Tag Archives: Russell Ruderman

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.


Ag Committee Hearing a Success; Meeting With Sen. Ruderman

Richard Ha writes:

The state's Committee on Agriculture hearing was today, and they approved the governor's nominating me for a second term on the Board of Agriculture. It was a unanimous vote. The next step is that the nomination will go to the full Senate.

I told the committee that my role on the board will be to encourage food security, which involves farmers farming, and if the farmers make money the farmers will farm. There are two parts to that, I said: lowering the farmers' costs, and lowering the farmers' customers' costs. I said that energy and agriculture are inextricably tied together, and that we have natural resources that can lower farmers' costs as well as farmers' customers' costs.

Also, Senator Ruderman asked to meet with me today, and we had a good talk. He apologized for his choice of words, and I accepted his apology. I told him I understand, and that these things happen and I didn't take it personally.

He said, "I'm still buying your tomatoes, you know," meaning for his natural foods stores. I told him, "I know." 

He was under the mistaken impression that I am anti-organic, and I told him that by no stretch of the imagination am I anti-organic. I think we need all farmers as we go into our uncertain future and try to feed everybody. I told him I would be an advocate for organic farmers on this board, actually.

He told me if I grew organic tomatoes, he'd pay me more for them, and I said I would look into it. 

We discussed that we should be talking with each other more, to seek common ground, and I told him I'm more than happy to do that. I think we can start to have a civil conversation, respect each other and try to figure out where we want to take the Big Island in the future. 

After we talked, I said, "So, you going to still buy my tomatoes or what?" We had a good laugh. It was a good meeting and I was happy with it.

I always come back to the most important thing we need to take into the future is the spirit of aloha. I feel that very strongly.


Amazing Amount of Support!

Leslie Lang writes:

Hawaii News Now ran a story last night on Richard Ha's being up for renomination to the state Department of Agriculture board, and state Senator Russell Ruderman's email to other senators about being "revulsed" at the idea of Richard being reappointed to the board. 

Click here for Hawaii News Now video clip

People have submitted an overwhelming number of letters to the legislature supporting Richard's renomination. Here's a link to all of them. 

I'll post here just a few of them; they are the ones that people copied to Richard:

David Fuertes


To Whom It May Concern;
My name is Stuart Nakamoto.  I am an Extension Economist with the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and am part of the Risk Management Hawaii/LIFE team.  The statements in this message are my own and do not represent the UH nor CTAHR.
I am writing in strong support of the nomination of Richard Ha to a second term on the Hawaii State Board of Agriculture.
Richard brings a practical, common sense perspective to the table, as is reflected in his saying "If the farmers make money, the farmers will farm."  He represents the silent majority among producers, and his credentials as a farmer are beyond question.  We need that kind of representation for agriculture to be a vibrant part of the state and especially if Hawaii is to be self sustainable.

I strongly recommend that Richard Ha be re-appointed.


Stuart T. Nakamoto

Stuart T. Nakamoto, Ph.D.                                
Professor and Extension Economist, Agricultural Economics and Marketing of Perishable Products

University of Hawaii at Manoa

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences
Agricultural Sciences Bldg 314B

mailing address:
1955 East-West Road, AgSci 314B
Honolulu, HI  96822


We are Hawaii’s farmers & ranchers and floral & nursery growers who collectively produce more than 80% of the agricultural products, including food, grown in Hawaii. Additionally we are supported by community groups, agricultural support groups and key individuals and individual farmers and ranchers, large and small.  Our alliance includes the commodity groups, individual farmers and ranchers, Ag land owners and support groups, and community groups listed on the attached roster.

Richard Ha is one of the most respected and innovative agricultural leaders in the state. He has been farming successfully for over 35 years.  He is a leading advocate for small farmers, and is widely respected by his fellow board members on the Hawaii Board of Ag, where he has served for the past 4 years.  His widely shared opinions on peak oil, alternative energy solutions and profitable, sustainable farming are above reproach. We need an army of Richard Ha’s.  He’s a smart, selfless, likeable guy who knows what he’s talking about, and is an innovative, progressive and experienced farmer.  And who doesn’t know Richard’s famous quote “If the famer makes money, the famer will farm”. 

Richard is a current and active Board member for the following Boards; The Hawaii Board of Agriculture, Kohala Center, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB), Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) steering committee, Chair- Big Island Community Coalition and a Founding member of Hawaii Farmers & Ranchers United (HFRU).

Please support Richard Ha’s Nomination to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.

Farming & Ranching is not what we do ~ It’s Who We Are

For Questions or Comments Please Contact:

Chris Manfredi, President, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation

Alex Franco, President, Hawaii Cattlemen's Council, Inc.


Honorable Chairman Nishihara,

My name is Robert Rapier. I am a chemical engineer by training, with a focus on energy issues and food security issues, both of which are intertwined. My work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Washington Post, and I have appeared on 60 Minutes, The History Channel, and PBS to discuss energy issues. I have lived and worked on the Big Island for the past 5 years, during which time I have become well acquainted with Richard Ha.
Richard Ha is one of the most honorable men I have ever met, and his interests are in helping the people of Hawaii. Richard has described his position as neither pro nor anti-GMO, but rather pro-science. We need more critical thinkers like Richard to counter some of those whose knee-jerk reactions often lead to unwanted consequences.
Senator Ruderman should be ashamed of his comment at being "revulsed" at the idea of Richard being reappointed to the to the state Board of Agriculture. That sort of language hints at opposition that is based on a personal vendetta rather than on Richard's qualifications. I can think of nobody more qualified for this appointment that Richard, and I write today in strong support of his reappointment.


Robert Rapier Chief Technology Officer, Merica International, Kamuela, Hawaii 


Aloha Senators and associates, 

I have known and worked with Richard Ha for a few years, and one thing I believe everyone can agree on is that he always looks out farms and farmers. He himself has been a farmer for decades and has been highly successful maintaining a productive and profitable farm even amid increases in costs and fluctuations in the market. 

I'm a young professional working with sustainability and rural communities. As is common among my generation, I myself have substantial quandaries with GMOs, in particular around the misuse of patent infringement laws intimidating and suing farmers over uncontrollable and unintentional cross pollination, among other things, as can be seen in the following report by the Center for Food Safety http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/reports/1780/monsanto-vs-us-farmers-2012-update#

Though I do not support many of the corporations and policies around GMO, I do support the farmers right to choose their own crops and pursue a variety of options for their business in balance with the community's well-being. Richard Ha takes a balanced approach to this issue, understanding both the farm and farm business side of the issue as well as the greater implications to our communities. Richard Ha cares deeply about his community and his workers as can be seen in the changes to his own practices and unique and direct support to his workers.

