Thursday, September 4, 2014

Musings: Real Objectives

As the County Council bandies about a plan to tax the seed companies differently than other agricultural uses, it's time to ask, what is the real objective here?

Is it to drive out the GMO seed companies? Open the land for development? Generate more property tax revenues for the county? Stick it to the largest private landowners? Pander to voters in an election year? End subsidies for only certain types of corporate ag? Or some combination thereof?

Councilman Tim Bynum, who introduced Bill 2546, said in yesterday's Council committee meeting that the seed companies have created “significant impacts on the community. Do we want to give them the same subsidies as we do people who provide food, flowers, coffee?”

To remove that subsidy, Tim's bill calls for “excluding lands that are used primarily for the research and development of crops or parent seed production” from the definition of agricultural use. They would be placed instead into a separate classification: agronomics. Tim justifies it in part by his repeated undocumented assertion that the seed companies are engaged only in research, and do not produce anything for sale.

But as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura noted:

If you take land out of an agricultural dedication it is assessed at its highest and best use, which is its development value. I believe that has all kinds of implications in terms of a pressure on farmers to develop their land.

So how does that fulfill Tim's stated goal of the ag dedication, which is to keep ag lands in production? And what about the ag vacation rentals that do a wink-wink phony nursery to get an ag dedication, when their real income is derived from luxury short-term accommodations? Haven't they created a “significant impact on the community?”

JoAnn proposed amending the bill to keep the land in ag, while creating another assessment for seed companies.

Tom Shigemoto of A&B, which owns 7,000 acres of ag land, with 4,000 acres currently leased for coffee and seed corn, brought up another point:

Removing land from the ag dedication will significantly increase real property tax assessments and payments. For landowners dedicated to keeping land in agriculture, it may represent a challenge in obtaining ag lessees that are able to effectively utilize large tracts of land. Land costs are a significant component in the overall success of farming.

In other words, by taking thousands of acres out of ag and putting them into a higher-priced agrinomics category, the county is essentially ensuring that only multinational chemical companies will be able to afford the taxes. And as Tom noted, even they may not want to pay.

Imposing additional financial challenges [on the seed companies] may result in either some of these entities scaling back or relocating to other entities with more favorable tax structures, with the unintended consequence of jeopardizing the longterm viability and sustainability of Kauai's agricultural industry.

Is it an unintended consequence? As I've reported previously, high end realtors are backing the anti-GMO movements on Kauai and Maui. They certainly stand to benefit from the demise of ag on the undeveloped westside, with all its lovely sunset and Niihau views.

Though some may say "good riddance" if the seed companies scale back or pack up and leave — which is Councilman Gary Hooser's intent in supporting the bill — what will happen to the thousands of acres they lease that would no longer be in agricultural dedication, and taxed instead on their highest and best use?

You got it: development. The landowners would have to pay the property taxes somehow. And the reality is that there is no other ag enterprise — not ranchers, farmers or flower growers — ready, willing or able to cultivate the land now used by the seed companies.

David Arakawa of the Land Use Research Foundation raised the specter of legality, saying there could be court challenges associated if acreage currently designated as Important Ag Lands is placed in a different tax category. He also asked whether the bill would be affected by the recent federal court ruling that pre-empted Ordinance 960, the county's pesticide/GMO regulatory bill.

“You can't put lipstick on a pig,” he said.

“Are you saying this bill is a pig?” Gary shot back.

“If the intent was to go after GMOs, no amount of changing a word here or there is going to hide that,” David replied. “That not gonna fly. A judge is gonna see through it.”

Gary, who previously defended the legality of Ordinance 960, pooh-poohed the idea that Tim's tax bill could be illegal. “Disingenuous is the word for closing the afternoon. It's important for us to clarify things for the record. The public hears these accusations that we're targeting, it's against the law, we're going to end up in court. The county clearly has the authority over taxes.”

