Tag Archives: Hawaii Island

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

 

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‘Behind the Plug & Beyond the Barrel’

Richard Ha writes:

I spoke on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) at the Hawai‘i Island Renewable Energy Solutions Summit 2014 on April 30th, which was titled “Behind the Plug and Beyond the Barrel," and here's what I said: 

BICC mission

Good morning. Thanks for the introduction. I will use just this one slide, and you can read our mission statement on it, which is to lower the cost of electricity. “To make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state by emphasizing the use of local resources.”

I would like to spend some time talking about who makes up the BICC.

Dave DeLuz, Jr. – President of Big Island Toyota.

John Dill – Contractors Association, and Chair of the Ethics Commission

Rockne Freitas – Former Chancellor Hawai‘i Community College

Michelle Galimba – Rancher, Board of Agriculture

Richard Ha – Farmer

Wallace Ishibashi – Royal Order of Kamehameha, DHHL Commissioner

Kuulei Kealoha Cooper- Trustee, Jimmy Kealoha and Miulan Kealoha Trust.

Noe Kalipi – Former staffer for Sen Akaka, helped write the Akaka Bill, energy consultant

Kai'u Kimura- Executive Director of ‘Imiloa.

Bobby Lindsey – OHA Trustee

Monty Richards – Kahua Ranch

Marcia Sakai – Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, former Dean of UH Hilo, College of Business

Bill Walter- President of Shipman, Ltd., which is the largest landowner in Puna.

These folks are all operating in their private capacities. I'm chair of the BICC, and the only person from Hawai‘i to have attended five Peak Oil conferences. I've visited Iceland and the Philippines with Mayor Kenoi's exploratory group.

As you can imagine, the BICC has strong support all across political parties and socioeconomic strata. People get it in five minutes.

Oil and gas are finite resources, and prices will rise.  One note about natural gas: the decline rate of the average gas well is very high. Ninety percent of the production comes out in five years. This is worrisome.

Hawai‘i Island relies on oil for sixty percent of its electricity generation; the U.S. mainland only two percent.

As the price of oil rises, our food manufacturers and producers become less competitive, as we all know. Food security involves farmers farming. And if the farmers make money, the farmers will farm.

What can we do?  By driving the cost of electricity down, the Big Island can have a competitive edge to the rest of the world.

Since rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax, lowering electricity rates would do just the opposite. And since two-thirds of the economy is made up of consumer spending, this would be like "trickle up" economics. If the rubbah slippah folks had extra money, they would spend and everyone would benefit.

 The lowest-hanging fruit:

1. Geothermal. Allows us to dodge the finite resource bullet. It is the lowest-cost base power. The Big Island will be over the hot spot for 500,000 to a million years.

2. We throw away many lots of MW of electricity every night. Hu Honua will probably throw away 10 MW for ten hours every night. PGV, maybe 7 MW for ten hours.

3. Wind, too.

Maybe HELCO will allow us to move the excess electricity free. They don't make any money on the throwaway power now, anyway. What if we used it for something that won't compete with them? Then people could bid for the excess, throwaway power for hydrogen fueling stations, to make ammonia fertilizer, and to attract data centers. Hawaii could become the renewable energy capital of the world. People would love to come here and look at that. As airline ticket costs rise, the walk around cost in Hawai‘i would not.

The BICC call for lowering electricity costs could leave future generations a better Hawai‘i.  And that is what we all want.

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Our Newspapers Need To Cover The News

Richard Ha writes:

Where are our local newspapers?

Why does it take the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to back up our island’s local farmers and ranchers, and to point out that agricultural policy should never be set without the participation of the people producing our food?

This is what appears to be happening in Hawai‘i at the moment.

An excerpt from yesterday’s Star-Advertiser editorial, which talks about the Big Island’s recent passage of the “anti-GMO” bill 113:

“The state Legislature may be able to undo this wrong, but it will take true leadership and real political courage. Lawmakers should assert the state government’s authority over agricultural rules and enforcement, rather than standing by as the counties continue to impose undue burdens on local farmers.”

The article also asserts: “It’s time for elected officials and policymakers throughout the state to stand up and be counted. Let’s have an ‘Eat GMO Papaya Day.’ This food is safe, it’s affordable and it’s grown right here at home.”

And why does it take the Star-Advertiser to point out that our policies are exhibiting an unwarranted distrust of University of Hawai‘i specialists in tropical agriculture?

