Monday, October 27, 2014

Musings: So Special

Though Kauai likes to think of itself as “special,” its dramas are so often a microcosm of what's playing out in a larger arena.

That reality came to mind when I read the recent article about how a group of southsiders are threatening a lawsuit to stop Hawaii Dairy Farms, a pilot project funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The article was published right after a friend who disagrees with me on Bill 2491 emailed to say:

Why not grow food without chemicals? That’s a great “experiment” which could employ people healthfully. Could employ people in healthy environments. Have the government subsidize this experiment and employ people.  The experiments can be funded by grants…….

So here we have an uber-rich guy, ready to fund a test project to see if milk can be produced cost-effectively in Hawaii using a rotational pasture method as an alternative to feedlots, employing people in a healthy environment, creating a stable new market for locally-grown feed, which is otherwise entirely imported, and what happens? It gets rejected before one cow even sets hoof on the island.

Surfrider and Friends of Mahaulepu, yet another new group formed in opposition to something, claim the dairy is already polluting the area, though it hasn't yet started operations. Friends member Bridget Hammerquist is quoted as saying:

They’re going to create a health hazard. It’s going to go into the streams. It already is.

Though it's not clear exactly what “it” is, since no dairy cows are on site, Surfrider's Carl Berg maintains the dairy has “already polluted the stream while doing its grading and grubbing on the land.” When I asked what he based that on, he replied: “Water sampling for bacteria, turbidity, total suspended solids, and nutrients at mouth of stream and just downstream of HDF property.”

In other words, it's not just the dairy that's bothering the groups, it's any agricultural activity at all. Because no matter what is grown or raised on that land, some grubbing and grading will be required. And that's a crucial point, since the dairy is proposed for acreage designated as Important Ag Land. The Mahaulepu site is an area where community members and elected officials agreed, after extensive public deliberation and discussion, that agriculture should be preserved for perpetuity.

But now we have people who chose to buy homes near an active agricultural area, saying no, we don't want any ag near us. Their sentiments are expressed by Jay Kechloian, who is quoted as saying:

Friends of Mahaulepu is pro agriculture and pro sustainable dairy on Kauai as long as it does not harm our environment — rivers, streams and oceans — and endanger our drinking water.

But even though their rhetoric is pro-ag/pro-dairy, their actions are anti-ag/anti-dairy — to the point of eying a lawsuit against HDF even though the dairy has not yet been approved by the state Department of Health, much less begun operations. They are launching a pre-emptive attack based on fear and speculation — the same tactics that proved so effective in the Bill 2491 GMO/pesticide debate.

It's clear that Surfrider and Friends of Mahaulepu alone want to dictate what sort of agriculture is acceptable and sustainable. And garans, no agricultural operation will ever be clean or sustainable enough to suit them.

Meanwhile, there's this weird dichotomy with the tourism industry that has inserted itself into ag and coastal lands throughout the island, especially on the southside. For some reason, tourism is getting a free pass from Surfrider, Friends and GMO Free Kauai. 

This giant disconnect is blithely expressed by Linda Bothe — a Kalaheo resident and Dustin Barca supporter — in a letter to the editor today:

We are also dealing with some elected officials’ “brilliant idea” to put a polluting, smelly dairy on sacred grounds that lead right to the ocean. Also, right next door to one of our beautiful hotels that brings in tourism and with that income and jobs. Who is going to benefit from this huge mistake? Some elected leader is putting a lot of moo-la in their pocket, is my guess.

First, the dairy is not the “brilliant idea” of any elected official, but Omidyar's Ulu Pono Initiative — the same organization that has given money to greenie groups like Waipa [correction, Waipa has not been funded by Ulu Pono] and Malama Kauai. Since Omidyar doesn't even care if the dairy makes a profit, the ones who are intended to benefit are Hawaii residents who could buy fresh milk, instead of stuff imported thousands of miles from the mainland.

And why is it that Linda and others are bothered by the idea of a dairy “on sacred grounds that lead right to the ocean” but not a 600-room luxury hotel that is much closer to the ocean, with a sewage treatment plant in the flood zone, extensively manicured grounds, a golf course and numerous pools? If she believes the dairy will pollute the water, how is that she thinks the pesticides, sewage, chlorinated water and fertilizers associated with the Hyatt are not?

So if Linda, Surfrider, Friends of Mahaulepu and Malama Mahaulepu — whose board of directors includes GMO Free Kauai/Hawaii Seed President Jeri DiPietro — are successful in destroying HDF, and preventing Grove Farm from using even its IAL acreage for agriculture, what will come next?

