Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser is trying a new tack in his bid to unseat the seed companies: pushing a state Senate bill that he's grandiosely portraying as a “game changer for food self-sufficiency in Hawaii.”
Hooser, who ditched his own state Senate seat to make a dismal run for Lieutenant Governor, then resurrected his political career by starting all over at the Kauai County Council, is again haunting the state Capitol, meddling in issues he doesn't understand and peddling a simplistic bill that will solve nothing.
Senate Bill 593 would require the Agriculture Development Corp. to “make the support of sustainable agriculture and food security its top priority and immediately develop and implement a plan to accomplish this goal.” It also requires ADC, by 2025, to lease a minimum of 50 per cent of the lands it controls “to operations that support the sustainable agriculture and local food production plan and whose primary business is the production of food for local consumption in Hawaii.”
Or to use the “translation” that Gary provided in his personal blog:
If SB593 is passed into law – it is possible that over the next 10 years over 10,000 acres of public agricultural lands would be made available to local farmers and could only be used for sustainable agriculture and local food production.
Because we all know that land leases are the only obstacle to food self-sufficiency, right? Not a lack of skilled farmers and farm workers, poor agricultural infrastructure, no irrigation, expensive imported inputs like fertilizer, marketing problems, the challenge of competing with cheaper imported food, restrictive state and county policies, farmer housing and even consumer demand.
In Gary's world, all ya gotta do is offer the land and all those other issues will magically disappear.
Never mind that when the state made land available for public lease at Kalepa, it went begging, with just two applicants . So where are the folks who are gonna farm 10,000 acres, when Kilauea can't even get its 75-acre ag park off the ground?
In his testimony, ADC Director James Nakatani notes that his agency has already started an intercropping program in Kekaha that allows small growers to share 5,000 acres with the seed companies, planting in their fallow acreage. Meanwhile, another 960 acres have been set aside for public lease at Kalepa. He writes:
While there is tremendous potential on the island [of Kauai] for local food production, there is an apparent shortage of experienced farmers.
The bill never actually defines “sustainable agriculture.” But don't try to start a dairy or plant GE papaya or operate a slaughterhouse or graze cattle or do anything on lots larger than 2 acres because the folks supporting this bill don't want any of that dirty “industrial” agriculture or horrid “monocropping” like the kanaka of old practiced with their vast taro loi.
Who is supporting the bill? A gander through the testimony reveals a roster of the very same folks who were pushing anti-GMO bills throughout the state. Much of the testimony also parrots verbatim the language Gary used in his blog post rallying support for the bill, showing us once again that many of these people can't think for themselves.
And Gary's right there among them, improperly identifying himself as an “individual Councilmember,” rather than a private citizen, since the Council has taken no stand on this bill. In his testimony, Gary makes it clear he's gunning for the seed companies:
As a Councilmember I have tried to find out exactly how much of their [ADC] land is used for local food production but the answer I received was that they do not know. This alone shows clearly the need for regular reporting requirements as to how those public lands are being used.
Even though the exact numbers are not available to me, it is clear that on Kauai the vast majority of the ADC lands are leased to large corporations who do not produce food for local consumption, nor do these corporations practice sustainable farming methods.
Gak. Do you really want Gary Hooser and the anti-GMO contingent defining what constitutes acceptable farming practices in Hawaii? Fortunately, decision-making on the bill has been deferred until Feb. 10 and 11, which means there's still plenty of opportunity to kill it.
Gary, who actually fancies himself a “farmer” because he has a few chickens in the yard, doesn't seem to understand that you can't legislate successful farming. The problems facing agriculture in Hawaii are complex and systemic. This overly simplistic bill is an insult to the qualified professionals who have been struggling for decades to diversify Hawaii agriculture and help transition land from sugar and pineapple into other uses.
But hey, it gives Gary and people like Sen. Russell Ruderman and Laura Thielen a chance to engage in political posturing and make like they're actually doing something when they aren't.
Speaking of posturing, it was disappointing to see Kauai Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura casting aspersions on the joint fact-finding group that has been convened to discern facts from fear in the pesticide/GMO debate on Kauai. The Garden Island quotes her as saying:
[W]hile the panelists appear to have high intellectual capacities, she has concerns about balance and “whether there are enough people that are grounded in the community.”
“Grounded in the community.” Is that code for “local?” Or is she just unhappy because representatives from the seed companies are included, and she can't manipulate this process like the Council-directed EPHIS she wanted? In any case, why is she trying to undermine the process before it even begins?