Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Musings: Meddling and Peddling

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?


Chuck Lasker said...

JoAnn is simply prepping for her inevitable rejection of the findings of the group, since they won't find any issues at all. If the results come back without recommending banning GMOs, the antis will simply dismiss their findings as "bought off."

Gary knows lack of farm land is not the issue. But he has to do SOMETHING to keep the money coming into his HAPA "nonprofit," and to keep the attention of CFS and EarthJustice, so they might pay him big speaking fees like they do Vandana Shiva.

I support the state financing local food production. But that's completely unrelated to the seed companies.

Is Gary using county funds to do his lobbying?

Anonymous said...

You're right. Gary is so grandiose. He always has to pump everything.

Anonymous said...

Joan, Joan, Joan......Skilled farmers? Field workers? Who needs em, the Trustafarians got it all figured out. The locals can do all the labor. As for JoAnn, she means no harm, she just really likes to argue process over results.

Anonymous said...

A perfect example of JoAnn and Farming is the Kilauea Ag park. This was her baby. She was there at the start. And now ,gee whiz, is it 25 years later? and nada? The Ag Park is a dump ground for old cars. She did NOT even make sure that water would be provided. Duh. o there is a long walk to get water.
There are some good small farmers on Kauai. But the sustainability group usually have some Bucks from their family to bail them out in the background. Dreams are good, but dreams are easier when Mommy Warbucks can help if needed.
Kauai has been an Ag island ever since the beginning. Most of the Ag workers and even the few real farmers did NOT want their kids to be in Ag. Hot, hard, dusty and risky.
Anyway, once Gary gets the land for the non-existent farmers, then he will TELL them how for grow, like no Roundup and no chemical fertilizers....he is such an Assh*le..remember he is still pushing the no more Imu law.....and the County budget looms like a very ugly and misbehaved step-child.

Anonymous said...

Why this manic dash to achieve local food product? Are we starving to death? Is there any chance of that happening in the future? Why not lease out the State controlled lands to whatever agricultural entity is the top bidder and help balance our budget? What to do something meaningful towards achieving food sustainability? Get us an exemption from the Jones Act so our imported food will be even cheaper than what it goes for at Costco. Repeal Yukimura’s “Big Box” bill that prohibited cheaper food from arriving and would have given Costco some price competition. But what the heck. Global warming will eventually raise the sea levels to put our precious food crops underwater anyway. Are you working on that stuff, Gary?

Anonymous said...

Gray's farm workers are sitting in the urbanized Portland, Seattle and Denver dreaming of growing pot in a tropical setting under a real sun. End result displace the locals with dread locked blue eyed beauties with a thousand yard stare.

Anonymous said...

10:09 Good point. Wallmart had permits and was approved for making a larger produce and grocery area. JoAnn pushed back. Wallmart did not want to fight. They still have the approval to enlarge.
Wallmart can by itself lower produce prices and they are moving towards "organics".

Anonymous said...

Maybe Joann wants more West Side residents to participate seeing as how they are the ones who have to deal with the dust and pesticides and whose jobs may be impacted by the study.

Anonymous said...

speaking of meddling and peddling. Heard Kagawa on tv saying he went to London to check out their solid waste programs! Who is paying his way to London and why would he go to London with Tressler? Hope the County is not paying for this. Burning trash or so called waste to energy is money down a black hole and mass burning is a boondogle for the county.

Anonymous said...

