Tag Archives: CTAHR

Advocating for Agricultural Policy in Washington D.C.

Richard Ha writes:

I’m in Washington, D.C. for a joint meeting of CARET representatives (I’m the Hawai‘i representative for the Council on Agriculture, Research, Extension and Teaching) and the Administration Heads Section, which consists of the deans of the nation’s Land-Grant Colleges. This is my second year as Hawai‘i’s CARET representative and I’m getting my feet on the ground.

The University of Hawai‘i is a Land-Grant College, and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) is its agriculture component.

A land-grant college or unversity is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education. 

Before the Morrill Acts, only rich people could get a university degree. It is significant that President Lincoln signed the act into law. The Land Grant Colleges helped make the U.S. the premier agriculture nation in the world.

I’m happy to help promote the agriculture mission of CTAHR. CTAHR programs were very helpful in our farm being successful for so many years, and I have tremendous respect for the men and women in CTAHR’s programs.

After three days of meetings to discuss and strategize which specific programs of the Land-Grant Colleges we will lend support to, each CARET representative will go see his or her own congressional delegation.

Our situation is a little unusual because our state is so small and we actually know all four of our representatives and senators. My pockets are full. I brought mac nuts and coffee and I’ve been sharing it around with people. You know, aloha spirit. It’s what we do. I think I got them trained already.

There’s snow here!






You’re Invited to a Community Meeting re: Hamakua Agriculture

Richard Ha writes:

Save the dates:

  • Wednesday, October 29
  • Wednesday, November 5
  • Thursday, November 13
  • 6-8 p.m.
  • Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Bandroom

On these dates, the Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation will hold a series of community meetings to discuss agriculture on the Hamakua Coast. All are welcome (and refreshments are free).

We will take a 40,000 foot view of ag and its outside influences, and then look at the resources available to help us, such as the Daniel K. Inouye-Pacific Basin Ag Research Center (PBARC), the College of Tropical Ag and Human Resources (CTAHR), and the College of Ag, Forestry and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) at UH Hilo. 

There are many scientists researching various subjects. What do we want them to work on?

Farmers will be at the meeting to share their knowledge and experience.

Are you looking for land to farm? Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate with be there, and the Hamakua Ag Co-op has vacant land.

John Cross, former land manager for C. Brewer/Hilo Coast Processing, will attend. Did you know why all the sugar cane equipment had tracks, rather than rubber tires? Did you know that the plantations frequently planted banyan trees as significant landmarks? 

Jeff Melrose will be at the meetings. He recently did a study that's a snapshot of agriculture on the Big Island. He will talk about on what is grown on the Hamakua coast and why.

Come and talk story with the presenters, learn where you can get additional information, and speak up on what you would like to know more about in the future.

Ag & food security symposia



Western Region Meeting – Part 2 & Lake Tahoe

Richard Ha writes:

Last time I wrote about the first session of the Western Region meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which I attended at Lake Tahoe as a Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) delegate.

The remaining sessions focused on the four major areas that comprise the Western Agenda – fire, water, invasive species, and endangered species.

Maria Gallo, director of UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is proposing adding the important subjects of nutrition and obesity to the Western Agenda, and I support that idea.

I like that we are taking a systems approach to this. The world has become incredibly interconnected, but too often we look at things in their independent silos. My friend, Charlie Hall, is a systems ecologist. He looks at things from an interconnected, ecological point of view.

The main issue we discussed was whether we would take the time to create one cohesive comprehensive paper that incorporates all four parts of the Western Agenda, or whether we would focus on one important issue and build the comprehensive paper along the way.

We CARET members wanted to get moving right away. We are action-oriented and want to have something we are working on before our winter meeting in Washington, D.C. We decided to get behind “fire” and push it hard as soon as we can.

The plan is very complex and involves multiple stakeholders who have been in the fight for varying lengths of time and to different degrees. We are not interested in who gets credit so much as in moving this project forward. Fire season will start soon and we will see multiple fires throughout the West. We all know this. We need to move, and move now.