The question of his qualifications should not be if he is for or against GMOs, but does he approach this issue in a balanced and logical way. He does that far more than most. There is a myriad of information and misinformation around GMOs and it is crucial to have someone on the Board of Ag who is open to hearing all sides. 

The Board of Ag should be supportive of new advancements and technologies that support farmers and benefit our communities, but it should be rigorous in its unbiased assessment of these new opportunities for farms. Richard Ha has always and will continue to advocate for the well being of farmers and Hawaii, and will do so in an open minded manner. That is why I do, and you should, support his nomination to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.

Mahalo for your time,

Katie Schwind


Aloha Senator Nishihara Agriculture Committee Chairman,

My name is Michael Tarring. I am President of Ohana Banana Farm Inc. I have been farming for thirty years and currently farm apple bananas on 120 acres of land in Keaau. Were we produce 2,500,000lbs. of high quality apple bananas sold through out the state of Hawaii. We also employ 27 workers on our farm full time. 

I have known Richard Ha for thirty years and I consider him to be a very good farmer as well as a very important member of our Hawaii Ag. community. I would like to see Richard Ha reappointed to our state Ag. Board. We farmers need expert farmers like him representing us in Hawaii. 
Please support his nomination. 

Michael Tarring
Ohana Banana Farm Inc.


To whom it may concern,

My name is Henk B. Rogers. I am writing with regards to the nomination of Richard Ha.

I believe Richard to be the right man for the job. He has all the necessary qualifications from extensive experience as a farmer to having the perfect character for the job. I read that Senator Ruderman has a  “revulsion” to Richard’s nomination because of his stance on GMOs and Geothermal. I strongly disagree with Senator Ruderman who seems to be acting out of uninformed emotion.

Geothermal is one of Hawaii’s greatest clean energy assets. It is base-load which makes it the easiest to implement clean energy. People who oppose geothermal do so in complete ignorance of the damage done by existing oil/diesel fired power plants and the great track record of geothermal.

People who oppose GMOs are not thinking about the rise in population in the world and what that will mean. Our population is slated to reach 10 billion by the end of the century. We either grow food more efficiently through GMOs or we cut down the last of the rain-forests to make room for more ag-land. I don’t support Monsanto’s predatory business practices, so fix the business model. We need GMOs. Richard is not afraid to take controversial positions on important issues. He is exactly the kind of man you need on the Board of Agriculture.


Henk B. Rogers


Dear Senator Kahele,

You may remember that I did a lot of writing some time ago on the subject of agriculture. Weekly columns for the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board were called "Focus on Agriculture" and concentrated on the successful economic impact of diversified agriculture.

During that time — and we are going back 20+ years here — I came to know and admire Richard Ha. He was always available to talk about bananas, tissue culture, mountain biking as eco-tourism, sustainable choices for small farmers, and many other topics. I remember covering an event when Richard and his wife June were recognized for their sustainable efforts at an international conference called Food Choices 2000. He has farming experience himself plus much broader interests for the betterment of our island.

He continues in his new location to promote the business of farming and he continues to adapt technologies — the hydroelectric generation of power for the farm is one example.

I support the reappointment of Richard Ha to the State Department of Agriculture board.

Thank you,

K.T. Cannon-Eger


Aloha Ag Committee Chair Senator Nishihara and Committee Members,

This letter is written on behalf of Governor Abercrombie’s nomination of Richard Ha to the State Board of Agriculture.

During my eight year tenure as the Hawaii County Director of Research and Development under Mayor Harry Kim (2000-2008), I found myself intrigued, interested, and impressed by the global yet locally grounded perspectives of Richard Ha as we served on various committees and met on a number of topical issues.  We may not have agreed on every specific point, but I never questioned his credibility, his wisdom, nor his integrity.  Richard Ha is a man of the highest moral character who is willing to stand for his truth while consistently encouraging opposing voices to come together for dialogue and compromise.

Part of our Department’s purview was Agriculture, a huge and complex arena. Highly regarded and respected within the movers and shakers of Hawaii Island’s agricultural community is Richard Ha. >/p>

Somewhat of a Renaissance man, he is willing to challenge the status quo or popular majority if he has determined through data and scientific analysis that such a challenge is warranted and for the greater good.  He does this knowing the cost to both his personal and professional reputation.  And he has done so on both sides of the normal divide in agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture will be well served with such an objective, experienced, committed, and intelligent member on its Board.  

Please support Richard Ha’s nomination to the Board of Agriculture.

Mahalo nui loa,

Jane Higa Testa


Dear Sen. Kahele,

As a small farmer in the Umauma area of Hakalau, I am endorsing Richard Ha for reappointment for the State AG board. I believe Mr. Ha's successful commercial experience for 35 years shows he understands the needs of Hawaii's agriculture.   We need to maintain a Ag Board that has a balance of all ideas.   
Your assistance is appreciated.

Rodger Hansen

Hakalau HI 96710


Chairman Nishihara,

As the Chairman of the State Committee of Agriculture, I would like to address you to express my support.

I support Richard Ha’s candidacy to serve on the Hawai’i Board of Agriculture. Mr. Ha is a farmer with 35 years experience who has worked tirelessly for the agricultural communities of this State. He recognizes the importance of agricultural and has spent his life learning about and working on the land. He is unshakeable in his desire to lead our State toward sustainability.

He sees food security as a priority and understands the connection of agriculture and energy. Lowering food cost for both the farmer and the customer is most important.

Richard Ha supports all farmers including the conventional, permaculture and organic farmers. He works well with people from all backgrounds. He is very capable and humble…. giving of himself. The State is fortunate to have such a qualified person willing to give his time and talents to his fellow citizens.

Mr Richard Ha is an outstanding candidate to continue serving on the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.


Lynn Hamilton
Ka’u Hawai’i


Dear Hawaiian Senators,

I am a consultant in the area of energy/economy/environment. Formerly I worked as a Vice President at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers and now sit on the Board of Directors of: Bottleneck Foundation, Post Carbon Institute, Institute for Study of Energy and Our Future, and Institute for Integrated Economic Research.  In the course my energy/economy work I have many colleagues on Oahu and the Big Island and have met and interacted with Richard Ha frequently over the past several years.