"On opening day of the state Legislature last month, an unusually diverse coalition of Hawaiians, environmentalists and public health advocates gathered to send a message to those inside the state Capitol: "This is the People's Hale (house), not the Corporations' Hale."
We are all starting to recognize what the Hawaiian community has been struggling with for over a century: the continuing legacy of corporate control and access to land, water and government in Hawaii.
In the 1800s, a political and economic elite of former missionary families descended into the "Big Five" sugarcane corpora-tions, consolidating land ownership and control over banking and shipping. Hawaiians were alienated from our lands and our means of production and subsistence.
Then, in 1893 these corporate forces orchestra-ted the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in order to get around U.S. sugar tariff restrictions and remake a "democracy" under occupation of the U.S.
Today, these same large private landowners are now locking up the former plantation lands into long leases with multinational chemical-and-GMO research operations. What is now unac- ceptable, is that the state of Hawaii is leasing thousands of acres of crown lands to these corporations through the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC).
The ADC is a "public corporation" set up within the Department of Agriculture (Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 163D). According to the ADC website, it was created to help "transition Hawaii's agriculture industry … to one composed of a diversity of different crops." But the vast majority of the over-20,000 acres that the ADC manages is leased out to the same multinational chemical-and-GMO corporate research operations. Most of these lands are crown lands, which are supposed to be held in trust and used for public purposes.
It's the same old story with new corporate players.
It's time for a pono (righteous) story to take root in Hawaii, a story that acknowledges this history of corporate control, Hawaiian land claims and story that begins to move toward reclaiming public lands for the public good.
The newly introduced Senate Bill 593 can be a small step for this new beginning, at least on the state/crown lands. SB593 requires the ADC to:
» Make "increasing agriculture and local food production" its primary mission.
» Establish a sustainable agriculture and local food production plan.
» Lease 50 percent of its land to operations that support increasing agriculture and local food production.
While 50 percent in sustainable agriculture and local food production is not enough, it is a strong start on the path toward 100 percent food sovereignty. We know that local food production is not only important for our food security, but it's important to our economy as well.
According to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism's "Increased Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy":
About 85-90 percent of Hawaii's food is imported, which makes it vulnerable to natural disasters. … Replacing just 10 percent of the food Hawaii imports would amount to approximately $313 million dollars, which would remain in the state.
Yet, there are many stories of young farmers with solid business plans approaching the ADC, only to be told, "These lands are locked up in 20-year leases" or "We only lease thousands of acres at a time."
It will not be simple to change the structures of corporate land control in Hawaii, and it will not happen overnight. Hawaiians still claim right to the crown lands, and this is a process that needs to be honored. But for now, we can at least stop the desecration of these lands by the pesticide-intensive research operations of multibillion-dollar chemical corporations.
It will take all of us — Hawaiians, environmentalists, public health activists, elected officials — working together to begin to address these historic and structural legacies of corporate control in Hawaii."

Joan Conrow said...

Do tell us, Anonymous 1:15, whose speech/testimony you have reposted here. I recognize some of the verbatim language from Gary's blog, so perhaps everyone is sharing the same writer?

Anonymous said...

Joan, This is an article from the Star Advertiser, Feb.5, written by Walter Ritte. I would love to hear what you think about the points made in the article separate from what you think about the author. It is the subject matter that is most important and would appreciate your mana Ľo on that.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like HAPA caka. These people are all hat and no cattle- or farmers for that matter. Does anyone really think that the people who want to "address these historic and structural legacies of corporate control in Hawaii" can grab their ass with both hands let alone grow food in quantities and at a competitive affordable cost. They are insufferable, noisy and irritating pissants.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 1:15, your hypocrisy is revolting, because we know that what you are truly espousing is shifting the control to off-island Big Organic and developers. You either are too cowardly to admit it, or too stupid to realize it.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear 3 p.m,
Thanks for posting the source. My first impression is that it was not written by Walter, who only writes in ALL CAPS and is not nearly so articulate. So right off the bat I am left wondering why he is being used as a figurehead, and who really wrote this, and why Walter doesn't use his own words.

I agree that corporations have had a strong influence on Hawaii, as elsewhere. What I have tried to point out, however, is that the anti-GMO movement is not anti-corporate, but actually funded by corporate money.

I don't agree that it's unacceptable for ADC to lease lands to corporations. They are doing it because otherwise those lands would be fallow and there would be no agriculture. There are not nearly enough small farmers to occupy the thousands of acres that are leased to corporations.

These corporations also have paid for extensive improvements to irrigation systems that benefit small farmers on ADC and private lands. These systems would otherwise have fallen into disrepair. By keeping them viable, it is possible that one day they can be used for food production.

I don't see the seed companies as the longtime users of these lands, but a transitional ag use after sugar.

I also agree that it's wise to increase local food production and decrease dependency on imports. However, simply mandating ADC to lease 50% of its lands to small farmers, with no money to help make that happen, and no droves of farmers standing in the wings waiting to lease land, is just rhetorical bullshit.

The problems of agriculture are deep and wide. Kicking out the seed companies won't do anything to increase local food production. It will only cause unemployment among ag workers, who actually could help transition to food crops.

I would challenge Walter to publish, with names, the "many stories of young farmers with solid business plans approaching the ADC, only to be told, "These lands are locked up in 20-year leases" or "We only lease thousands of acres at a time."

Because I don't think that's true.

I have long supported Hawaiians regaining control of their lands, especially the so-called ceded lands. But Walter and others need to consider what will happen to those lands if they aren't in agriculture. How long will it be before the state turns to development to gain revenue? And then the Hawaiians will really be left out in the cold.