State must take lead in GMO debate

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 12, 2014

That a Big Island councilwoman would seek to revive a bill banning all genetically modified crops on Hawaii island, even though strict limits on such agriculture were approved only a month ago under another bill, indicates just how emboldened biotechnology foes have become in their quest to control Hawaii farmers.

The measure is not expected to pass, and should be rejected. It should not, however, be ignored, especially on Oahu. Councilwoman Brenda Ford’s proposal signals that rather than taking responsible action to assess the impact on local agriculture of the newly approved Bill 113, some elected officials are willing to put productive local farmers flat out of business. Login for more…

WHY does it take reporter Amy Harmon from the New York Times to tell us what is happening on our own island?

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

By AMY HARMON

JAN. 4, 2014

KONA, Hawaii — From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

“Are we going to just ignore them?” Mr. Ilagan wondered.  Read the rest

Enough is enough.

Our newspapers need to report the news.

And our leaders need to step up and be accountable.
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NYT Article: ‘Lonely Quest for Facts on GM Crops’

Richard Ha writes:

The New York Times just ran an excellent, balanced and well-received article on Hawai‘i Island’s recent GMO ban. It was written by Amy Harmon, a national correspondent for the Times who covers the impact of science and technology on American life. She’s won two Pulitzer Prizes for her work.

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

By AMY HARMON

KONA, Hawaii — From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

“Are we going to just ignore them?” Mr. Ilagan wondered.

Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence…. Read the rest

Hawai‘i County Councilperson Margaret Wille, though, refers to this article as “Hogwash!”

She’s the local councilperson who spearheaded the Big Island biotech ban, and her comment on the New York Times article kind of says it all. In her second-to-last paragraph she lumps farmers in with “GMO apologists,” which makes us the enemy. We are not the enemy.

Her comment follows the New York Times article:

Margaret Wille

Hawaii Island Hawaii

The underlying message in this article is that pro-GMO is pro-science and those opposed are anti-science. Hogwash! It is the biotech corporations that politically obtained the USDA “political” exemption from being required to do premarketing health and safety tests. This political decision was based on the claim that GMO crops are “substantially equivalent” to the corresponding non-GMO crops. Instead of government required health and safety testing, uncontrolled “open field” testing is occurring right here in Hawaii on Kauai– where all the evidence points to immune disruption of the young and unborn , as well as harm to the soil and adjacent aquatic life.. At the same time these same corporations obtain patent rights based on the distinction of their GMOs, allowing the intellectual property laws to function as the barrier to obtaining the information independent scientist needed to do long term studies.

And whenever an independent study is underway, the GMO offensive position is to discredit the scientist or buy out the organization, as occurred in the case of the international organization doing studies on the adverse affects of associated pesticides on bee populations.

The bottom line is that we passed Bill 113 despite all the opposition from Big Ag GMO proponents and their on island mouthpieces.

Hopefully in the future, the New York Times will curb its biased approach to coverage of GMO related issues. 

Contrast Councilperson Wille with Councilperson Ilagan. What a difference.

At this point, it’s really not a matter of who can yell the loudest, but of sitting down and deciding where we want to end up, and how we’re going to get there. We have a very serious food security issue (I’ll be writing more about this next time) that, with our Peak Oil situation, is only likely to get worse.

We are not looking at a First Amendment situation here, where everyone’s opinion matters. Everyone is welcome to his or her opinion, but at this point, when it comes to making important policy for our people and our food security, we need to sit down and form the best policy we can, using the best science.

What was not covered in the New York Times article was Big Island farmers’ concern that the ban on biotech solutions only applies to Big Island farmers, and not their competitors on other islands or on the mainland.

The president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association asked why only papaya farmers are beng required to register their crops and pesticide usage. He said that papaya farmers feel like they are being treated like sex offenders.

And why is there a blanket ban on open air testing? With bananas, flying pollen makes no difference, because they don’t have seeds.

Fusarium wilt killed off the mai‘a maoli as well as the mai‘a popoulu, two banana plants that came to Hawai‘i on the canoes. What if we could bring them back?

What if a virus threatens to kill off all our taro? Would we want to be able to try and save it? What would the ancient ones do?

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If The Farmers Make Money, The Farmers Will Farm

Richard Ha writes:

Though there are 820,000 acres of farmland on our agriculture-based Big Island, our island’s farmers were not consulted when Bill
113, the anti-GMO bill, was drafted.

There is no question: Bill 113 will harm the livelihood of Big Island farmers. It also means they will have to use more pesticides. It will drive up their costs and make them much less competitive. It means our island will be less food-secure.