Hawai‘i is going to be a major contributor in this work on the Western Agenda, especially in the area of endangered species, invasive species, and water issues. I am happy to be in the middle of it.

While this important work was going on, June and I took some time to see South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco closer up.

Here’s Lake Tahoe from our room, overlooking the Summer Concert series stage area.

View of lake

We went on a paddle wheeler on the lake.

We saw sandy beaches, warm weather, and many homes built right into the landscape. They introduced a proposal that new developments cannot reflect sunlight into the lake.

We also sat at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and I had ceviche and raw oysters, while June had a sourdough break bowl with Dungeness crab cocktails. There were seagulls all around. We’re having a fun time.


Might We ‘Have No Bananas?’

Richard Ha writes:

My friend Nate Hagens forwarded me this story yesterday. I’d been aware of this peripherally, but now this is serious and we are putting the issue front and center. 

The gist of it is that a massive Chiquita banana plantation in Mozambique has a deadly banana disease that will likely spread, and probably already has.

From Popular Science.com:

Has The End Of The Banana Arrived?

Researchers fear that a relentless and virulent fungus could cripple the world's banana monoculture.

By Dan Koeppel Posted 05.13.2014 at 8:30 am

Two weeks ago, at a conference in South Africa, scientists met to discuss how to contain a deadly banana disease outbreak in nearby Mozambique, Africa. At fault was a fungus that continues its march around the planet. In recent years, it has spread across Asia and Australia, devastating plants there that bear the signature yellow supermarket fruit.

The international delegation of researchers shared their own approaches to the malady, hoping to arrive at some strategy to insulate Mozambique and the rest of Africa: a continent where bananas are essential to the lives of millions. They left the Cape Town-based meeting with an air of optimism.

Only days after the meeting, however, a devastating new survey of the stricken Mozambique farm was released. Scientists at the conference assumed that the fungus was limited to a single plot. The new report suggested the entire plantation was infested, expanding 125 diseased acres to more than 3,500. All told, 7 million banana plants were doomed to wilt and rot.

“The future looks bleak,” says Altus Viljoen, the South African plant pathologist who organized the conference. "There’s no way they’ll be able to stop any further spread if they continue to farm.” Worse, he says, the disease's rapid spread endangers banana crops beyond Mozambique’s borders…

Read the rest

The Mozambique banana plantation has what veteran banana farmers know as “Panama Wilt.” Long-time banana farmers in Hawai‘i remember when “Race 1, Panama Wilt” killed off Hawai‘i’s Bluefield bananas, the main variety grown here back then, as well as the banana varieties that the ancient Hawaiians brought in their canoes.

This disease in Mozambique is a variant of that one, called “Race 4, Fusarium Wilt.” This one affects and kills many banana varieties, including the Cavendish varieties, which are the main bananas in the world trade.

What’s most disturbing in this story is that Chiquita seems to have done a lot of things wrong when it started its new banana plantation in Mozambique. The company sent workers back and forth from Mozambique to Central America, when this disease easily spreads by soil on boots and clothing. The writer speculates that the disease is probably in Central America right now! As a long time banana farmer who knows about banana diseases, I too believe that it is probable.

The possiblity of this disease arriving here and decimating Hawai‘i’s banana industry is very real, and very scary. Our local banana industry is working closely with the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. I sent them this article, and the wheels are turning. This is no longer business as usual!

This same thing happened in Taiwan. They have the Race 4 disease there, and all their farmers now source their new plantings from Race 4-free tissue culture. They are selecting for resistance as they go along. The director of Taiwan’s lab is a graduate of UH Manoa and we visited that tissue culture facility once.

I’m debating whether I should start up our tissue culture lab again. In the meantime, we are relying heavily on the College of Tropical Ag. This is a very, very serious situation and it’s bigger than any of us alone. But I’m optimistic.