The world is headed for a transition – it may be smooth or it may be rough, but the primary drivers of economic growth – cheap energy and available credit, are waning.  Hawaii especially is vulnerable to high oil prices as you use oil directly for electricity and import oil indirectly in the transportation costs of most goods. Richard Ha is very knowledgeable about the energy foundation of our economies. He is a visionary on how to use local inputs in a sustainable way to produce basic needs (food, electricity).  He is selfless and cares deeply about Hawaii's future in an era of expensive oil, particularly as it pertains to food production and healthy, balanced diets.

I don't claim to know the future, but business as usual, in my opinion, will produce some unpleasant non-linear results.  Hawaii had a much larger population in the past so ambitious locally derived plans are definitely possible to succeed. Adaptive, flexible, ecologically informed thinking by pro-social, civically engaged leaders is what will make Hawaii a better place in the future. If I lived in Hawaii I would be going door to door in support of Richard Ha for Ag Board.  Your county/state needs more thinkers/doers like Richard, not fewer.  I hope you do some research on what he's accomplished and Hawaii's future doesn't become victim to politics as usual. Richard is a unique local resource you should take advantage of.

Nate Hagens

Nathan John Hagens

Director Institute for Integrated Economic Research

Bay City, WI 54723


Richard Ha has brought and will continue to bring, reasonable, balanced thought and determination to the State Board of Agriculture in the most pono manner for all. He doe NOT have blinders on and thinks "outside the box" – He is what we need – please, do what we know is good, re-appoint Richard Ha.