You got it: more hotels and luxury homes, with their concurrent sewage, pesticide treatment, fertilized landscaping, etc. What's more, with the shoreline setback bill now under review, these uses wouldn't even need to go through a shoreline certification, since they'd be built on a rocky cliff. So they could be hanging right on the edge of those lovely limestone cliffs, with their sewage and chemicals seeping down into the water.

Is this a good trade-off? Are the dairy opponents aware of this? Or is this yet another example of how the anti-GMO folks are actually actively working to destroy agriculture in order to facilitate development?

Returning to the threatened lawsuit, and what's playing out in a larger arena, I recently read a piece about how 21 residents of a small New Mexico town have brought a nuisance lawsuit against “dairy row” — a string of feedlot dairies in the southern part of the state.

They are unhappy with the odor and flies they attribute to the dairy, but their legal action was prompted by a Georgia attorney, Richard Middleton, who specializes in agricultural nuisance lawsuits. Middletown — a new kind of ambulance chaser — came to the town, soliciting plaintiffs, after hearing one resident complain on NPR about flies.

Curiously, though all the dairies ostensibly produce flies and odors, only seven of the dozen or so that operate there are being sued. Perhaps because they've been identified as deep pockets? At any rate, a mediation session is set for Dec. 11.

If successful, it could avoid a trial,” says Middleton, the residents’ attorney, “But we can walk away if there’s not sufficient money offered.” He declined to offer a figure that he was looking for, but added, “I’ve learned over the years that you have to hit [dairies] in the pocketbook.” Middleton’s been doing this kind of work since 1999 and says he’s seen some dairies clean up their operations while others have folded or moved.

Some of the plaintiffs want the dairies to leave, believing their town of about 1,000 people in one of the nation's poorest states will attract new industry. Others don't care because they're retired. And some, it seems, will tolerate smell and flies if they have money in their pocket, their friends, family and neighbors be damned.

But what really struck me about all this were the options: clean up, fold or move. If they fold, that's one less producer of the local food that everyone is clamoring for. If they move, it's someone else's problem. If they clean up, then maybe everyone benefits — except lawyers engaged in this ag extortion racket.

So instead of trying to destroy HDF (or the seed companies), or send them somewhere that's out of sight, out of mind, why not work with the agricultural entities to address real and legitimate concerns? Why not come at it from a place of, let's see what's possible? Instead of no, it's absolutely impossible —  at least, in my backyard?


nocanswim said...

I am in complete agreement, Joan, that the dairy project should be given an opportunity. The concept is very interesting, and with reasonable oversight, could bring us not only milk, but media interest, and voila, more tourists for the dissenting hotel.

Anonymous said...

"And garans, no agricultural operation will ever be clean or sustainable enough to suit them." Have you asked them that question, Joan? Have you asked them what kind of agricultural operations they would approve of? Or are you just guessing that they disapprove of all agricultural operations. If you haven't asked them, perhaps you could and then get back to us? Mahalo.

Anonymous said...

Joan! It's good to see u backing an" uber rich guy". They're not all bad after all ��

Anonymous said...

12:26, Why should Joan ask? Hammerquist or Malama might proffer an alternative since they do not seem to like very much besides getting their own Ludite way in their gilded little enclave of privilege (and tax haven to boot).

Joan Conrow said...

They are already on record as saying they'll accept no dairy there, period.

But if Bridget, Carl or any of the other spokespersons for those groups would like to tell us what kind of ag would find acceptable for that site — and where they think HDF would be more properly sited, I'm happy to give them space.

Anonymous said...

what about the superferry? should we have let the developers give it a chance before rushing the dock with protestors?

move the location away from the ocean and hotel above KCC or up kalepa near KIUC; get choke places for a dairy!

Not Tim Bynum said...

Hotels, golf courses, swimming pools and sewage treatment plants create JOBS.

Frankenseeds create destruction, just like in The 12 Monkeys. I'm just another Bruce Willis, out to save our island paradise for millions of tourists and the good people of Kauai who serve them.

Anonymous said...

All commercial Ag produces dust, noise and molests the earth.
We need to have a complete redistribution of all land. We need to allow everyone to raise their own food. Good organic, non-GMO, chemical free and fresh food.
Why should so few have so much land? It is unfair.
I am voting for Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, JoAnn Yukimura, Jay Furfaro and Mason Chock. These five have at least started to get the big land owners in line. Victories in land regulation are won, one step at a time. Law by law and tax by tax, we can win.
These five and especially Gary, Tim and Mason have the right and moral idea. Their methods of regulating and Taxing Big Land to the point where the owners lose control and the government can dictate the uses, are needed.
Then we can all get some land to farm. Everyone on the island can have food, land and houses.
It is a moral imperative to share the land.