Yes, I've always agreed that disingenuousness is wrong, and things should be clarified for the record. But every time I try to do that with Gary's falsehoods about Ordinance 960, GMOs and pesticides, he flips out and goes on the attack.

“To have this misinformation spewed from the microphone is inappropriate,” Gary said, before spewing a bit of his own.

“We're not raising anyone's taxes,” Gary said. “We're discussing the possibilities.”

The Council will resume discussion on the bill in two weeks. Which would be a good time for the public to press for honest answers to the question: What is the real objective here?


Allan Parachini said...

This is about as transparently disingenuous as legislation gets. OF COURSE it is a poorly veiled measure intended exclusively to ban the seed companies. Particularly galling is that seed corn, for example, results in agricultural products for human consumption. How is seed corn NOT an agricultural product in that classification????? Answer: IT IS.

Unknown said...

Complete agree with your point. Bill 960 is supposed to protect people from pesticide exposure, yet ignores golf courses, resorts and residential/institutional pest extermination services, all of which apply pesticides directly to areas frequented by humans (including children). As you say, the authors of the bill seem to favor development over ag.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that residential use of pesticides is greater than Ag. Not sure if this is accurate. IF all the seed co's packed up and left (like Gary and Tim want) and they developed the land on the west side, wouldn't there still be a pesticide issue from whatever takes its place?

Dont get me wrong, Im all for development. I think it would be great to have more affordable housing and a second city in Hanapepe. The harbor is there, it only makes sense. It would be nice not to have to drive to Lihue for everything. It would be "greener" not to have to drive so much. Bring in a Costco and Target etc... Bring some life to the west side. It just seems very unclear what Gary Hooser and everyone wants. Joanne, for example, is anti development and Anti-AG? And Anti affordable housing/ Anti-big box stores. How can you be anti-everything? What are these people FOR? I would like a clear answer and a clear vision from them. It seems like the only thing they are really FOR is themselves, inefficiently sitting on council pissing in the wind and wasting everyones time and tax dollars.

Everything they say is confusing and unclear. Its as if they are constantly lying. I dont trust any of them and wont vote for any of them unless they start making some sense. Infact, im the stereotypical type of person who would normally be a hooser, Yukimura, ect.. supporter but I wont vote for them. And many of my peers feel the same way.

The only ones who we trust is Mel and Ross and we dont agree with them on everything. But they got our vote because they are the only ones who have shown leadership and integrity.

allan parachini said...

Somewhere in last year's litany of hearings or filings, I recall that when people realized that the 18 tons of pesticide figure was actually TWICE what is actually used here, someone also discovered that, within those nine tons, Kauai County was the largest single user. There was immediate speculation about golf courses, but if I recall correctly, it turned out it was chlorine to purify (thank you DOW) our water supply.

Anonymous said...

Lipstick on a pig is exactly what this is. Gary/Tim GET OVER IT. You LOST. Stop this madness!

I agree with 10:36A. I voted for Tim, Gary, Joann & Jay in the past but will not do so again. Tim & Gary are the worst kind of politicians (they really would do well in Washington!), they use fear and fake research to incite mistrust and hatred among Kauai's people, old and new, the kind I've never seen before and I grew up here. We've always gotten along with our malihini friends and they became family. No longer. A lot of the "new" malihini come here to live because they purport to "love it" so much but they can't help but try to change it back to exactly what they came from, divided communities and lack of aloha and kindness. Congratulations, you seemed to have succeeded.

Joann & Jay have simply been in too long. They need to step out for a few years so they can see more clearly and get back to basics.

I don't always agree with Mel but I will vote for him because what you see is what you get though I am uneasy with his alliance with Shea. Ross, I'm unsure, seems to swing based on whatever Mel's doing, same as Kuali'i used to. So I guess I won't be casting many votes this year for any incumbents. There are some interesting new faces. I'm willing to take a chance on a few of them that it can't be much worse than some of the ones we have on the council now.

Anonymous said...

11:15 I don't think Ross is following Mel, that's a bad analogy. Ross ain't nobody's bitch. Believe me.