Most sincerely,
Penny Keli'i-Vredenburg
Hawai'i Island
 Aloha Nominating Committee and State Senators:
My name is Kelli Ragual.  I am a resident of Pepe'ekeo, Hawaii and am employed as an Accounts Payable Clerk.
As a community member of Pepe'ekeo, Hawaii, I support the views and visions of Mr. Richard Ha for a sustainable Hawai'i  and recommend that he be re-nominated as a member of the Board of Agriculture.
Kelli Ragual
Pepe'ekeo, HI  96783
Aloha Nominating Committee and State Senators:
My name is Alberdine Pascua, a native Hawaiian born, raised, living and working as a registered voter on the Big Island. I have worked in the tourist industry for 11 years, then 23 years for an aerial agricultural spraying company and since 2007, as an Office Clerk at Mauna Kea Banana Co., Inc.
My family's history is strongly affected by the presence of sugar plantation experiences and the traditions that were shaped within that culture. The sugar industry had a significant impact on our Hawaiian lifestyle and culture and its demise left a major portion of our labor force dependents struggling to survive.
Richard Ha not only understands that struggle, but he lives it everyday as a farmer and employer in the agricultural industry. His knowledge and experience has been an asset to the Department of Agriculture board in the past and if reappointed, he will continue to be the common sense voice for all the farmers needing our support to stimulate a sustainable economy. Hawai'i should not have to suffer through another agricultural breakdown at the hands of those that manipulate the system. Richard Ha can offer a balance to the discussion table and the board should be eager to have him present.
Alberdine Pascua
Hilo, Hawai'i 96720
I strongly support the reappointment of Mr. Richard Ha to the Board of Agriculture.
I have had the honor of knowing Richard for over 20 years. I have also worked closely with him in the partnership between Merriman's Restaurants and Hamakua Farms.
His 35 years in farming equips him with a wealth of knowledge and respect for the agriculture of Hawaii.
The fact that Richard is first banana farm in the world to be certified Eco OK demonstrates his concern for Hawaii's environment. Added to that is his top six in the country consideration for the Patrick Madden, Sustainable Ag Research and Education (SARE) award as further testimony to his ecological commitment.
He is one of the best farmers in the state of Hawaii. Hawaii is fortunate to have farmers of his caliber, and even more fortunate that they are willing to serve on a board that can help the entire state.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Please let me know if this letter can be considered testimony.
Peter Merriman
President of Merriman’s Restaurants
Chairman of Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman
One Bay Club Place
Lahaina, HI 96761
Peter Merriman
Merriman's Restaurants
-Do the Right Thing
808 446 8045
The Home of Hawaii Regional Cuisine
My name is Kim Kaaua-Bell, I reside in Hilo and currently employed as an Account Clerk. I am writing in support of Richard Ha's nomination to the Board Of Agriculture. Richard's extensive knowledge and insight has made him the right candidate for the Board. His ability to represent and support all sides of farming has gained him a huge following on the Big Island. His willingness to listen to others and look at facts is by far humbling.
Please elect him once again and he will prove to be a productive and successful member of the board.
Thank you for your time.
Dear Nominating committee and State Senators,
My name is Kailani Kala and I am a resident of Puna Hawaii for 28 years. I am a registered voter and an Accounts Receivable clerk at Panaewa Distribution Center. As a consumer, I am interested in local products and sustainability. I believe Richard Ha will support my views and I would like to support his re-nomination as a member for the Board of Agriculture.
Kailani Kala
Dear Senators,
This note is to re-affirm Governor Abercrombie's prudent nomination of Richard Ha to continue to serve on the State of Hawai'i Board of Agriculture.  While Richard has many positive attributes that make him an ideal candidate for the Board, the underlying  character aspect of Richard’s that I think is most important to focus on his integrity and intent to always "seek the truth" in order to find the best path for a community and society on whole to move forward in a complex global framework.  He clearly has the ability to think global and act local.
I met Richard a few years ago when he was trying to neutrally assess the potential impact of geothermal energy on the big island of Hawai'I and the entire state.  Richard flew to Iceland to meet with numerous experts in what is considered to be a global "center of excellence" for geothermal to understand IF what these experts were claiming would prove true in Hawai'i.  He spent the time to observe, listen and learn before drawing his own conclusions, which he continues to advocate and act upon today. 
Having interacted with him through the course of that visit and being familiar with the manner in which governing boards should act in seeking multiple perspectives to form informed policy, I think Richard Ha is the ideal person for the Board of Agriculture.  I would also suggest his resume of experience and years of successfully operating and evolving his farm on the big island makes him an obvious choice.
I would like to note that while I am a partner in a private equity group that invest globally in alternative energy/sustainability and which remains interested in the opportunity to develop a world class geothermal project on the big island, I have no historical or current business relationship with Richard Ha. I consider him to be a wonderful friend and an advocate of the democratic process of informed decision making. He's a role model to us all, including those who may not share his specific views on specific topics.
Governor Abercrombie should be commended for his nomination of Richard Ha to the Hawai'i State Board of Agriculture.
Christopher McCormick
Partner, Ambata Capital Partners
Director, Reykjavik Geothermal
I have known Richard Ha for about a decade through our mutual interest in energy issues as they relate to Hawaii. I have always found Richard thoughtful, eager to learn and level headed.   
He particularly cares about maintaining a viable economy in Hawaii in a future that is likely to be characterized by an ever increasing price of oil.   
I have visited Richard in Hawaii and like most of his ideas and practice a great deal.   
I also respect that he is not afraid to speak out about his position, taking the position he believes is best for Hawaii and not necessarily the politically correct  one.    
Anyone who knows Richard understands that he is open and gentle while defending his views.  
Finally he has a great deal  of practical experience with modern farming in Hawaii and is a great antidote to the increasing importation of food to the Islands.
 I support his reappointment  to the state Board of Agriculture very strongly.
Sincerely, Charles Hall
Professor Emeritus of Ecology College of Environmental Science and Forestry
State University of New York Syracuse, New York 
Aloha Senator Nishihara, I am Patrick L. Kahawaiolaa a native Hawaiian as defined under the HHCA, 1920 as amended July 9, 1921. I am sending this testimony to all of you for your favorable consideration of another native Hawaiian whose ohana began a career in farming on Hawaii island on some of the most inhospitable lands available for agriculture and 35 years later their humble beginning Mr. Richard Ha is a successful farmer and President of Hamakua Springs in Pepeekeo. I've known Mr. Ha as an honorable person who has the interest of the people who struggle to make ends meet whether it be trying to find alternative ways to be sustainable in food product and in ways to help those same people with finding ways to reduce the high cost of energy and finding alternative forms of producing a clean energy source on Hawaii island. His knowledge in the agriculture field is truly an asset for those who contemplate making a living as farmers and his strong support for Agriculture and food security for Hawaii island and the rest of the islands goes without question.
I realize this confirmation hearing is the process we need so take to have someone with his abilities and expertise confirmed to served the people of Hawaii. His reported stance on controversial subjects such as GMO, Geothermal power has always been to have all those issues truly vetted and that the public has the ability to be included in the process.
Some of his other attributes are he we both graduated from Big island public schools. He is a combat veteran, like myself serving in Vietnam. He attended the UH-Manoa and majored in Accounting. I am asking for a favorable vote on his confirmation to continue to serve the people of Hawaii island and the rest of the State.
'Owau Patrick L. Kahawaiolaa
Kapoho Land Partnership
A Hawaii Limited Partnership
Kapoho Management Company, Inc.
General Partner
Hilo, Hawaii 
March 25, 2015
Members of the Hawaii State Senate
Senator Clarence K. Nishihara, Chair
Senate Committee on Agriculture
Subject:   Governor’s Message 598, Gubernatorial Nominee Richard Ha, for confirmation to the Board of Agriculture for a term that expires June 30, 2018.
Aloha Honorable Senators:
I am Lono Lyman, and I manage the Lyman family land holdings in Kapoho, Puna District, Island of Hawaii.
My family has farmed in Puna since the late-1800s.  Today, we have about a dozen agricultural tenants who are hard working families, putting food on our tables. 
Richard Ha’s origin as a farmer began in Puna.  After serving in the Army as a Captain in Viet Nam, he got an accounting degree from the University of Hawaii.  Then he began farming.  Through hard work and perseverance, he has established himself as a successful farmer, now based on the Hamakua coast.   Five family members and 70 employees operate his 600-acre Hamakua Springs Country Farm.
He is a supporter of all farmers in Hawaii, and his continued service on the Board of Agriculture will significantly benefit not only Hawaii’s farmers, but also all residents of Hawaii.
I ask that you vote to confirm him, as a vote for Richard Ha’s confirmation is a vote to support all agriculture in Hawaii and a vote to support Hawaii’s hardworking farm families.
Mahalo a nui loa,
A Lono Lyman
Lono Lyman
President Kapoho Management Company, Inc.
Manager Kapoho Land Partnership
Dear Senators, 
I am writing to support the nomination of Richard Ha for another term as a member of the State's Board of Agriculture. 
As everyone who knows Richard will agree, he is a tireless advocate for the public interest in everything he does. He has dedicated his whole career to developing agricultural practices and other programs that better serve the environment and the people of Hawaii. What he has done on his own Hamakua Springs Country Farm is great testimony to that, in both farming practices and the use of renewable energy. 
In addition, he has demonstrated his strong commitment to Hawaii's sustainability through his many public roles, including his service on the Board of Agriculture, the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative steering committee, the Big Island Community Coalition, the State's Geothermal working group, and his informal community leadership in the thirty meter telescope process. Throughout all of his work, Richard has always been unquestionably honest, accessible, and straightforward with both the public and with elected leaders — and always focused on what is in the best interests of the people of Hawaii.
I offer these comments from the perspective of someone outside of Hawaii who has dealt with officials at the national level in Washington, DC, and in states and counties across the country. I served the country during the Clinton Administration for over five years at the White House as a Presidential appointee at the Office of Management and Budget (where, among other things, I worked closely with the Department of Agriculture), and for two years as the Senate-confirmed Deputy Secretary of Energy, the number two official at the DOE. I was also on President Obama's transition team and I continue to serve informally as an advisor. Currently, I am a member of a Congressional advisory panel reviewing the governance and structure of the nation's nuclear weapons programs. I also serve at the local level, where I am the president of the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District in California. 
Throughout my experience in government, I rank Richard Ha as one of the most dedicated, honest, knowledgeable and public-focused people I have ever had the pleasure to know. I admire him greatly and encourage you to confirm him in order to continue his good public service for the people of Hawaii.
TJ Glauthier
TJG Energy Associates, LLC
Moss Beach, CA 94038
Testimony in favor of GM598, Richard Ha reappointment to the State Department of Agriculture Board
My name is Dexter Keawe`ehu Vredenburg, President of Hui Kako`o, a non-profit organization formed to help grassroots groups with technical support. I live in Waimea in Hawai`i County, I am a small farmer. My wife Penny and I have known Richard Ha since long before his banana plantation days – at Hilo High.
The single measure of Richard Ha that distinguishes him from anti-GMO opponents is that Richard Ha runs a number of farms where the basic tenet is NOT pro-GMO or anti-GMO – if it helps Hawai`i’s farmers and their agricultural programs, if it’s provably healthy and safe, that’s what we need to support.
Richard Ha has worked his way through a number of crises, notably the bunchy top banana virus. Despite that huge agricultural loss, he nevertheless came back and earned honor as the first banana farm, in the world to be certified as Eco OK.  He was spared but was deeply hurt as anti-GMO supporters cut down acres of papaya trees whose national reach depended on a Federally approved GMO method for Rainbow papayas. Farmers understand farmers and having your crop of year or older trees cut down really ruins a farmer.
We need Richard Ha to represent the objective viewpoint of a farmer who must have successful agricultural methods to survive. And remember, if the farmer fails, we have no food.
Keawe Vredenburg
Kamuela HI