Is this what we really want? Call or write your councilperson and tell him or her to kill Bill 113.

Ask him or her to create a task force so we can thoughtfully determine our way forward, in the spirit of aloha – so we can provide affordable food for the rubbah slippah folks and move toward food self-sufficiency.

When new biotech seeds are developed, people will be able to buy small packets of them over the Internet. But not here. Bill 113 will make it a crime for Big Island farmers to use those same seeds. Farmers using those seeds, which will make farming less pesticide-oriented and more affordable, would become criminals.

Such seeds are being developed right now by the University of Hawai‘i and other universities and will help our crops become virus- and disease-resistant. This will result in less pesticide usage and lower cost. With Bill 113, only Big Island farmers will be banned from using them. This will force Big Island farmers to use more pesticides than farmers off-island. Farmers are responsible stewards of the land, and this is a depressing and discouraging thought for Big Island farmers.

More than 90 percent of the food grown on the Big Island is
grown by conventional farmers. Bill 113 will drive their farming costs up, not down, and this is going to discourage farmers from farming. When farmers’ costs go up, they are less able to pass those increased costs on. Farmers are “price takers,” rather than “price makers.”

As costs go up, farming becomes less attractive and fewer farmers continue to farm. Bill 113 makes the Big Island less food-secure.

Organic farmers elsewhere will benefit from new biotech animal feed crops, because these will increase the source of manure for
composting. Nitrogen is important for protein and this is a crucial weak link for organic farmers. Bill 113 means organic farmers on the Big Island won’t have these benefits that other farmers will.

There are people that want to believe GMO crops are not safe, but they are ignoring the evidence. The science. All the world’s major health organizations endorse the use of GMO crops as safe.

More than two trillion meals made of foods containing GMOs
have been served over the last 20 years. In spite of all those meals, here in Hawai‘i we have the longest life expectancy in the nation for those 65 years and older.

Since ancient times, farmers in Hawai‘i have been respected in the Hawaiian culture. Bill 113 will forever change that relationship and will, instead, criminalize farmers. Some folks may even feel justified in taking matters into their own hands. Is this really what we want?

Please contact your councilperson and tell them you want them to kill Bill 113 and form a task force to carefully, intelligently study how we move forward.

It’s not a matter of who is right. It is a matter of what is right.

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We Are Unwilling To Be Led To The Slaughter

Richard Ha writes:

I was part of a four-person panel at the recent GMO Summit. I was spokesperson for the farmer group that organized a convoy around the County building a short time ago. The others were

  • Kamana Beamer, who gave the cultural perspective, which is the long term view of things
  • Hector Valenzuela, who presented a negative view of biotechnology
  • Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, who gave a pro-GMO point-of-view.

Three of the speakers, then, all coming from different perspectives, were pro-GMO. I will ask the speakers if they are willing to give a synopsis of their presentation, and if so, I will post them here.

As farmers, our primary concern is that banning the use of GMOs only on Hawai‘i Island, while allowing them to be used on the other Hawaiian islands, will slowly but surely drive us out of business. We are unwilling to be led to the slaughter.

Here is what I presented at the GMO Summit:

Aloha. I am Richard Ha. Although we have a farm, I am here today as a representative of Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United. This is a spontaneous farmer group that recently organized a convoy of more than 50 cattle, papaya and other farm trucks, as well as nearly 200 farmers, around the County building. It consists of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, the Big Island Banana Growers Association, the Big Island Cattlemen’s Council, the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association and various Farm Bureau chapters.

In all my time in farming, I have never seen farmers so united and concerned about one issue. Why are they so concerned? Because they feel their survival is at stake.

Farmers are price takers, not price makers, and when the cost of energy quadrupled in the last 10 years, we farmers could not increase our prices to cover the increase in cost. We know how vulnerable we are to rising oil prices. The anti-GMO bill takes away future cost-saving tools for farming.

Here’s a reality check on growing food.

Hawai‘i is located in the humid subtropics and it is a weed, bug and plant-disease paradise. We have no winter here to help us kill off bugs.

Farmers are not pesticide-crazed sprayers of toxic chemicals. They use cost-effective solutions to the pest problems of their particular crops. They use what’s least toxic, because they don’t want to harm themselves. They don’t overspray, because that wastes money. Farmers have common sense.

When we send farmers into battle against the pests, don’t shoot arrows at their backs. When we send them into battle against pests that use cannons, don’t send them out with swords and clubs.

