options for lowering our electricity rates.) I helped bring Gail to Hilo for a presentation at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and spent a whole weekend taking her family around the Big Island. I asked her a million questions.

I wrote this in November, and it’s still true. From Let’s Adapt to Change and Survive: “Charles Darwin said it’s not the strongest nor the smartest who survive, but the ones that can adapt to change. Let’s survive, and more.”


Michelle Galimba & What Truth Tastes Like

Richard Ha writes:

Michelle Galimba is a rancher (at her family’s Kuahiwi Ranch, in Na‘alehu) and a member of the Board of Agriculture.

One day, on a plane, I looked across the aisle and saw her reading a newspaper. I did a doubletake when I realized the newspaper was in Chinese.

Michelle is a rancher with a PhD in comparative literature from U.C. Berkeley who knows Chinese. She’s a very interesting, gifted, thinking person. You can click into her blog Ehulepo on the right side of this blog anytime. It’s worth reading.

Here’s an article she wrote at the She Grows Food blog called What Does Truth Taste Like.

What does truth taste like? What does justice taste like?

These might sound like terribly pompous questions to ask. But they are worth asking as we learn, un-learn, re-learn the question: “What is food?”

What is food?

Food – we speak of it as good or bad, as healthy or indulgent, pretty or ugly, tasty or yucky, clever or boring,strange or familiar, pure or tainted.

What is it that we eat? It was there before each of us, like the air we breathe, and yet more complexly given to us by each other – cultural, social, ecological. It is what we have absorbed already before we became conscious; it is what we are formed from. It is what our first thoughts were bent upon, what our bodies cried out for before there were words. Food is a feeling, an interchange with the world, a necessary blessing.

Food can be beautiful and good. It should be so. Because it is the flower of the entirety of our knowledge, because it is the will of the community to nourish and sustain, to embody itself, animate itself. Because it is the form and medium of our conversation with the web of life, in which humans are but one node.

The pathway of food should be known by all – its path from earth to belly and back to earth. What knowledge is more necessary?

Truth might have a taste. Would we know it when we tasted it? …

Read the rest


Nominated to the Board of Agriculture

Richard Ha
Re: Nomination to the Board of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Ha:

Congratulations on being nominated by Governor Linda Lingle to the Board of Agriculture. To assist the Senate with its confirmation process, I am requesting that the following information be submitted to my office:

A written statement that addresses the following questions:

Why do you wish to be a member of the Board of Agriculture?

I am very interested in food security for Hawaii and I hope to be able to make a contribution toward that goal.

How do you perceive the role and responsibilities of a member of the Board of Agriculture?

I see the role of a member of the Board of Agriculture as making responsible decisions on agriculture matters, taking a broad societal view of things. I specifically see the role as an opportunity to help make Hawaii more food secure.

I am an advocate for all kinds of farmers–large and small, organic and conventional, on all islands, all elevations, wet side and dry. Although we may be considered large farmers, I think it is very dangerous for food security to depend on a few very large farms.

Given your understanding of the role and responsibilities of a member of the Board of Agriculture, why do you believe that you are qualified for the position? Please include a brief statement of your skills, expertise, or knowledge that would aid in your decision-making ability as a member of the Board of Agriculture.

After getting a degree in accounting at the UH, I started growing bananas nearly 30 years ago. We had no money so we traded chicken manure for banana pulapula. Eventually, we became the largest banana grower in the state and bought 600 acres of fee simple land. The things that failed along the way could fill a museum. This experience was very valuable. I have a very high respect for wise old small farmers. And, like them, I try not to talk too much.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term of service?

I hope to bring awareness that Food Security involves farmers farming. And that if farmers make money, then farmers will farm. This is not complicated.

Name three qualities that best describe you and that would make you stand out. How would these qualities benefit the Board of Agriculture?

  1. I see myself as a bridge between the “shiny shoe” folks and the “rubbah slippah” folks.
  2. I have the ability to see a desired goal in the future and can stay focused on that goal.
  3. There are a thousand reasons why no can. I try to look for the one reason why CAN!! Keep it simple, keep it focused and no give up.

Name one previous experience that would make you stand out. How would this benefit the Board of Agriculture?

I helped with the Thirty Meter Telescope decision to site the telescope on Mauna Kea. I was able to talk to folks on all sides of the issue. I learned from Patrick Kahawaiola‘a that the process was most important. I thought that, that being the case, then everyone contributing to the process made for a better final product. That means we need to aloha everyone who contributed input, whether or not we agree with the position.

Two or three years ago, I told Kumu Lehua Veincent, Principal of Keaukaha Elementary School, that the Thirty Meter Telescopes wanted to come to the Big Island. I suggested that as a start we ask them for a good faith offer. I told Kumu, “How about we ask them for five full ride scholarships for Keaukaha kids, to the best schools in the nation?” Kumu looked up at me and simply said: “And what about the rest?” I could feel my ears getting hot. I felt pretty stupid. Indeed, what about the rest.

These two lessons, “the process” and “what about the rest?” are principles I hold very close to me. And I think that this approach will benefit the Board of Agriculture.

Can you foresee any possible conflicts of interests that could arise during your service on the Board of Agriculture? How would you overcome any possible conflicts of interest?

I do not see conflicts of interest at this point. However, I will quickly recuse myself if I do.

Your prompt response in providing the above information will ensure that the Senate confirmation process can proceed in a timely manner. Thank you.


Senator Clayton Hee
Chair, Senate Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture, and Hawaiian Affairs