Anonymous said...

There is no “Holy Grail” of property tax reform. Any property tax reform measure will involve shifting the tax levy from one type of tax to another – there’s no free ride. What about eliminating the property tax completely so that people actually OWN their homes and land again. Maybe the council can work on a method of spreading the lost tax revenue across the largest base possible. Nah...guess not , eh?

Tim Bynum said...

Or perhaps Bynum’s intentions are just what he said.

Is it to drive out the GMO seed companies? - No.
Open the land for development? - No
Generate more property tax revenues for the county? - Yes
Stick it to the largest private landowners? - No, the lessees pay the taxes.
Pander to voters in an election year? - No.
End subsidies for only certain types of corporate ag? - Yes I guess, I want to end tax subsidies for research use of the land that produces no product for sale.

"And the reality is that there is no other ag enterprise — not ranchers, farmers or flower growers — ready, willing or able to cultivate the land now used by the seed companies."

Then why have major ag enterprises lost their lease to seed companies. People have lost their business and their years of investment and land that was once producing food is used exclusively for research, the plants grown destroyed. Should your tax dollars be used to subsidies this change?

"Tim justifies it in part by his repeated undocumented assertion that the seed companies are engaged only in research, and do not produce anything for sale."

Other than a small operation by Dow the vast majority of land is used only for research, the plants you see are destroyed. The seeds are sent to other researchers not sold to anyone. The companies have tried to obfuscate this fact but they no longer deny it.

Joan look into the USDA site, ask where the figure of over 200 million “production” contributed by corn came from. Read the “study” conducted by the University of Kentucky paid for by HCIA. Ask why similar “economic contributions” are not added to the report of other commodities that only report sales. Then look at the corn sales statistics for Hawaii. Look at the 2012 ag census recently released to see that the number of farmers is going down. Look into these questions please.

Anonymous said...

11:48 Finally someone else agrees with me. Property tax is extortion from landowners .

Anonymous said...

It's lipstick on a really ugly pig- and one on life support at that. If this were not an attempt to screw the seed companies, this bill would at least take care to delineate between the research plots and the parent seed fields. To legislate that the production of seeds is a valueless non-component of agriculture because we don't buy and eat the seeds on the spot is simply more of the hysterical, unbalanced, dishonest and mean spirited theater Kauai has been deluged with for several years. It really is time for a change at Council.

Anonymous said...

Of course the ears are harvested and the plants are destroyed afterwards. This is what you do when you grow corn.

Whether it's sweet corn in a home garden, starchy dent corn for cornbread, popcorn for movie night, whatever kind of corn it is and wherever it's grown, the ear is the useful part, not the rest of the plant. What else is the farmer (or gardener) supposed to do with it?

Many crops, including corn, are annuals, with a finite lifespan. If you leave them to stand in the field, they still die. When they are destroyed after harvest, the organic matter contributes to ongoing soil health. This is basic, responsible, sustainable farm management.

Anonymous said...

Vote the RASCALS OUT...

Reality is no one wants the land besides the seed Companies to farm, proven again when HDOA put lands up for lease and no one responded despite all the online rhetoric.

This has always been a witch hunt but what is their ulterior motive. Land Development now looks like a promising end goal, they are trying to drive agriculture and business out of Kauai. Why would anyone with common sense invest on Kauai with this Council.

Anonymous said...

It absolutely baffles me that Tim Bynum, by his own self-admission, does not believe that research is not valuable. It is, in fact, the foundation of, and to, good agriculture.

Why don't we just start burning the books, not teach science anymore, and let the island go to pot, albezia, and pigs!

Dawson said...

Gary, who previously defended the legality of Ordinance 960, pooh-poohed the idea that Tim's tax bill could be illegal.

"Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results."
-- popularly attributed to Albert Einstein

Anonymous said...

Joan, I think Tim Bynum just threw a pencil at you.

Anonymous said...