If we do not want the large biotech companies to grow corn for seed, then write a bill that prohibits that. If we do not want GMO foods at all, then start with corn flakes and soda and ban those.

Consider these facts:

  • Hawai‘i imports more than 85 percent of its food. That’s almost all of our food.
  • Hawaii uses oil to generate more than 70 percent of its electricity. The U.S. mainland, which is both our supplier and our competitor, uses oil for only 2 percent of its electricity – so its costs are not skyrocketing from rising oil prices as much as ours are.
  • The price of oil has quadrupled in the last 10 years, and will probably go higher.
  • As oil prices rise, Hawai‘i becomes less and less food secure.

These are the realities that Big Island farmers face every day. We must be one of the least food secure places in the world.

“Food security” means being able to get adequate and sufficient food, regardless of where it comes from. These days, it comes from all over the world. We are able to buy food from all over because money comes into our economy from the outside, with military spending and tourism being primary contributors. That provides us with money to pay for general services to our society and to buy our food.

Food security involves farmers farming. If the farmer makes money, the farmers will farm. And if the farmers make money, then their products will be competitive with imported foods. And that will mean lower cost foods for all.

Try to encourage those things that gives our farmers a competitive advantage. Leverage our sun that shines all year long. Don’t ban GMO corn that can give our cattle ranchers a fighting chance.

Maybe we can grow the grain that will encourage poultry farms and fish, too.

If we had poultry and cattle manure, our organic farmers would have a nitrogen source that could help them produce food for a profit.

Let’s all sit down and talk. Farmers are not the enemy.

In the 1800s, our Hawaiian population went from an estimated 700,000 to 50,000. We almost went extinct.

I’m sure they would have used new technology vaccines if they had been available.

Farmers have looked at all sides of the argument and have come down on the side of peer-reviewed science.

I would like to make one farmer observation about pesticides. The
dose makes the poison.
Margaret Wille said she wants to ban the use of Roundup. Senator Ruderman introduced a bill to ban Roundup last session.

Let’s say there is a four-foot patch of weeds that one wants to control using Roundup. The amount of spray needed, which is already diluted 50-1 with water, is less than the thickness of a piece of typing paper. By contrast, rainfall in one year at Pepe‘ekeo
would result in a column of water 10 feet high over that spot. As I said, the dose makes the poison.

Previous to Roundup, farmers here used Paraquat, which is a skull-and-crossbones grass poison.

We don’t want to go back to that. We need a little bit of common sense here.

Here are three areas of concern to farmers:

  1. Farmers on the other islands would be able to use new biotech seeds, while Big Island farmers would not. I just saw where a British researcher said he developed a technique that would give every plant the ability to fix nitrogen from air. But if other
    islands could use it and we could not, this would eventually put Big Island farmers out of business. The Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV)  threatens the State’s tomato industry, and there is a biotech solution that is ready to be implemented. Again, if other islands can use it while while Big Islanders cannot, this will eventually drive Big Island tomato farmers out of business.
  2. Under Brenda Ford’s bill, papaya and GMO corn farmers and ranchers have 30 months to get out of those crops or they risk 30 days in jail. Making criminals of farmers is just beyond belief.
  3. It isn’t the strongest or smartest that survive, but the ones that can adapt to change. This saying is attributed to Charles Darwin.

Although the bills by Ford and Wille might seem new and different and brave, below the surface they both prevent adapting to change. And that is one of the main reasons why farmers are against both attempts to prevent the planting of bioengineered
plants.

Farmers and ranchers have an abundance of common sense. My dad was a farmer. He only went to the sixth grade, but when I was 10 years old, he told me: “Find two solutions for every problem and then find one more just in case.”

He said, There are thousand reasons why no can. I looking for the one reason why CAN adapt to change.

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Join the Big Island Community Coalition for Lowest Electricity Rates

Richard Ha writes:

The Big Island Community Coalition is determined to make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state.

Big Island Community Coalition

After all, we have the best combination of renewable resources here on the Big Island. It will proactively weigh in wherever electricity rates are involved.

The fundamental problem with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is that it does not require that the electric utility choose lower cost solutions. It does not take into consideration the rubbah slippah folks.

Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending. If in place of expensive electricity we had affordable electricity, businesses would grow, farmers would farm and we would not be sending our children to the mainland to look for jobs.

Visit the Big Island Community Coalition website to join the mailing list and support the Big Island Community Coalition’s Priority #1: “Make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state by emphasizing the use of local resources.”

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