Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Brief Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017

Phil Becker, at right, is the new President of the Ka`u Farm Bureau, shown at his and Merle Becker's
Aikane Plantation Coffee Co. farm between Pahala and Na`alehu.
Photo from Aikane Coffee
KA`U FARM BUREAU addressed the future of agriculture in Hawai`i during its annual meeting Wednesday at the new Ka`u High School Gym. Statewide President of the Hawai`i Farm Bureau Federation Randy Cabral, who has a small ranch near Pahala and a home in Volcano, gave the outlook. He noted that farmers are a tiny percentage of the population nationwide, only 2 percent feeding almost all the people. He said he hopes that people will gain more respect for farmers and purchase food that is grown in Hawai`i for not only healthy living but to support the local economy. He talked about the meager funding of the state Department of Agriculture, less than 1 percent of the state budget, even though Gov. David Ige is pushing for more food self-sufficiency.
     Cabral stated that new food safety regulations and proposed laws to further control pesticides, though possibly well-intentioned, could put farmers out of business quickly with added work and overwhelming expenses. He pointed to the federal Food Safety Modernization Act and said that 30 to 40 percent of small farms across the country could go under because they can’t afford to comply with the law.
Ka`u Farm Bureau held its annual meeting Wednesday. Left to right are
 founding President Chris Manfredi, Vice President John Ah San, 
Treasurer Kaohi Mokuhali`i, 2017 President Phil Becker, Secretary 
and outgoing President Brenda-Iokepa Moses and statewide
 President Randy Cabral. Photo by Julia Neal
     He encouraged farmers to take advantage of the Enterprise Zone benefits in Ka`u, especially through tax relief, including a waiver of the 4 percent sales tax for qualifying operations. He said the Royal Hawaiian Orchards, the large macadamia farming and processing company from which he recently retired, was able to draw savings from registering as an Enterprise Zone entity, with relief from General Excise taxes when paying for construction of its new drying towers for macadamia nuts. He said that filling out the forms and complying with the requirements is well worth the effort.
     Cabral said the Hawai`i Farm Bureau is coming out with a Farm to Plate program modeled after an effort in Vermont. He said it also supports the state leasing out agricultural land long-term for growing food and to give farmers security. He said that minimum wage increases, proposed at the legislature, would be tough on farmers, who would find it hard to raise their prices to cover the additional costs. He also said the Farm Bureau objects to the proposal in the legislature to allow tiny homes on farms and predicted that they would be used for tourism by gentleman farmers rather than farm labor, as intended.
     Cabral said he hopes that farmers will communicate directly to legislatures by phone, email, and posting their opinions through the Farm Bureau and through the legislature’s website where people can state their support and objections, and track the various bills going through the process. He noted that Rep. Richard Creagan, a Ka`u resident who chairs the Committee on Agriculture in the state House of Representatives, and Sen. Mike Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, are both hearing and passing most of the ag bills out of their ag committees. He said the volume of bills is hard to keep up with and that the Farm Bureau is notifying members when they need to weigh in.
     The Hawai`i Farm Bureau Federation has its own package of bills at the Legislature. Among those it supports are those for treatment plans for little fire ants, an extension of the coffee berry borer pesticide subsidy program, and three new pesticide inspector positions. It supports long term leases on state land to give farmers security. The Farm Bureau is also tracking bills it opposes, including 17 that would further regulate or ban pesticides. Among those it opposes are:
     SB 19, which would require any person cultivating a crop to provide detailed monthly public disclosure of all pesticide use;
     SB 29 and HB 790, which would require disclosure and public notification for outdoor applications of all pesticides in or near schools, healthcare facilities, childcare and eldercare facilities, and other environmentally sensitive areas. It would apply to farmers buying or using a certain amount of restricted use pesticides. The bill would allow counties to regulate pesticide use and set buffer zones, and would permit citizen lawsuits;
Funding to fight the coffee berry borer is one of the top
priorities of the Ka`u and statewide Hawai` Farm Bureau.
     SB 844 and HB 253 would ban the use of pesticides containing the active ingredient chlorpyrifos
     SB 346 would increase the pesticide licensing fee to $310 per year and require annual renewal.
     SB 810 would require a permit to apply any neonicotinoid insecticide or use coated seeds. The permit would be issued for one-time use, only in the case of immediate threat to human health or the environment, and if no viable alternative. It would allow counties to regulate neonicotinoids more strictly than state or federal governments.
     SB 809 would allow counties to adopt their own, more stringent pesticide laws, rules, and policies.
     SB 779 and HB 254 would expand membership of the state Pesticide Advisory Committee and direct it to establish state standards for low-level chronicity exposure levels and create a comprehensive buffer zone policy.
     Cabral noted that Feb. 23 will be Ag Day at the Legislature and that Ka`u farmers are invited to attend at the Capitol. Aikane Plantation coffee farm has attended for many years and plans to have a booth there.
     He also showed off the Farm Bureau's new Hawai`i Farm & Food magazine, which features a photo of Ka`u rancher Michelle Galimba inviting people to the Hawai`i Agriculture Conference AG2017. See www.hiagconference.org and hfbf.org.

NEW OFFICERS FOR KA`U FARM BUREAU were elected Wednesday at the organization’s annual meeting. The new President is Phil Becker of Aikane Plantation Coffee Co., who grows coffee and protea and ranches cattle and horses between Pahala and Na`alehu.  He and Merle Becker are the creators of Coffee & Cattle Day, which for years helped draw crowds to Ka`u Coffee Festival week.
      Vice President is John Ah San, a Ka`u Coffee grower and President of the Pael Coffee Cooperative. Treasurer is Kaohi Mokuhali`I, with a background in dairy and ranching. Secretary is Brenda Iokepa Moses, former Ka`u Farm Bureau President a manager at Ka`u Mahi.
     Becker said he plans to regularly attend statewide Farm Bureau meetings on O`ahu and will be diligent in reporting back to members in Ka`u and keeping them apprised of the activities at the legislature and Farm Bureau.
Ka`u High School is one of the rural schools with possible cutbacks
from budget reductions announced by the governor on Tuesday.
Photo by Julia Neal

STATE BUDGET CUTBACKS could hurt schools, farmers, ranchers and the management programs for natural areas in Ka`u. Gov. David Ige told the Hawai`i Legislature Tuesday that he is trimming the state budget based on a projected lowering of expected state revenues.
     Among the cuts that could affect Ka`u  are extra funding that goes to remote rural schools like Ka`u High and Elementary, Ka`u Learning Academy and Na`alehu School, some of the smallest in the state where the Hawai`i teachers union has asked for an additional $1,000 per year per student.
      The governor proposed a cut in additional funding to fight the rapid `ohia death fungus that has damaged thousands of acres of native forest around the island, including protected forests in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and on state and private preserves in Ka`u. Forestry management programs would also be cut.
     Concerning agriculture, the budget reductions could affect the hope for additional farm loans, planned irrigation infrastructure, invasive species control, and the subsidy for livestock feed. Agricultural surveys to plan for farming and ranching and preserving ag lands would be reduced from the original plan that was earlier submitted.
     The proposed reductions in funding come after the state Council on Revenues lowered its expected growth-in-tax revenues predictions to 3 percent from 5.5 percent.

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