Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Sunday, April 20, 2014


Earth Matters Farm on South Point Road hosts an Earth Day tour for the public Tuesday. See below for more information.
Photo from Earth Matters Farm
HAWAI`I FARMERS UNION UNITED drew enough commitments last night during its organizing meeting to secure a Ka`u Chapter. Leaders of the statewide organization came to Pahala Community Center to explain the purpose of the national organization. 
     Local chapter organizer Malian Lahey, who has a farm in Wood Valley, said she approached the Farmers Union United after learning that Ka`u Coffee is being sold for blending. “It hurts my business,” and it damages the Ka`u Coffee farmers’ reputation, said the coffee broker, noting that the Hawai`i Farmers Union United has sponsored legislation to require labeling that would declare all origins used in blended coffee.
Rep. Richard Creagan came to Pahala last night for the organization of the
Ka`u Chapter of Hawai`i Farmers Union United. Photo by Julia Neal
      Most of the blended Ka`u Coffee is sold under the name Alan Wong, who has championed Ka`u Coffee at his restaurants for years and earlier encouraged farmers to keep the coffee pure. The labeling says 10 percent Ka`u Coffee without naming the origin of the rest of the coffee used in the blend. It sells at a fraction of the price of pure Ka`u Coffee, which a number of the farmers sell under their own brand names.
     Vince Mina, president of Hawai`i Farmers Union United, reminded attendees that the organization is not a labor union. It represents family farms and focuses on the health of the soil and sustainable agricultural practices, he said. Mina said the national organization was created by farmers over a century ago to help farmers. He contended that the Farm Bureau was formed ten years later by corporate interests. “The Farm Bureau was organized to keep farmers from being organized.”
Steve Sakala, President of Kona Farmers Union United,
attended the Pahala meeting yesterday.
     Mina and other directors of Hawai`i Farmers Union United said that they have gained traction in building awareness in government regarding “soil health.” They talked about the difference between mining and farming, with mining using up the nutrients and soil conditions needed for crops, while farming in a sustainable way builds soil health. Several of the group's leaders talked about the direction of agriculture in Hawai`i. “Are you killing the life of the land or regenerating the soil?” was one of the mantras.
     Another involved breaking down the word agriculture. “Agri-Culture. Cultures are living,” said Mina. He said that farmers and governments need to give more support to the “culture.” Government has traditionally given the most support to agribusiness, he said.
     Those attending also talked about education and possibly helping to revive agricultural programs at Ka`u High School and also education for adults who may want to learn to farm.
     Several of the farmers who attended are involved in politics. Steve Sakala, who is President of Kona Farmers Union United, chairs District Five of the Democratic Party. Richard Creagan, of Ka`u, who is a physician and farmer, is west Ka`u’s member to the state House of Representative. Lahey is President of Precinct Seven, District Three of the Democratic Party.
      Mina said it is important to be involved in the political process because, “If you are not part of the process, you’re part of the menu.”
      He also said that growers of food can look forward to more people being concerned about the fresh food they are consuming and paying for it. “One day there will be an app when we can take our produce to market and you get paid for the nutrient density.” He predicted that farmers who “aloha `aina the soils will be rewarded.”
      Farmers represented at the meeting have grown, coffee, mac nuts, taro, flowers, pigs, rabbits, sheep, goats, cattle, pumpkins, lettuce and other truck crops, as well as fruits, from banana to dragon fruit.
      Anyone interested in joining the Ka`u Chapter of Hawai`i Farmers Union United can call Lahey at 503-575-9098. The next planned meeting is Saturday, May 17 at Pahala Community Center.
      Information about the organization is available at hawaiifarmersunionunited.org.  
      See more on the Hawai`i Farmers Union United meeting in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

A bill at the state Legislature would help Ka`u Coffee growers purchase pesticides
to battle the coffee berry borer.
A BILL TACKLING COFFEE BERRY BORERS is on tomorrow’s conference committee agenda as the state Legislature begins its final full week in session. HB1514 would appropriate funds for mitigation of, and education relating to, the pest, whose “infestation threatens the viability of Hawai`i’s entire coffee industry,” the bill states.
      The bill would establish a pesticide subsidy program until June 30, 2019, to help coffee growers purchase pesticides containing Beauveria bassiana to combat the coffee berry borer. If passed, it would become effective on July 1. Both the Hawai`i Farm Bureau and Hawai`i Farmers Union United have lobbied for the money to fight the borer.
      Progress of this and other bills at the state Legislature can be tracked at capitol.hawaii.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