Risk & How We Live Our Lives

Richard Ha writes:

The College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources at the University of Hawai‘i has a good article out right now about risks, and how we make decisions about them. They point out that we fly in airplanes, even though they could crash, because we consider the risk and know that it’s very low. We enjoy the sun, although we know it could cause melanoma, after considering the risk and take necessary precautions such as long sleeves and sunscreen. It's all about the risk and the benefit.

They point out that it’s the same with agricultural technologies, and it’s really all just common sense. Everything we do and every decision we make is about risk assessment.

From Biotech in Focus:

Risks and Decisions: How We Live and Farm

In our last bulletin, we discussed the regulatory framework that the United States uses to evaluate genetically engineered crops. Are these regulations too lax? Too restrictive? Appropriate for current circumstances? Before we examine issues of biotechnology and safety, we’ll consider the process by which people assess safety in their daily lives….

        Read the rest

It’s just common sense, and this article makes that point nicely.


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.



Big Island: Risk Management Programs in Ag

Richard Ha writes:

There are some interesting programs coming up on the Big Island from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, specifically from its Risk Management program.

These are the kind of programs that the CARET people were advocating for when we got together in Washington, D.C. recently to support federal funding for Agriculture: Research, Extension and Teaching.

  • Monday, March 17, 2014 – Spray Equipment Calibration and Spray Calculation Workshop and Field Day; 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, KCES
  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014 – CBB IPM with Focus on Field Sanitation, Sampling, Monitoring and Early Season Spraying; 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm, KCES
  • Thursday, March 20 & Tuesday, March 25, 2014; Tea 101 workshops; 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, Mealani Research Station; (Note: Registration for both sessions are CLOSED. Please contact Didi at 887-6183 or email mddiaz@hawaii.edu for more information and to get on the waiting list)
  • Thursday, March 27, 2014; Alien Invaders of the Worst Kind – A Systems Approach to Pest Management; 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm; Waimea Civic Center conference room
  • Friday, March 28, 2014; Lychee Pest Management: Fruit Bagging and Fruit Fly Control Field Day; 10:00 am – 11:30 am; Kawika Tropical Fruit Orchards – Hakalau; Limited to 25 persons. An RSVP is required; please call Gina at 322-4892 to RSVP or by email at ginab@hawaii.edu by Mar. 27, 2014.

Plant Breeding Goes High Tech

Richard Ha writes:

Have a look at this very clear, responsible and easy-to-digest overview of biotech. It was created by the UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) and its very dedicated, competent and locally-focused professionals who are friends to all of us.

The first of its two pages (clickable):


Right on, Dr. Ania, for making the subject of biotech so clear and understandable.

The Big Island seems to have taken a machine-gun approach to this subject, such as with the recent anti-GMO bill. The bullets hit all of our farmer friends, the ones here on the ground, instead of their intended target (the large seed companies).

It’s time now to clean up and undo the unintended consequences. Mayor Kenoi is right: We need to get on with the business of growing food!

Click to see the whole February 2014 issue of Biotech In Focus. Back issues are available on CTAHR's website, too.

And if you’d like to be on the mailing list so you’re notified of future issues, drop a note to Dr. Ania Wieczorek.


Not a Tomato, But a Caret

Richard Ha writes:

I am in Washington D.C. right now.

Dean Gallo, of the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources (CTAHR), asked me if I would be the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) delegate representing Hawai‘i. 

The Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) is a national grassroots organization created in 1982 by APLU’s Division of Agriculture. CARET is composed of representatives from the 50 states, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. CARET’s mission is to advocate for greater national support and understanding of the land-grant university system’s food and agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs that enhance the quality of life for all people. CARET also works with national agricultural organizations to tell agriculture’s “story.” 

This brochure is an interesting look at CARET, who its delegates are and how it works.

I’m a big supporter of CTAHR and also Dean Gallo. They do excellent work, and I could not be more pleased to support a cause I truly believe in.

Out here in the middle of the ocean, as we are, we really need to support those who support all of us.