HAWAII LABORERS-EMPLOYERS COOPERATION AND EDUCATION TRUST 1617 Palama Street · Honolulu, HI 96817 · Phone: 808-845-3238 · Fax: 808-845-8300 · URL: hilecet.org

Dear Chair Nishihara, Vice-Chair Kouchi and members of the Committee:

My name is Clyde T. Hayashi and I am the Director of Hawaii LECET. Hawaii LECET is a labor- management partnership between the Hawaii Laborers Union Local 368, its 5,000+ members, and 250+ unionized contractors.

We support GM 598, submitting for consideration and confirmation to the Board of Agriculture, Gubernatorial Nominee Richard Ha. We believe Mr. Ha is more than qualified to be part of the Hawaii State Board of Agriculture. During his first term on the Board of Agriculture, Mr. Ha has proven to be a staunch advocate for agriculture and food security and a great friend of local farmers.

Mr. Ha and his family run a 600 acre farm in Pepeekeo on the Big Island, which I have visited several times. Their Hamakua Springs Country Farms grow bananas which feed many local families. In keeping with his strong beliefs on sustainability, Mr. Ha added a hydroelectric plant on his property which will help him avoid the high electric prices on the Big Island and allow his farm to become much more sustainable.

Mr. Ha has been a leader in the fight to have science lead our agricultural policies. He has been recommending the formulation of a task force or working group to facilitate objective discussion on the issue of GMOs. Mr. Ha believes having a taskforce where people from all sides of this issue can present their view with supporting evidence in an atmosphere conducive for open discussion will be beneficial for the industry and for the community. Anti-GMO groups and individuals have chosen to push for passage of laws without having this discussion. Mr. Ha has been unafraid to stand-up to those who have instead chosen to use scare tactics, aggressiveness and personal attacks to promote their message. It is unfortunate that there are people with differing viewpoints who are opposing his nomination.

I consider the local papaya industry to be the best example of how the discussion on GMOs has become much too subjective and emotional. The ringspot virus nearly destroyed the entire papaya industry. In response, local scientists developed the Rainbow papaya, a GMO papaya, which saved the industry. Most local people know that papayas are a GMO product, yet many continue to buy and consume them. We all probably know people who eat papayas every day or nearly every day. There are those who say that GMO products hurt or kill people and want to ban GMO papayas entirely. If what they are saying is true, then why does Hawaii, with so many of our local residents consuming GMO papaya, have the highest life expectancy of any State?


We need a shift in our discussion and focus to "How do we feed our people?" Mr. Ha has been a leader in raising this topic to the forefront of public discussion. How does our state become food secure and how do we achieve food sustainability? With our huge dependence on imported food, how do we grow more of the food we consume? Mr. Ha will be a leader in this critical discussion and help to develop policies which will move us closer to our goals.

In addition to his support of the local agriculture industry, Mr. Ha is also a staunch advocate of geothermal energy. He believes geothermal energy is the best way to stabilize electric costs, a huge factor and expense in agriculture. Affordable electricity is needed for our local farmers to have a better chance to survive and prosper.

Mr. Ha is a life-long farmer who understands the challenges that local farmers face. He is a staunch advocate for agriculture and food security. He is a leader in the development of geothermal energy which will provide stable, affordable electricity and he is a community leader who is a strong advocate for the Thirty Meter Telescope and for the Big Island Science and Technology industry. Mr. Ha is exactly the kind of leader we need on the Board of Agriculture.

Mahalo for the opportunity to express our strong support for Mr. Richard Ha. 


Lee West


Aloha Senator-

I would like to offer my support for Mr. Richard Ha to be appointed as a member of Agriculture Committee.  I have known Mr. Ha from a number of years now.  We occasionally meet at community meetings as well as public forums.  I found him being a good listener and supportive of a project I am interested in.

You see, I am a founding member as well as an officer for the Piihonua Hawaiian Homestead Community Association in Hilo, Hawaii.  We have been blessed with having a year round stream in the back of our DHHL homestead.  I found out that he was also interested and working on installing a hydroelectric at his farm, so I would always ask him on the process and issues he needed to address obstacles to overcome.

I had previously gone to the Department of Land and Natural Resources here in Hilo to find out how we can generate electricity from our stream.  They basically tried to talk me out of it because they informed me that I needed to go to various other state and county regulatory agencies and they were not sure which ones and what department I had to go to.  Needless to say, I was disillusioned to learn that our Association has access to a natural resource we can easily harvest, but not able to tap into this energy source.

In any event, upon talking with Mr. Ha, he informed me that he took years to go through the “red tape” but finally was able to get the proper permits from the various regulating state and county departments.  However, he has it up and running at his farm.  He offered his help and when I am ready, he would advise me of the process.  He invited me to visit his farm and view his hydroelectric system which he has installed and currently in use on his farm.

When I fly along the Hamakua Coast on Hawaiian Airlines, I see many rivers and streams that run from Mauka to Makai, I can just imagine the farms and homes which can benefit from a simple hydroelectric system to power their homes and farm enterprises.  His knowledge, experience and skill level would go greatly forward to help his neighbors and friends lucky enough to have flowing water next to their lots.

The Hamakua Coast was the bedrock for agricultural lands that was used to grow sugar in its heydays.  I feel that with Hawaii’s effort to become self-sufficient in food, the Big Island could and should be the breadbasket of Oahu and Maui who are converting prime agriculture lands into housing.  Here on the Island of Hawaii, we are blessed to have good soil and ample rain to grow anything we wish to harvest. Richard would be a tremendous asset to have on the Ag Committee since he has the vision and attitude to overcome obstacles and challenges.

