Tomorrow is the final meeting of this County Council, and with two important bills on the agenda — shoreline setback and removing experimental crops from the ag dedication — it remains to be seen what legacy this body will leave for Kauai.
The key policy issue in the shoreline bill is this: Should the building setback be just 60 feet from rocky shorelines, as the current bill proposes, or 100 feet, as coastal and community advocates desire?
The key policy issue in the “agronomics” bill is whether thousands of acres with actual, legit crops in the ground should lose their agricultural dedication because bill sponsors Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser are on a vendetta against the seed companies.
The bill eliminates the ag tax credit for all experimental crops — including biofuel and hemp, which could be problematic, seeing as how Grove Farm has state-designated Important Ag Lands in biofuel. I smell a lawsuit if this bill passes — and curiously Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and County Attorney Al Castillo are in a tug-of-war over whether his legal opinion on the bill should be publicly released.
The key political issue is this: Should a loser and near-loser, neither of whom reflect the will of any majority, be setting policy with important, long-ranging ramifications for development and agriculture on this island?
Meanwhile, Hooser, the near-loser, sent out a gloating email that chronicled his “happy dance” upon learning he barely eked out a dead-last win. In it, he opined:
My good friends in the chemical industry were for sure high fiving, whooping it up and celebrating my demise during the first and second print-outs (insert facetious smirk).
Actually, Gary, it was those of us with no ties to the industry who were joyously — and, sadly, prematurely — celebrating the demise of a demagogue whose lies have polarized communities across the state, infuriated and alienated thousands of decent citizens and wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, with no end to the carnage in sight.
Gary went on to make it clear his hubris far exceeds his meager vote tally, while his overweening political ambitions will leave him hard-pressed to fulfill his Kauai County duties:
We need statewide buffer zones, full disclosure, a targeted health and environmental study and a temporary statewide moratorium on the growth of this industry until we can determine and mitigate the impacts on the health and environment of our community.
Mmm, why not advocate for more money for state ag inspectors and health department studies, seeing as how those agencies have insufficient funding to do their jobs?
And why focus solely on agriculture, when Civil Beat yesterday reported Ken Kakesako, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, as saying (emphasis added):
About 1,600 people or companies have licenses to apply restricted-use pesticides, and only 25 percent of them are farm-related.
The rest include professional pesticide applicators, such as exterminators that fumigate homes to get rid of termites and other pests.
“It’s misleading to only look at agriculture,” Kakesako said. “It shouldn’t be such a central focus if the conversation is truly about pesticides.”
But, of course, the conversation never has true, nor about pesticides. It's anti-GMO all the way, baby.
Kakesako's comment also reveals the lie that Tim and Gary used to rationalize both Bill 2491 and the agronomics bill: the seed companies should be singled out and punished because they're exposing more people to restricted use pesticides than anyone else.
Will that rationale hold up in court if the landowners sue over the agronomics bill?
Meanwhile, the “Maui Miracle” — to use Gary's term for the the GMO crop moratorium that narrowly passed, against the wishes of a majority of Molokai residents — is tied up in court, along with the Big Island's GMO crop ban. And though Gary is claiming “three of the four counties are all-in,” the political realities are a bit different.
Big Island friends tell me their County Council is considering a repeal of their bill, and would likely be emboldened if the new Kauai County Council also repeals Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, which is dead unless an appeals court resurrects it.
And there's no indication that Oahu folks are on board with any of this — anti-GMO marches there got small turnouts — and they still call the political shots in Hawaii.
So it's not too late to stop this political theatre, which benefits only a few grandstanding politicians and mainland-based advocacy groups, and address this issue in a sensible manner: fully fund the state Ag and Health departments so they can do their jobs, not just with pesticides, but invasive species, substance abuse, an obesity and diabetes epidemic and myriad other legitimate concerns.
To close on a note of levity, I'll leave you with the essay, “A small scale organic farmer wants you to know a few things,” which begins with the line:
Welcome to the farmers' market.
My favorite part:
No, the fucking chickens aren’t grass-fed. Because they aren’t fucking ruminants, that’s why, not because I’m part of a secret rural conspiracy to disrupt the endocrine systems of America’s urban masses.
You get the drift….