Thursday, October 16, 2014

Musings: Unforeseen Consequences

It's odd that Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum wants to eliminate the ag tax subsidy for seed companies when it accounts for just $500,000 of the $8.5 million in annual ag subsidies countywide.

In other words, that particular subsidy is small potatoes, but removing it could have serious unforeseen consequences, as a number of Councilmember were astute enough to observe.

Tim thinks it's reasonable to charge seed operations market value taxes because the landowners are making good money off those leases. But Tim and his co-supporter Councilman Gary Hooser never bothered to determine how much folks are paying for ranching and diversified ag leases in order to compare.

Nor did they check to see how many of the multi-million-dollar TVRs on ag lands have ag dedications, which means taxpayers are also subsidizing those lucrative operations. It seems no one is being scrutinized but the seed companies.

But under Tim's double speak, he's not singling them out.

I'm being accused of targeting the seed industries,” he said. “Well, it's the seed industry that came in and made this dramatic change in use. It's not targeting that industry, it's just where that use has occurred.”


Councilman Mel Rapozo didn't buy it. “We're targeting an industry and I'm not comfortable with that. There's got to be a rational basis. It's not the way to treat farmers when we say we're supporting agriculture.”

There's all this rhetoric about this is an attack on ag,” Tim said. “No, it's not. It's just that on Kauai it doesn't fit our ag dedication.”

How does he figure that? Tim himself acknowledged the dedication was conceived to provide “incentives for active use of our ag lands and keep ag lands in production.”

Aren't the biotech companies doing both, whether their crops are for the purpose of research or sale? Or as Mel noted, “We're helping farmers all over the world. We're helping farmers across the U.S. to produce food.”

Gary, who introduced an amendment specifying the bill applies only to research on crops with genetically engineered DNA, was clear about his motives: “We're here to address the appropriate use of our ag lands. In this case we're looking at major corporations that don't need the subsidy, don't contribute to local food sustainability and have a substantial impact on air, land and water.”

Gary brushed off the impact of pulling 24,000 acres out of ag dedication, saying even if it's developed, they could build only five units on a single parcel. But as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura pointed out, dropping the dedication means a “tremendous increase in assessed value. If they subdivide, it's not just five units, it's multiple parcels with up to five units each.”

Or as Kilauea land agent/farmer Mike Dyer noted: “If you want to drive ag land to development, keep a nice high tax on it and you'll get it developed.” And with the recent sales of large ag parcels for hundreds of millions dollars, the assessed value of ag parcels could go way up.

So really, what is the intent of this bill? Especially when coupled with Tim and Gary's push to halt development in Lihue by designating it a groundwater management area?

I've gotten very scared where the state is headed with those commercials you see regarding the Maui [anti-GMO ballot] initiative,” Councilman Ross Kagawa said. “If we get away from big ag, I'm worried about how that westside, my home town, will look like.”

JoAnn wants to keep the seed land in an ag dedication, but charge them higher taxes, though not as high as market value. “There is the issue in my mind of the contribution of the seed companies to managing the water systems that are really important to the sustainability of our ag lands. I think it's really appropriate to have some input from the seed companies and others that are involved.”

Councilman Mason Chock, in a welcome departure from Tim and Gary's influence, said he is still “stuck on unintended consequences. I haven't heard enough from farmers and the public and the seed companies on the bill. I've heard things about infrastructure that might be a concern.”

Ross agreed, saying the seed companies are maintaining water systems that benefit the many farmers raising cattle, sweet potatoes, cattle, beans, mangoes and other crops in Kekaha and elsewhere on the westside.

Gosh, it seems agricultural co-existence is not only possible, but actually happening on the westside.

The bill was deferred until Nov. 12, by which time Tim and Gary hopefully will have been defeated.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has announced he's working with the state Department of Ag to convene a joint fact finding group (JFFG) to examine the possible health and environmental impacts associated with the use of pesticides on genetically modified crops.

That's good news for two reasons: First, it's an opportunity to assess the issue and gather scientific data to offset all the anecdotal allegations that have thus far driven the Bill 2491 debate. It's where we should've started, but didn't. Second, it takes the process out of the County Council, where it was doomed to be politicized and biased, and thus of questionable value.

It's also interesting that the Administration gave JoAnn credit.

As it's now structured, a facilitator under contract to the state will choose at least nine panel participants after interviewing candidates. They will be seeking “knowledgeable local experts with pertinent backgrounds, experience or detailed understandings of agriculture, environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistics, medicine or other related disciplines.”

The JFF process will presumably define the scope of further work and studies to be done...possibly an EPHIS (Environmental and Public Health Impact Study),” wrote county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka in an email. “We are hoping that we can again partner with the state on the follow up and avoid any legal pre-emption issues that might arise.”

Bill 2491, which included resolutions calling for a JFFG and an EPHIS was overturned by a federal judge on the grounds it was pre-empted by state law. That decision is currently on appeal.

The county and state each are kicking in $50,000 to fund the JFF process, which should be pau by December 2015.


Anonymous said...

Are we trying to re-invent the wheel here?? Farmers have been growing GE crops for decades on the mainland. Haven't any other states or municipalities performed EPHIS's so we don't have to waste money duplicating past studies?

Anonymous said...

The a mayor will certainly win reelection but it's great that Barca's pressure appears to have pushed the Mayor into supporting an EPHIS. That has been a main goal of the people who supported 2491. It is the first gesture of compromise. And good for Carvalho for being open to a middle ground where both fistee and agrochem cite a bunch of dubious bullshit and never budge.