I found out from a technicial at CHTAR that the Island of Hawaii has 11 of the 13 types of growing climates. Therefore, we should be able to sustain our population with locally grown produce such as vegetables, fruits, and livestock.  This has Mr. Ha’s career choice.  Hawaii would be better served by a person of his knowledge, skills, and experiences in agriculture and related fields.  In this manner, Hawaii is able to import less and less of what we consume and create jobs and careers for future farmers and ranchers.  I should know, I was a Sales Manager for a Big Island Supermarket Chain for over 20 years. We bought our goods via Matson and Air Cargo.  Many of the products “locally grown” would benefit our State of Hawaii residents if grown here.  And this is what I feel Mr. Ha brings to the table as a member of the Agriculture Department and I wholehearted support his continued presence on the Agricultural Board.


Ronald T. Kodani

Vice President, Piihonua Hawaiian Homestead Community Association




Chairperson Nishihara and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on Governor’s Message 598 for the consideration and confirmation of Richard Ha to the Board of Agriculture.  The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) strongly supports Mr. Ha’s nomination and reconfirmation to the Board of Agriculture.

Richard comes from three generations of farmers and has ***an extensive local agricultural background.  Richard is the founder and president of Hamakua Springs Country Farms, a 35 year old diversified agriculture operation consisting of 600 acres and employing 70 workers.  As president of Hamakua Farms, Richard has a wealth of knowledge about the agriculture industry in Hawaii and the challenges and opportunities the industry faces. 

Richard is also an active participant in the local community. He is the founding member and president of the Big Island Community Coalition, member of the Hawaii Clean Energy Steering Committee, board member of the Kohala Center and co-chair of the geothermal working group.  As a current member of the Board of Agriculture, Richard is a vital contributor to Board deliberations, bringing a farmer’s perspective to all discussions.

Based on Richard’s extensive local agricultural experience, community involvement, and solid track record as a current Board member, the HDOA strongly supports the consideration and reconfirmation of Richard to the Board of Agriculture.       

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.


SUBJECT:  Governor’s Message 598 Reappointing Richard Ha to the Board of Agriculture,

State of Hawaii

Aloha Chair Nishihara, Vice Chair Kouchi and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee,

Richard Ha is a hard working and successful farmer who has served Hawaii extremely well as a member  of the Board of Agriculture (BOA) for the past four years.  He should be confirmed to a second term on the BOA where he can continue to be a thoughtful advocate for agriculture in Hawaii.  His family farm, Hamakua Springs, is at the forefront in terms of demonstrating the practical application of 21st century cultivation practices such as greenhouse and hydroponic techniques, aquaponic technology, food safety practices and alternative energy utilization.  Similarly, the innovative marketing of his farm’s products has opened the door for many other farmers to realize its significance to the success of an agricultural enterprise.  Essentially, Hamakua Springs is a working model for successful agriculture and Richard has always demonstrated his willingness to share his experience and knowledge with anyone who wishes to engage.  Having known Richard for over 30 years and having served with him on the BOA, I can say unequivocally that he is an honorable person who has a deep commitment to Hawaii which is reflected in his dedication to the agricultural industry in our state.  I have also observed that he works extremely well with the other members of the BOA to develop solid solutions for, at times, complex issues that demand extensive research and collaboration. His encouragement to new farmers who appear before the BOA for leases or loans is heartfelt and inspiring to them.  The agricultural industry in all its aspects will continue to grow and thrive with Richard’s leadership.

Please consider my strong support for Richard Ha in your deliberations.  You can be confident that he will serve all of Hawaii well as a member of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.

Mahalo for the opportunity to share my view.

Russell S. Kokubun


Aloha Senators,

I am writing this letter in support of the reappointment of Richard Ha to the State Board of Agriculture.

My name is Petra Wiesenbauer and I have been a Big Island resident for over 15 years. I live in Leilani Estates by Pahoa and am the owner of Hale Moana Bed & Breakfast. I have known about Richard Ha for many years, but met him personally in May of 2012, when the Hawaii Island County Council tried to pass a bill to establish a one-mile buffer zone around the Puna Geothermal Venture, in which properties could have been bought out by the County and then were to be kept uninhabited. It would have been a disaster for the residents of this area. At the time we had formed a residents group opposing the bill and in support of constructive collaboration with PGV. We had asked Richard Ha to join our group and support us in our venture. With the help of Richard Ha we were able to make our voices heard and in the end the bill did not get signed into law. Instead a process began together with a consultant (Peter Adler) to support safety and health in this area and make future decisions based on facts and not fears or assumptions.

It was at that time that a continued relationship developed with Richard Ha and I have since been able to witness many of his concepts, approaches and innovative projects.

Richard Ha is a remarkable person and some of the most outstanding characteristics about him include the following: 

  • He has decades of successful farming experience in a wide range of soil conditions and environments.
  • He is a visionary and oftentimes far ahead of the mainstream operations: he continuously seeks innovative ways to reach sustainability, efficiency and integration into the local culture and economy. Examples are (1) his focus on sustainable energies and the implementation of a hydro-power system on his Hamakua farm, (2) the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to study the lay-out of his land, determine the best use and monitor the farm’s crops, (3) implementation of new methods of farming responsibly in terms of the use of chemicals;
  • He is a community integrator and not polarizer. His interest is to bring people together to facilitate dialog and communication between different groups and opinions. He is solution oriented.
  • He has a social conscience and always looks out for the little people here on this island, the rubbah slippa folks. As soon as you talk to him you will notice this and it is documented over and over again in so many of his actions: the way he believes in the strength of a united community, the way he takes care of his family and employees at the farm and the respect he has here in this business community, on a State level and beyond the State of Hawaii.
  • He is a solid, down-to-earth person who will always take responsibility with a bigger picture  and long term vision in mind. It is never about personal agenda for him. It is always about “what is good for this community”.

Re-appointing him to the Board of Agriculture will be a benefit to the Ag community and the State of Hawaii. His visions can help the farming community to adopt strategic and all-encompassing solutions.  With his strong focus on food and energy sustainability for this great State of Hawaii and his connectedness with many other strategic thinkers and innovators all across the country, it would be a great loss for us, if his nomination was not approved.

I sincerely ask you to support the re-appointment of Richard Ha to the Board of Agriculture.