Anonymous said...

4:30, Fisrt of all, where is this year's Karl Marx festival being held? I figured you were Kauai's liaison and would have all the details. Heck, why stop with the redistribution of land, you should ask the uber rich to share their money too? I'd ask where you lived so I could come borrow your car but I suppose you ride the Kauai Bus and just want us blue collar workers to quietly cough up more money so you can continue riding virtually free. Time to get a job, get some ambition, and start making your own path through life. No more handouts. But then again, I can see why you're voting the way you are. Take from others what you can't make for yourself ... it's the new American way.

Anonymous said...

hahahah! precious!

Anonymous said...

CB'S polluter is wild pig! They have trashed the lower reaches of the streams and the irrigation ditches!

Anonymous said...

100 years sugar cane on those fields and they call it sacred and pristine.

Not Tim Bynum said...

Hotels and tourism gives the little people of My Garden Island jobs. The GMO frankenseed biz does nothing but grow scary stuff that people are afraid of.

Don't make me sue you.

Robert Zelkovsky said...

Puhi was the first choice for the dairy, Grove Farm moved the to Maha`ulepu. With 3 million pounds of manure and 160,000 gallons of urine each month for the smaller starting herd, Surfrider would like to see an EA. The stream is already 200 times safe pollution and the State will spend two days taking samples all around the property. This dairy model is an environmental mess in New Zealand. What finally closed Moloa`a Dairy? The waste stench flowed to Peter Gubers Tara estate, almost a mile away. There are County drinking water wells 750 feet from HFD.

Anonymous said...

Well said Joan! It seems that Carl Berg's water testing has only provided more questions that even he has yet to answer. If his tests are accurate, what is causing this pollution? Horse poop, pigs, humans, runoff, Hyatt? According to TGI, it seems like no one knows why the stream would be so polluted... So here is where I pose my request to these groups, leave your personal motives aside and let DOH find the answer. Then, give the dairy a chance to prove itself! If Surfrider, Friends, and Malama want to see nothing happen in Mahaulepu, then so be it... close off the beach and let no one in, including these self-proclaimed "protectors of the environment."

And to 4:30, despite what you think you know about big land owners, they are the ones providing a chance for farming both big and small. Any true farmer knows that it takes a lifetime of work and an excess cash. And if you want land redistribution, encourage DHHL to cough some up. Those people with cultural ties to the land have been waiting for decades.

Anonymous said...

"Though Kauai likes to think of itself as “special,” its dramas are so often a microcosm of what's playing out in a larger arena."
the rich mainland guys care less about anything other then what they percieve as right for their view plane/points. My Kauai, birth place of my lineage, will always be excellent regardless of any diatribe spewed by those seeking to roust sentiment from self perceived blogging. you seem smart joan. whats a better vehicle for your tenacity? good fun to play the role you portray...what else...

Anonymous said...

5:00. Take from others is not the new American way- it is hundreds of years old. Steal the land, steal the country, try to kill the culture. Yes, I am sure you are very proud of American history, especially here in Hawaii. Land obtained by theft. Rich American land owners, corporate land owners- how did they obtain title to the land?

Anonymous said...

@8:19 PM

Some of those landowners wee British and bought their land from the King and royal family. If you want to assess blame, look at the monarchs and their heirs who sold off the land to finance their royal lifestyles.

Anonymous said...

Who will do the bidding of the landowners? Will the people buy into the mantra that opening up the island to development will lead to affordable housing? Or that building more roads will solve our traffic problems? If you think that those solutions will work you haven't been to Oahu lately.

Anonymous said...

HDF investor Pierre Omidyar is also financing “The Intercept” To the tune of $250 million because he wants “to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable.” . Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras (who broke the Edward Snowden story) and Jeremy Scahill are the editors of The Intercept. We need more funding for outlets like "The Intercept” and “Wikileaks” for investigative journalists and whistleblowers that uncover corporate and governmental wrongdoings.

Anonymous said...

I support the dairy, but I also want to know the results of Berg's tests. Where is that pollution coming from?

Joan seems to have ignored that pollution problem.

I find it interesting that Mahaulepu has worse pollution than Hanamaulu yet, I've never felt swimming at Mahaulepu would be a problem while I can not imagine going into the water at Hanamaulu. Perhaps someone can provide some insight?