If Tim was confident in this bill (or himself), commenting on a blog post to argue with people that don't agree with the bill wouldn't be necessary.

How's it going Tim? Confident about the November election?

Anonymous said...

9/4/14 11:36am.....really? You really don't think that Ross follows all of Mel's actions like a puppet? Have you ever watched any of the meetings? You vote for get Ross. You vote for Ross you get Mel. Have a nice day!

Chuck Lasker said...

Hey, if we can drive the seed companies away, and develop that land, we can become a second Maui! Fill the west side with some Applebee's, a mall or two, some environmentally friendly high rise 5 star resorts, a couple of pesticide-free golf courses, maybe an amusement park or Sea World, lots of 4 lane roads... The new SuperFerry that would be pushed through to shuttle the new tourists even docks at Port Allen! For the folks in Princeville, we can drill a tunnel through the Na Pali! Maui gets LOTS of tax monies from these things, so why shouldn't we? Just because some people like Kauai as it is? Screw them - let's go for the mula, because that is what aloha is!

I wonder, though, if Bynum and Hooser are not targeting the seed companies, as they claim now, why are they in so many anti-GMO groups on social media, marching in anti-GMO parades, speaking at anti-GMO rallies? It couldn't be they're lying politicians with personal agendas. Nope.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for commenting, Tim. In response:

Then why have major ag enterprises lost their lease to seed companies. People have lost their business and their years of investment and land that was once producing food is used exclusively for research, the plants grown destroyed.

Yes, sadly, some rancher and farmers did lose leases to the seed companies. But they represent only a small percentage of the land leased to seed companies. There is no way all the land leased to seed companies could be picked up by other tenants.

And Tim, why aren't you stopping the subsidy of the "ag" TVRs that also drove out farmers, like Michele Hughes on Kauapea Road?

Other than a small operation by Dow the vast majority of land is used only for research, the plants you see are destroyed. The seeds are sent to other researchers not sold to anyone.

Pioneer also confirmed that they ship out seed for sale. Not all of the seed crop is GMO.

Joan Conrow said...

And Tim, why is it OK to subsidize coffee, cattle, flowers and trees, but not corn? What is your rationale for determining that agriculture is only ag if it produces a product for sale? Isn't ag "crops in the ground?"

What about the UH research station? Or huli banks for taro? What about the NS ginger and turmeric farmers who are growing their crops as seed?

And if you go with Gary's definition of anything that requires a federal permit, are you two also saying hemp production would be taxed at a different and higher rate? What about experimental biotech crops?

Anonymous said...

There ain't no lipstick on this pig.
Tim and Gary are desperately trying to gather enough votes to get in the top 7. Tim is a no can. Regardless, of his personal taking of 290,000 dollars from the people, now he comes full face and says that "oh gee, the big land owners don't pay the taxes, the lessees do." Welp, Timmy or Jackpot or whatever you like to be called these days..your statement says it all. You do not have a concept of money, value or reality.
In the real world people understand that somewhere someplace there is a financial accounting. If Big Ag gets hit with your vendetta, big land will pay, it is part of any lease agreement.
I just wish that you, Gary and Mason would stop all this division. Putting rich guy against poor guy etc....remember, you are a Haole (and at this point, you have taken more personal gain from the locals with your 290K) and have no concept of the value of open Ag...we all come from the plantations...the old ILWU shutdowns were very bad, but what you, Gary and Mason are doing with your dividing techniques is really bad. Nobody knows who will be targeted next.
Tim, please move on, leave the land alone. Babeeze babooze, it is hard to believe that the island has come to this. Jay get some way-vohs and stop this shibai early. Tim and Gary and their li'l spawn Mason, will continuously dominate the Council, unless you use your Uhhh, Chairmanship POWER.

Anonymous said...

With zeal, I voted for Tim in past elections. I think he has entirely stepped out of reality and needs the door slammed behind him. This guy needs to be gone yesterday. Gary, get the f out and leave with at least a fraction of a cent of decency. Too much to ask? Okay, just leave.

