It isn't every day that a politician puts his head into the lion's mouth.
But Kauai Councilman Derek Kawakami bravely did just that, publishing a guest column in today's The Garden Island that states his unequivocal support for the contentious Hawaii Dairy Farms project at Mahaulepu.
Yes, at a time when far too many lily-livered legislators are kowtowing and pandering to the anti-ag activists haunting the capitol, Derek stood up solidly for ag. More important, he made it clear today that he believes his political future lies with those who support ag — not the antis.
As one political observer noted:
It does occur to me that this is Derek's first big salvo in the 2018 mayoral race, positioning himself as a strong, thorough, literate, rational opinion leader, willing to take a controversial but right position — in the face of active opposition.
And as TGI reported, that opposition is not pleased with his stance:
FOM [Friends of Mahulepu] is scheduling a meeting with Kawakami to supply him with the information they believe he is lacking.
No doubt. Now if only FOM would be similarly receptive to a meeting that supplied its members with the information they most decidely are lacking — along with the cranial capacty to process it.
Still, it's a profound statement on the sad state of affairs miring Hawaii agriculture when an elected official actually has to write a commentary supporting a local food initiative — on Important Ag Lands, no less — while reminding people that HDF “deserves the chance to operate” and the alternatives might be worse:
It is not realistic to think that if Hawaii Dairy Farms is prohibited from being on the land, that nothing will ever go there.
Unless, of course, those alternative uses — gentleman's estates, hotels, vacation homes, exclusive enclaves for the uber rich — are what the real estate- and tourism-friendly antis have been seeking all along.
Shoots, it's already happening on Maui, where the antis couldn't wait to destroy sugar. As Pacific BusinessNews reported yesterday:
A California businessman has purchased about 340 acres of agricultural land [in Paia] on Maui from Alexander & Baldwin Inc. for nearly $10 million.
“This sale was unique in that we received an unsolicited offer to purchase the property, and we determined that due to its size and location, a sale would not negatively impact our efforts to pursue our diversified agricultural plan,” [A&B spokesman Darren Pai] said.
Gonna be awfully hard for the communal kale cultivators and hemp hawkers to compete, what with Maui ag land now going for $29,000 an acre.
But Hawaii isn't the only place where ag is struggling. The elitist foodies and ag Utopians may soon realize their cherished dream of dismantling “industrial ag” — though it will come at a very human cost. As Money.com reports:
Across the heartland, a multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide is pushing many farmers further into debt. Some are shutting down, raising concerns that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s.
Farming has always been a boom-and-bust enterprise. Today, the swings are sharper and less predictable now that the farm economy has become more international, with more countries growing food for export as well as for their own populations.
American farmers’ share of the global grain trade has fallen from 65% in the mid-1970s to 30% today, giving them less sway over prices. More producers and more buyers around the world also mean more potential disruptions from bad weather, famine or political crisis.
Corn prices once varied year-to-year by less than $1 a bushel. Since 2006 they have shot up and dropped more than $4 a bushel.
Large-scale operations now account for half of U.S. agricultural production. Most farms, even some of the biggest, are still run by families. As farm sizes jumped, their numbers fell, from six million in 1945 to just over two million in 2015, nearing a threshold last seen in the mid-1800s. Total acres farmed in the U.S. have dropped 24% to 912 million acres.
In the late 1970s, [Lee Scheufler] joined thousands of farmers in Washington for a demonstration urging the government to address low grain prices and farm foreclosures. As some drove their tractors onto the National Mall, his group rang a bell every five minutes to symbolize the rate at which farms were closing. He has been reminded of those days often this year.
“The potential for a big crisis is real,” he said. “If things stay similar to how they are now, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
The article was sent to me by a friend, whose family still farms a seven-generation corn and soybean operation in the Midwest. When I remarked on the complexities of agriculture, especially in today's international market she replied:
That’s why I do an eye roll on the anti-ag people on Kauai in a tizzy on your blog. They have no clue what it takes to farm.