NET ENERGY METERING is a topic Henry Curtis, director of Life of the Land, discusses on his blog at ililanimedia.blogspot.com. With NEM, utility customers, including those who have photovoltaic systems, lower their electricity bills by sending surplus energy back to the utility company. About eleven percent of all Hawaiian Electric Co. customers, including those on Hawai`i Island, have rooftop solar.
      Curtis says that, in such a system, the transmission grid acts as a battery. “The customer transfers electricity to the grid during the afternoon and pulls electricity out of the grid during other parts of the day,” he says. “They only pay for the net amount of energy used.
      “If one month the customer provides more electricity to the grid than the customer pulls out, then the customer has a credit which they can tap into the following month.”
Life of the Land Director Henry Curtis
      A problem, Curtis says, is that at the end of each year, customers’ accounts are zeroed out, and excess credits are given to the utility. “In essence, the utility has been given ‘free electricity,’” Curtis contends. He says that federal laws, rules and regulations call for utilities to zero out accounts each year and do not permit utilities to pay for excess electricity when accounts are zeroed out.
      Curtis explains an alternative power exchange system called a Power Purchase Agreement. As opposed to Net Energy Metering, in a Power Purchase Agreement scheme, customers sell (export) electricity to the grid at the wholesale price and buy (import) electricity at the retail rate.
      “Some Independent Power Producers, such as wind generation facilities, only exist to export electricity to the grid,” Curtis says. “At other IPPs, most notably sugar plantations, co-generation petroleum refineries and commercial rooftop solar facilities produced electricity for themselves and for export to the grid and occasionally also bought electricity from the grid. These customers have two meters, one for export and one for import. Smaller systems use the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) mechanism. 
      “Thus, under a Power Purchase Agreement, Hawai`i Electric Light Co. might buy solar energy at 20 cents per kilowatt-hour and sell electricity at 45 cents per kilowatt-hour. Clearly this would not be profitable for owners of small residential rooftop solar facilities,” Curtis says. “Rooftop solar owners also don’t like to be net importers of electricity from the grid. Instead, people with rooftop solar overbuild their solar system and wind up giving the utility free electricity rather than the alternative of buying electricity from the grid. 
      “The utility opines that Net Energy Metering customers are a burden on the 89 percent who are non-Net Energy Metering customers. The utility argues that Net Energy Metering customers get free use of the grid without paying for it. The utility asserts that they must maintain the grid but only non-Net Energy Metering customers wind up paying for it.”
Dr. John Dvorak discusses earthquake storms
Tuesday at After Dark in the Park.
      According to Curtis, the utility does not track free electricity. “Rather, to keep their analysis simple, the utility distorts reality by assuming that there is no free electricity. All of the utility price analyses assume there is no free electricity.”
      Curtis suggests another approach – the utility could track free electricity. “At the end of the year, the utility could note how many kilowatt-hours were given to the utility for free by each customer,” he says. “Customers could make a tax-deductible charitable donation of that free electricity to a nonprofit, which would allocate that credit to those that are economically challenged.
      “Thus, the benefits of renewable energy would not only go to economically secure people but would be spread across the economic spectrum,” Curtis concludes.

FREE ENTRY CONTINUES TODAY at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park to kick off National Park Week.

TO COMMEMORATE EARTH DAY, Greg Smith, of Earth Matters Farm, invites the public to taste organic greens and grilled vegetables Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The farm is two miles down South Point Road to the right of Kama`oa Road. For more information, call 939-7510.

EARTHQUAKE STORMS: THE PAST & PRESENT of the San Andreas Fault, is the topic at After Dark in the Park Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Dr. John Dvorak explains the San Andreas Fault: what it is, where it is and how it works. His new book, Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault will be available for sale. The book explains how the recent seismic lull in could result in an “earthquake storm” of large earthquakes. Dvorak studied volcanoes and earthquakes for the U.S. Geological Survey, taught at the University of Hawai`i and has written numerous cover articles for scientific publications. Free; park entrance fees apply. $2 donations support After Dark programs. 


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