With warm Alohas,

Petra Wiesenbauer
Hale Moana Bed & Breakfast
Pahoa, HI 96778



GMO Facts? Or Fiction?

Richard Ha writes: 

State Senator Russell Ruderman used his own company’s letterhead when he submitted anti-GMO testimony recently to the Hawai‘i County Council. He owns Island Naturals, the natural foods markets.

It certainly seems to be a conflict of interest for him to be supporting the Big Island’s anti-GMO movement, and he should recuse himself from all discussions and votes regarding GMOs. Submitting testimony on his company’s letterhead does not help lessen this impression of his having a serious conflict of interest.


He also wrote an article for Big Island Weekly recently, titled GMO Facts and Fictions, which he says is the first in a series of installments.

What’s most interesting are the comments that follow his article, like this one from Karl Haro von Mogel, Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics, UW-Madison, Chair, Biology Fortified, Inc. Von Mogel is highly educated on issues regarding GMOs, and he wrote this:

I applaud State Senator Ruderman's desire to clear up confusion about genetically engineered crops, but in this 
opinion piece, he has made a great number of outright falsehoods that 
further confuse the topic and muddy the waters. I am a plant
 geneticist who studies this topic very closely and is building a 
database of all peer-reviewed scientific studies on genetically 
engineered crops, so I am very familiar with this field. I will attempt 
to correct the most egregious of Ruderman's errors.

He goes on to correct many of what he calls Ruderman’s "outright falsehoods" in detail. It's a very long comment.

Ruderman responded with this:

As mentioned in my column, I will be addressing these studies in more detail in future columns. I look forward to discussing the Seralini study, which, in addition to showing serious effects from GMOs, illuminates the aggressive tactics of biotec companies in suppressing science it doesn't like. These studies point to the need for long-term follow-up studies, which have not been done. I will also clear up the confusion of how Bt affects humans by disrupting our essential gut bacteria, which is not understood by some of the previous commenters.

And then von Mogel, who is highly educated on the science of biotechnology, responded with this:                              

Mr. Ruderman, you have made a series of very outlandish and false claims about Bt that you did not support with any evidence. This comment of yours would have been the time to at least give us links to the studies that you say exist, or to correct the record. Saying that you are putting off supporting these claims with evidence until some future column suggests that you don't have such evidence. Indeed, I was very direct in saying that for some of the claims you made, there is not a single study that even remotely suggests anything like that – such as your claim that the genes have transferred to our gut bacteria.
By bringing up the Seralini study, you are changing the subject. Seralini's (now retracted) study did not involve Bt at all, so it does not support any of the arguments you have made. Indeed, there have been long-term feeding studies with Bt. There have been feeding studies that look at effects on gut bacteria and conclude that there are none. As I said, I am intimately familiar with the scientific literature on this topic, and I can help you find answers to your questions. 
As a State Senator, it is your duty to consult with scientific experts – especially those in Hawaii who work for the state that you represent – so that you can make decisions based on established scientific facts. Hawaii needs leaders who can represent both the concerns of the population and duly weigh the evidence to make informed decisions. Will you be that leader?

We need to hold Senator Ruderman to a higher standard than he's holding himself to, because he's our elected official and making decisions on behalf of all of us.

There are other interesting comments there, as well. They’re by far the most interesting thing about that article, in my opinion. Read them all here.

I have asked Senator Ruderman many times how his stance, which does not even seem to be supported by science, will help the Big Island and its food security status. How will it help the rubbah slippah folk in his district? I have never received an answer. 


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

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.


Geothermal Talk at the Democratic Party Convention

Richard Ha writes:

On Saturday, I was on a geothermal panel at the Hawai‘i Island Democratic Party Convention, which was held at the Volcano Art Center. Brian Schatz at Hawai‘i County Democratic Party Senator Brian Schatz speaking

Also on the panel were State Senator Russell Ruderman and former Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

It went very well and I’m very optimistic. I think most of us just want to do the best for all of us.

I made it a point to tell the audience that I went to O‘ahu on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition and testified in favor of four
geothermal bills. What the four bills had in common is that they all contained provisions for “home rule.” I told the audience: This was so you could have a say in the geothermal issue.

My main point was that we are competing with the world for oil. And we need to seek a competitive advantage for the Big Island, and this has to do with cost.

We all know that the price of oil price rise; it’s only a matter of when, and how high. So if we can find a lowest cost solution, this will protect us from a rising oil price. It does not matter what the alternative is, so long as it gives us a competitive advantage.

Right now, it’s geothermal that has the potential for giving us that competitive advantage, assuming we don’t drive up its cost so high that we lose that advantage. Whether or not we achieve its potential is up to our leaders and to the Puna community.

Here’s what I told the Democratic Party Convention:

We are on a search for “competitive advantage” for the Big Island. Organisms, organizations and civilizations do this – it is called “survival of the fittest.” It isn’t the strongest or the smartest that survive; it’s the ones that can adapt – Charles Darwin

My name is Richard Ha. I am a farmer here on the Big Island. Together with our 70 workers, we farm 600 fee simple acres at Pepe‘ekeo. We have produced multi-millions of pounds of bananas and tomatoes over the past 35 years.

In my search to find competitive advantage for my farm’s future, I’ve now been to five Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conferences.

Here is what I took away from these conferences:

  1. Oil price quadrupled in the last 10 years.
  2. The last 11 recessions were associated with a spiking oil price.
  3. Oil is a finite resource.
  4. The world has been using three times the oil it has been finding for many years now.
  5. The days of cheap oil are over.
    1. The cost to produce the marginal barrel of oil – the last barrel, as in shale oil and tar sands – was $92 per barrel in 2011.
  6. The U.S. mainland uses oil for only two percent of its electrical generation. Hawai‘i uses oil for more than 70 percent of its electrical generation.
    1. Anything manufactured on the mainland with cheap oil embedded makes our local producers and manufacturers less competitive. This affects Ag products.
  7. It is not the supply or demand of oil that will cause the
    greatest damage; it is the cost of oil.
  8. How much time do we have? Because it is about oil cost, we have less time than we think.


  1. Uses 180 MW at Peak.
  2. Most of the increase in electricity bills is caused by oil pass through.
  3. Bio mass – as in wood chips – and geothermal have base power potential.
  4. Solar and wind must add storage to become useful as base power.
  5. Storage at utility scale is prohibitively expensive today.


