There's a new cheekiness emerging among agrarian romanticists. They're convinced they should dictate how A&B's Maui land is used once HC&S stops producing sugar.
On the one hand, we've got anti-GMO activists collecting some 10,000 signatures for an initiative that would allow Maui County to condemn the land, with a citizen's committee deciding who gets to farm it.
How did they collect so many, so fast? In part by lying, and telling voters that Monsanto had first right of refusal for all that acreage. I guess none of them noticed the seed companies have been shrinking their footprint in Hawaii, not expanding.
On the other, we've got Maui Tomorrow's new report — “Malama Aina: A Conversation about Maui’s Farming Future” — envisioning an idyllic, all-pastels landscape of cattle feeding on remnant cane amid organic veggies, poultry, pigs, and tree crops, with nary a livestock-hater in sight.
As the Star-Advertiser reports:
“Beloved Maui is at a crossroads,” the report said. “For 150 years Maui agriculture has been large-scale, mono-crop, chemical dependent, and export oriented. Can a new farming model bring both economic and biological benefits? The community has an opportunity to come together and help usher in a new era of farming on Maui.”
Gee, that's some nerve, commissioning a report from Oregon folks on what should be done with land that someone else owns. Does this mean that A&B, or any bloke on the street, should be able to dictate the activities of backyard gardeners, “yardners” and small farmers?
Of course not. It's only the big landowners who have been bad enough to warrant having non-farmers step in and tell them how things ought to be done.
Which always goes over a like a lead balloon. Especially since A&B has its own ideas, and no small amount of experience in implementing them. It's not like the company has never considered diversified agriculture or tree crops. After all, it successfully transitioned sugar lands to coffee on Kauai, and has spent decades — and millions of dollars — trying to identify economically viable crops.
And that's key. In their push to pimp an agricultural Utopia, the dreamers always leave that really crucial economically viable part out.
The Maui farm initiative, which applies to all large ag land owners, not just A&B, flat out eschews profit-making. It offers no insights into how general obligation and revenue bonds used to buy the condemned land will ever be repaid, or the toiling farmers compensated.
The Maui Tomorrow report is equally long on fantasy and short on economic reality. As the Star-Advertiser reports:
Maui Tomorrow suggests that the regenerative farm vision in its report can yield far more profit than sugar cane farming for export while also employing more people than HC&S.
But the report does not provide any detailed financial analysis or feasibility assessments. It notes that ideas will need further research and require a large investment to carry out.
Ya don't say.
As the Star-Advertiser continues:
The nonprofit said in its report that profits for diversified agriculture are conservatively 100 times more than a sugar cane monocrop for export, or $5,000 to $7,500 per acre annually compared with $50 to $75 per acre annually. For 30,000 acres, that would amount to $150 million to $225 million compared with $1.5 million to $2.25 million.
Yet serious doubt has been expressed about profitable large-scale farming supplanting HC&S. Local economist Paul Brewbaker said recently that if significant money could be made on the thousands of acres of fallow former sugar cane land that already exist on Maui and other islands, then it would surely have already been done.
Like, maybe by A&B itself, before it lost $33 million last year alone, trying to keep sugar alive?
Here's another example of the report's pie-in-the-sky thinking:
If A&B would sell the plantation at market value, Maui Tomorrow’s report said a community farm cooperative could be formed with all Maui residents represented as either worker-members or consumer-members with voting rights and profit shares.
Never mind that even small cooperatives have failed around the Islands because people just can't get along. Getting farmers to work together has been likened to herding cats, a scenario that becomes even more challenging with the addition of “consumer-members.” Plus how, exactly, would you even ascertain the market value of a 36,000-acre plantation on Maui?
Returning to the Star-Advertiser:
One challenge the report points out is that Maui lacks skilled farmers and infrastructure for diversified farming on more than 30,000 acres.
Now there's a news flash. But hey, they've got it covered. You just tell other people how to spend their money — "The report suggests that Maui County, A&B and nonprofits will have to invest in jump-starting new farming, including providing incentives and assistance to local farmers" — and then begin “recruiting successful farmers from off-island.”
Yup. Nothing like bringing in thousands more mainlanders to help further erode local culture and shift political power to the malihini.
Are you starting to see now what this anti-ag, dreamy ag, make-believe ag, wanna-be ag, pretend ag movement is all about?
That's right. It's the newest land and power grab in Hawaii, orchestrated by the latest batch of missionaries — those worshiping at the organic altar — and colonialists convinced they can “save Paradise” by making it more like the place they left behind.
Because if this was truly about implementing new methods and models for agriculture — feeding Hawaii — they'd be on it already, using the thousands of acres of fallow land found throughout the Islands.
But they aren't. They only want what somebody else — A&B, the seed companies — has already got.