Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has vetoed the “agronomics” bill that would have created a separate real estate tax classification for the seed companies.
Given the makeup of the new Council, a veto override appears unlikely. The bill, introduced by defeated Councilman Tim Bynum, was passed by a 4-2 vote at the last meeting of the old Council, with Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa opposed and Jay Furfaro absent.
In a letter to Council Chair Rapozo, the mayor said that in taking the oath of office on Dec. 1, he was sworn to uphold the state Constitution, which calls for protecting agricultural land and diversified agriculture.
"After studying the bill, it is my conclusion that it does not achieve these goals and in fact impedes the promotion and expansion of diversified agriculture on Kauai,” he wrote.
The mayor characterized the bill as “poorly crafted" and said it "disincentivizes certain forms of agricultural production, and would be difficult and costly to implement and enforce.”
He went on to write that key terms in the bill are not clearly defined “and do not reflect the regulatory realities that currently exist at the federal and state levels of government.” The mayor also pointed out that “the majority of the crop acreage which this bill appears to target is not regulated by the federal government.”
The bill specifically references crops regulated by the federal government in an effort to single out GMO and experimental crops.
Furthermore, since some of the companies are subleasing land to others and growing cover crops used for grazing, “this bill would also effectively raise property taxes on ranchers and smaller farmers growing crops such as green beans, ginger and sweet potatoes,” the mayor wrote.
“This point underscores the fact that these companies are part of our diversified agricultural mix, and provide valuable agricultural benefits to Kauai beyond their core business of growing seed crops,” the mayor wrote. “In addition to working cooperatively with farmers and ranchers, they maintain agricultural infrastructure such as roads and irrigation systems which fell into disrepair following the demise of the sugar plantations.”
The mayor concluded the bill would be “detrimental to our efforts to expand agricultural opportunities for all types of farming on Kauai” and the financial benefits would not justify either the costs to administer it or the impacts on agriculture.
“We look forward to continued partership with the council, along with our ranchers and farmers, on how we can create opportunities for support and expansion of diversified agriculture on our island,” the mayor wrote in his final paragraph.