Anonymous said...

"it's interesting that the Administration gave Joanne credit?" Really how stupid can the Mayor be? Joanne is so fricking annoying, the people are finally getting it, look at the primary results for her, all-time low. Vote for anybody but Joanne, Tim, or Gary.

Anonymous said...

Pressure from Barca, it's more like irritation, like a punk ass kid in school that lips off with no respect and the teacher cannot do nothing to him. Voters who vote for him are F-ing idiots Kauai would truly be F-ed up, Dylan Hooser, Managing Director. Felicia Cowden, Communication Director. I need a Barf Bag. same as a Barca Bag.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:41 am - "Barca's pressure?" um yeah, his "pressure" really did show in the primary election results. laughing out loud

Anonymous said...

When an incumbent mayor cannot get even 60% of the vote in the primary he is struggling. That's a fact. Denial will get you nowhere. I'm wondering why Carvalho cancelled on PBS? He seems worried to me. He hasn't confirmed he will participate in the Waimea debate that will be hosted by Ron Wiley either. He seems to be avoiding meaningful dialogue with his challenger.

Anonymous said...

Barca Pressure??? 62% Mayor to 33% Barca Yawn..... Redshirts, you are the minority, by far. Get that through your bushy underpits.

Anonymous said...

maybe he's bored debating Barca. wouldn't you be?

Anonymous said...

Let's call the new strategy or slate 7-11 - vote for any seven of the eleven, except for Bynum, Hooser, or Yukimura. Kauai will be back on the right track.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @12:16 check out the primary result. you are mistaken. Carvalho only got 58%. 12% voted for other candidates or left the ballot blank.

Anonymous said...

Carvalho has pulled out of the upcoming mayoral debate after previously confirming. Very sad he will not participate in the only real debate scheduled. I think this will actually hurt him tremendously. Ron Wiley was going to MC the event too. There was a really large turnout expected. All of the other candidates had confirmed their attendance.

Anonymous said...

Time to get off the labels Red or Blue Shirt. I can't even remember what the colors signify.
Something is rotten in Denmark. Gary and Tim, in the early days before their political careers and even in their early days as politicos were nice and reasonable guys.
What happened? They are stuck on laws to change personal behaviors and targeting Ag operations. They even got the convenient appointment of Mason who seems to be their pool boy.
Mason may in this instance have broken away from Tim and Gary, but if elected he will do as he is told. No back bone, no originality, he is an empty Aloha shirt.
A "Joint Fact Finding Group" absolute baloney. There is not one true farmer, rancher or citizen who isn't sick to death of the whole Anti-Ag mess. Enough already. Most of the ranchers, business guys or hard core old time working guys would probably prefer to punch these two busybodies out.
If the County wants some advice, ask Mike Dyer, he knows taxes, ranching, land values and farming. Mike is the only input needed.
I wish the election was over. Gary, Tim and Mason are dragging the whole County down. JoAnn fritters to and fro and Jay, a real disappointment lets the shenanigans go on. Jay is the culprit by allowing two members to dominate with anti-Ag vendettas. Come on Jay, punch 'em out or do something. You are weak.

Only Mel and Ross are firm in trying to get all the facts so the People don't get hurt. It is SUPPOSED to be about the people anyway. The people are the ones getting the old shaftarooee here, bad tax law, bad TVR laws, bad anti-local housing laws...bad bad bad.

Anonymous said...

I go for the 7/11 idea! But you have to vote the others cause if you don't the 3 of them will win by default. Give anyone else your vote to at least give them the opportunity to get those stooges out. It seems to me that they forgot to represent most of the people not a select few. Our locals need those jobs to support their livelihood we don't live in castles in a high mountain looking down at the people.

Joan Conrow said...

Just FYI

12:14 -- PBS cancelled the show because of the impending storm.

2:25 -- The mayor had previously committed to a campaign event for the same day as the Waimea debate.

Anonymous said...

Dustin Barca did well for a high school drop out. I wouldn't want him to be the mayor but he has the courage to get in there and take the criticism.

Anonymous said...

I wish Gary Hooser or Tim Bynum would have run.
We need real leadership, fair and balanced.

Anonymous said...

6:02 p.m. Fair and balanced! Please, don't take someone else's slogan. Fair representation is meant to say the proper way of running the County. Get the facts first and then make the law. Not LIE to all of the people of Kauai, and shove that shit down our throats.

Balanced is not Gary or Tim, Balanced means bring both red shirts and blue shirts together and find balance that both sides can live with.

A leader who can take the name calling, people in his face, and say, Kauai's leader wants to review pesticides the proper / fair way for ALL OF KAUAI.

Even Joan said it and you still don't read the whole blog. Review Pesticides the politically correct way (FACTS) and then make the law. But NOOOO! Dumb ass Gary jumped right in and screw up the correct way. Fact / data first and then law.

I'm sitting on the fence watching all of this stupidity on Kauai!

Stop it, come November one person, one vote and let the County conduct the business with whoever gets elected.

Would be nice to have ANA come in and clean up all of this crap, so everyone can go back and remember, that friends / neighbors are important, taking care of each other is more important than hatred.

We all forget how we came together after 1983 and 1992. To take care of ALL OF KAUAI!

Thanks again Joan for a FAIR and BALANCED blog.

Anonymous said...

I assumed 6:02 pm was joking. Please, 6:02 pm, tell us you were joking!