Anonymous said...

hey joan,
michelle hughes is gone, went underwater and her properties were sold in auction to various newcomers. Still, Some owners on Kauapea did their mainland style diligence and got ag dedicated acres of harvestable palms to beat the tax rates while charging 7500/night rentals thru pure kukai. They play the game, gray areas toyed with. Zero regulations. Plantation road has similair tactics=illegal vacation rentals "leased" by pure kukai and rented out for 31 days to avoid notice.
I like your swift kick to roust some attention. keep the heels polished, you'll need em for alot longer

Anonymous said...

How did we become so disconnected from science that we hate, tax, and drive out research? One of our few hopes for survival in these islands is the technology we can develop. Who are these people who want us to be functioning at the level of grubbing for food? Please, go away.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bynam I too once upon a time voted for you. I loved Kamalani park and how it brought people of all walks together and the enjoyment it provided for my kids when they were young. However you have changed over the years...for the worse sad to say. Your behavior alone is enough to turn my vote away. The tantrums you display belong on the playground, embarrassing at the very least of an elected official. Please step out of the race, stop your circus acts! Man up and step aside...take Gary with you on the way out to the playground too.

Anonymous said...

Michelle Hughes may be gone, but the legacy she left with Bynam's help is that the land was sold as a resort and operates as a resort, the flowers are lovely, but the land will never be able to be farmed again due the escalation in price the resort brought with it.

Anonymous said...

Re- Hughes and all Northshore...If anyone thinks that a "real" farm can operate with a minimum capital investment of 5 million for steep windswept land, they need a simple lesson in economics.
The Northshore CPRs are gone from any real farming..Kapaa/Wailua is gone from farming...Let the Ag lots build more houses, gee Tim, you pushed for Ag hotels on Ag land, why not small houses for the kids?

On another note- Michelle Hughes GAVE the Bike PATH to Kauai. After we are all dead and gone, the kids and residents will count their blessings that this path is in place....forever.

Anonymous said...

No Michelle Hughes did not give the bike path, she traded the land for entitlements and then the county and federal gov built the bike path there. It was not traded for her vacation rentals, but changing the entirety of Kealia from Agriculture to CPR's for the uberwealthy. In effect taking Kilauea and Kealia lands out of agriculture production.

Anonymous said...

you must have markets to sell farm produce. perhaps the state and county could help in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Why does the state and county need to help with markets, there are plenty of stores to sell produce to and plenty farmers markets and every farmer can set up his own CSA so stop makin up excuses. The land is too expensive to farm, bottom line a farmer, unless a millionaire to start with cannot afford land here and make a profitable farm. Kauai is a mess in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

Bynum is a big fat ugly toad. Teachers said his kid was a brat, Tim was a crybaby dad pity me pity my child, and he tries to be a leader for Kauai? Voters will agree, finally, that this guy is a selfish toad who will never come close to winning an election again. Good riddance, take care of your medical problems, Liar.

Anonymous said...

Please try to speak your mind more clearly.

Anonymous said...

11:33 Sorry I just cannot come to grips with the fact that he sued the voters that voted for him and cost the county a million dollars. It is mind boggling how someone like that has no remorse to the people and tries to continue stupid legislation that will cost more lawsuits in the future. The only thing I could think of was a fat ugly toad.

Anonymous said...

Every farmer does some kind of research and testing. If a farmer test grows a different crop on part of their land, change fertilizer, watering cycles etc are they just farming or are they at least partially in research and testing? Experimenting with different combinations and methods are an integral part of farming. By right in Hoosier and Bynums world all agriculture would be agronomics. Their vision and what will result is not founded in reality. This new Bill will far out perform in damaging effects than Ord 960. Someone please stop this madness.

Anonymous said...

Clip and paste for an artistic conception video of the Kauai County Council thought process
It is a little mind rattling

Dawson said...

