The rain came early in the night and lingered, then turned into a downpour just before dawn, giving Koko and me an excuse to lounge around in bed for a while listening to the delightfully comforting sound of it beating on the leaves, roof, skylight, with me, as always, hoping for more.
So it was later than usual when Koko and I set out splashing through puddles and the little river flowing alongside the road, and that turned out to be a good thing, as I ran into both Farmer Jerry and my neighbor Andy, neither of whom I’ve seen much of for a while, as I’m usually up and out and back before either of them.
As Jerry and I chatted, we took note of a smoky cloud drifting over the Giant and the sun lighting up a corner of the backside of Kalepa, causing it to shine gold.
“Those are prime ag lands,” said Jerry with a satisfied smile that lifted all the fatigue from his face. He’s been working 16-hour days, doing his regular job, then coming home and harvesting lychee until it’s too dark to see.
It’s not easy being a farmer, which is why so many ag land owners skip that step completely and instead pluck the low hanging fruit of tourism. That crop is watered and tended and fertilized for them by state- and county-funded promotions designed to lure visitors to Kauai.
What condition do you suppose ag would be in if it was supported to the same degree as tourism? And what condition do you suppose Kauai would be in if people were working to malama the aina, instead of the visitor?
Anyway, the bill allowing vacation rentals (TVRs) on ag land is up for a public hearing before the County Council this afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone shows up to testify besides the regulars in opposition.
It’s a little bit peculiar that TVR owners have been a no show at the meetings thus far. They haven’t been publicly petitioning the government, pleading their case, saying this is why we need this bill. Is it because they don’t really want it, don’t really care? Or is it because they don’t really need to, having already done their lobbying — or shall we say, lawsuit threatening — behind closed doors?
Other ag land owners seek to capitalize on both tourism and the well-heeled folks looking for second (or third or fourth) homes that it attracts, as in the case of A&B’s Kukuiula project near Koloa. They are so eager to cash in on the big bucks that they go through the process of taking the land completely out of ag so they can build a shopping mall, golf course and luxury homes.
And when the real estate market tanks, as it tends to do in cycles, they come crying to the county, looking for a break from their measly little 75-unit affordable housing requirement, which they're supposed to start meeting by 2013.
[A&B/Kukuiula's Tom] Shigemoto is arguing the current housing market has gone south since the deal was signed and wants better terms that are fair and concurrent with affordable housing policies.
Interesting that they’re not asking for more time to meet the requirement, as might be considered reasonable since the entire project is stalled, but instead want to dramatically weaken it so the houses can be sold at market prices within 20 years, instead of 90.
These big ag land owners seem to conveniently forget that they have already been given the huge gift of land reclassification and zoning, yet they always want more, more, more.
Just as the seed companies want more land on Kauai, which has Grove Farm pushing out the ranchers who currently lease their land, putting their cattle operations in economic jeopardy.
And just as Monsanto wants more and more control over seeds. In a Monday Supreme Court decision that both Monsanto and the Center for Food Safety claimed as a victory, the justices overturned a lower court’s ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa, but also prohibited it from being planted until it’s deregulated by the USDA, which is conducting an EIS.
It’s the first time the Supreme Court has ever heard a case involving a genetically modified crop. The decision points to the likelihood of more GMO litigation ahead, especially since it’s become clear that these crops cannot be contained and thus pose the potential for harm to both the environment and farmers who don’t want to grow that stuff.
Meanwhile, more and more and more of it is being planted on Kauai, with no EIS or thought to what it might be doing to our natural environment and our ranchers and farmers.