  1. Big Island electricity rates have been 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s rates for as long as anyone can remember.
  2. The Big Island has the lowest median family income in the state.
  3. The Pahoa School Complex has, at 89 percent, the highest percent of students participating in the free/reduced lunch program in the state. Ka‘u at 87 percent and Kea‘au at 86 percent are close behind.

Education is the best predictor of family income. Yet the Big Island’s high electricity cost takes away from its education budget.

Rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax. The folks who are able to leave the grid for PV do so. The folks left behind pay more for the grid. Many of these folks are the ones already on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder: THE ONES THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS CONCERNED ABOUT.

Rising electricity rates take away discretionary income. Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending. Bottom-up economics benefit all, from the rubbah slippah folks to the shiny shoe folks.


  1. Cost to generate electricity from geothermal is estimated at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. This is less than half the price of electricity generated by oil, which is estimated to be 21 cents per kilowatt hour.
  2. The cost of the feedstock steam will be stable for a long time. The Big Island is estimated to be over the “hot spot” for 500,000 to a million years.
  3. Concentrating geothermal on the East Rift increases risk. Iceland mitigated the risk by keeping some oil-fired plants in operational reserve.
  4. Home Rule. The Big Island Community Coalition, myself as representative, personally voted for four of the bills that contained the Home Rule provision.
  5. Mediation vs. contested case hearing. It is a risk/benefit, cost, competitive advantage question. The lowest cost solution to accomplish the objectives is our target.
  6. How much time do we have? If cost is our primary concern, we have less time than we think.

I asked Dr. Carl Bonham: What happens if the oil price hit $200 per barrel? He replied that it would devastate our tourism industry.

I asked Dr. Bonham: What if we used geothermal as our primary base power? Wouldn’t we have a competitive advantage to the rest of the world as the oil price rose? He said, “YES.”

And, I asked, isn’t it fair to say that our standard of living would rise? He said: “YES.”

By giving the Big Island a competitive advantage in electricity rates, we can take care of all of us; not just a few of us.


We are on a good track.

  1. We have 38MW of geothermal. The 25MW original contract, which is still tied to oil, is being renegotiated right now.
  2. HELCO has signed a 22MW power purchase agreement with Hu Honua. This is proven, stable and affordable technology – firewood, boil water.
  3. HELCO has issued a 50MW request for geothermal proposals.

These 110MWs of stable, affordable electricity base power represent 60 percent of the Big Island’s peak power usage.

O‘ahu has 10 percent of its base power electricity coming from stable affordable sources.

If we all work together, to take care of each other, we can be on track to have a competitive advantageover the rest of the world.


Some good resources on this topic:

Geothermal Assessment & Roadmap is a report compiled by the Pacific International Center For High Technology Research (PICHTR) under contract to Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii in January 2013.

Peak Oil Warning From an IMF Expert: Interview with Michael Kumhof is a modeling done by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic team. Although it is not an official IMF document, it was done by the team that does economic analysis and modeling for the IMF.

We are dependent on air transportation, and this video, Charles Schlumberger: Out of Gas: Implications for Transportation, gives a sobering view of what we can expect in the future. Dr. Schlumberger is head of the air transport division of the World Bank.


Hilo’s PUC Meeting Successful: ‘Enough is Enough’

Richard Ha writes:

Monday night’s PUC hearing in Hilo went very well. The overwhelming sentiment was that enough is enough. People will not take any more electricity rate hikes.

Big Island Video News has posted a video about the PUC meeting.

VIDEO: Aina Koa Pono, HELCO rate hikes blasted at PUC hearing

October 30, 2012

Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar

HILO, Hawaii: Residents of East Hawaii packed the Hilo High School cafeteria, to tell the Public Utilities Commission what they think about a proposed electricity rate hike and and biofuel surcharge…. Watch the Big Island Video News video here.

It’s hard to remember that until the BICC dared say it, no one could imagine we could actually get lower rates. We have made good progress. People are now saying they want lower rates, and expecting it.

In its “Off the News” section this morning, the Star-Advertiser wrote:

Electricity bill too high? Wear slippers

“Not to make light of a serious situation such as rising electricity bills, or a consumer group’s desire to show solidarity.  In an era when pennies – and dollars – must be pinched to get by, solidarity over cost-of living issues is a good thing.

That said, it was interesting to see that the Big Island Community Coalition opposed to a surcharge to finance the use of biofuels to produce power, urged its members to wear rubber slippers to last night’s public hearing as a show of uniform solidarity. This being Hawaii, what other footwear would folks don for a pau hana (after work) forum?

Of course this may have been a smart strategic move. This way the PUC might have scanned the room and figured that every last person was opposed.  It also ruled out slippers as a footwear choice for commission members, too….”

It was a civilized hearing and most of the many testimonies were on point.

About 150 people were in attendance and it was a diverse audience, including: Faye Hanohano, Fred Blas, Jeff Melrose, Richard Onishi, Russell Ruderman, PGV people from Nevada, Jim Albertini, Deborah Ward, Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, Mililani Trask, John Cross, Ka‘u people, ILWU, IBEW, Carpenters, Laborers, HELCO group, the Aina Koa Pono (AKP) core group, Sierra Club and other community members.

Other than HELCO, AKP and those who needed to be cautious, most of the rest were allies of low-cost electricity.

In today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Mayor Billy Kenoi made it very clear that he is against the AKP project for several reasons.

Kenoi criticizes biodiesel proposal

By ERIN MILLER Stephens Media

Aina Koa Pono’s biodiesel proposal isn’t a good deal for Hawaii County residents, Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday, hours before the Public Utilities Commission was set to begin its first Big Island hearing on the subject.

“This to me looks like one of those deals, after 10, 20 years, we ask how did we let that happen?” Kenoi said. “Ultimately, there is no benefit to the people of the Island of Hawaii….” 

Read the rest

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald also wrote about the PUC meeting itself.

Online Extra: HELCO rate hikes blasted

Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

No more increases.

That seemed to be the main message relayed to members of the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday night by more than 100 Big Isle residents who showed up at a public hearing at the Hilo High cafeteria to weigh in on two separate electricity rate hikes proposed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc….

Read the rest here

Tonight is the West Hawai‘i PUC meeting (Tuesday, October 30, 2012) at 6 p.m. in the Kealakehe High School cafeteria.

And the third and final meeting will be held this Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Farrington High School.

Wear your rubbah slippahs!