Bynum is a big fat ugly toad. Teachers said his kid was a brat, Tim was a crybaby dad pity me pity my child, and he tries to be a leader for Kauai?

Politics 101: Mocking the physical appearance of a demagogic politician or the behavior of his kids is like contributing to his campaign fund. Even worse, it gives the demagogue the kind of support that money can’t buy -- it feeds the martyrdom that is one of the key attributes of demagoguery, and encourages his supporters to defend him.

Better to attack the politician's policies, not his person or his family.

...He sued the voters that voted for him and cost the county a million dollars. It is mind boggling how someone like that has no remorse to the people and tries to continue stupid legislation that will cost more lawsuits in the future.


Anonymous said...

12:03 Tim sues the people, throws pencils, is disrespectful toward fellow members, is on a one subject vendetta to get the Corn Growers. And yet he might still get elected. Amazing.
His tax plan did give relief to many homeowners, but raised the taxes on EVERY renter and business. Rents will go up average 100 to 300 per month for the renters.
The Council must get to basics.
I have to respect Tim and Gary though, their personal objectives have become the main topic for a long time.
They have Jay Furfaro like their li'l boy allowing them to bully and control all dialogue and subject matter. Jay must reach deep and find his inner man, somewhere beneath all of his bloviating and pontificating there lurks a shadow of manhood and strength..come out of the shadow, bruddah, Waianae? More like the old Glades on Hotel Street. He will remembered as a weak Chairman.
The power of 2 (oops 3, Mason will always follow Gary.)
If the Council even gets 2 more reasonable members, there could be a civil discussion about the problems....and maybe, God Forbid, get some actual solutions.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Dawson.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Then prove it 10:29PM. Don't just rant on a blog. Do you need a link to the DOJ? Not hard to find on the internet.

Anonymous said...

trading entitlements = many complicit. Hughes did it early on in Kealia, had huge parties with mayor to gain acceptance. Bike path is for noone of relevance compared to what is needed on isle...same with Charles Sumner mainland guy who bought the wetlands in Kahili "Rock Quarry" beach...built his monstrosity after trading parcels above. Blocking access to our birth right falls? rationalize all you want, ag lot/TVR/ in Malibu,Palm springs,etc these tradeoff benefit the wealthy newcomer. My child hood easements blocked.

Anonymous said...

5:26. "Remember you are a Haole ". We prefer to be called White Niggers. Why sugar coat your bias.

Manawai said...

Most commercial farms do some sort of research. So if a farm has 100 acres, maybe 5 acres is used to grow different varieties and develop farming techniques for crop improvement. Only non-farmers with an inability to see the big picture would miss the fact that Kauai is an integral element to the largest and most productive food farming companies in the world. Kauai represents those companies' 5 acres with the majority of the enormous food growing operation being outside of these islands. Hawaii is simply not big enough to accommodte their huge food production actvites.
Only limited thinkers fail to see that the "seed companies'" local operations are an integral part of their enormous food growing operations. So, to say they don't grow food merely reveals the speaker's lack of knowledge and myopic vision. Do we want manini brains running our island?

Anonymous said...

I thought Tim sued the Planning Department for trespassing and looking in his windows and sabotaging the sale of his home. Someone has to stand up to official thuggery.

Anonymous said...

I remember attending a Farm Bureau event at which we were told that there was plenty of land available to lease very cheaply for farming. It was offered to anyone with well thought out business plan for farming. They said that there had only been a few people asking about the land, and of those most didn't have any sort of business plan at all.

There IS land available to farm, but there are far more people who want to stand up and say, "we need more organic farms on the island," than there are people willing to put in the hard hours of work to be those farmers.

People have no clue how hard it is to run a farm and be profitable, they just buy into the rhetoric that it's "easy" and that the organic farmers are somehow being driven off.

Everybody wants local agriculture, nobody wants to be the farmer.

If you want more organic farming on the island, fine, go write a business plan, join the farm bureau, and ask the leaders how you can get some inexpensive land.