Friday, December 30, 2016

Musings: On Sustainability

Though activists in Hawaii and elsewhere love to bash “industrial agriculture” and claim that conventional and biotech farmers are wantonly poisoning the land, the reality — per usual — is quite different.

A new survey shows that “most U.S. farmers and ranchers believe biotechnology and genetically-modified crops increase crop production efficiency and agricultural sustainability.”

According to a survey by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA):

When asked about the reason for using biotechnology when raising crops, the majority of farmers indicated GMO seeds allow them to minimize pesticide/herbicide usage (87%).

Three quarters (78%) of farmers also expressed being able to engage in advanced farming practices, such as conservation tillage.

Nearly all farmers identified soil health (95%) and precise use of pesticides (94%) as key factors in protecting the environment.

The USFRA conducted its annual study to measure consumer opinions about agriculture, including attitudes toward environmental sustainability, GMOs and technology. Only 11 percent of the consumer respondents had a favorable opinion about GMOs favorable.

Farmers, on the other hand, “believe biotechnology helps raise crops more efficiently, and that the environment and sustainability practices will suffer if GMO technology utilization is reduced in crop production in the future.

A majority of farmers also anticipated increased environmental impacts — including an increased use of water and pesticides — if GMO seeds were no longer available to them.

Let's hope that point is driven home when anti-GMO, non-farming organizations like Malama Kauai and the Kohala Center join real farmers in a Jan. 19 discussion with Hawaii legislators on “creating a sustainable agricultural economy in Hawaii.”

The USFRA concluded:

“The findings of the USFRA Perception Study indicate a lack of understanding among consumers about the beneficial link between GMO technology and sustainability.”

Is that any surprise, given the relentless fear-mongering conducted by organic producers and so-called environmental groups like Sierra Club, Earthjustice, SHAKA, Hawaii SEED, HAPA and the Center for Food Safety?

In other news, the fight over illegal TVRs has taken a dark turn that underscores the big money at stake in this shadow industry. Displaced tenants in San Francisco are now hiring private investigators to prove that they've been illegally evicted to accommodate the more lucrative short term rentals.

In New York, a June study by two non-profits that advocate for affordable housing found that the top 20 neighborhoods for Airbnb listings in Manhattan and Brooklyn had average rent increases almost twice those found in the city as a whole between 2011 and 2015.

No doubt the findings would be similar on Kauai, which this morning had some 300 rentals listed on Airbnb, including rooms in private homes, ohana units, lofts in commercial buildings and other unlicensed short-term rentals.

Meanwhile, folks who are looking for longterm rentals are looking at $1,300/month for a studio in Kapaa town, $2,250 for a 1,250-square-foot house in Kapah, $2,300 for a one-bedroom cottage in Hanalei and $2,150 for an 1,800-square-foot house in Kalaheo.

There's no way these kinds of rents are sustainable for working people on Kauai. 

And so as some activists continue to fire away in their misguided attack on agriculture, Hawaii continues its transition into a haven for the haves as the homeless head for the beach.


Anonymous said...

Transition's been complete for a few years.

Anonymous said...

I rent a couple of properties on Kauai long term (some TVR, some not). I can honestly say that I would make way more money renting the TVR short term than long term but I do not because locals need a place to live....but....

...before you praise me for the same. Let me tell you that I still charge the "going long term rents" which are quite high.

Joan is correct though, the scarcity of long term rentals makes the rents very high. It is supply and demand. The rents would go down if the illegal short term rentals were squashed.

The question remains: how do we squash these illegal short term rentals? Research and enforcement require effort, resources, money and prosecution all of which the County is clearly not willing to do. So it will stay the same.

Here we are years after Joan's reporting of the illegal vacation rentals and, from my point of view, they still seem to be operating some even on AG land.

Anonymous said...

Before you quash the vacation rentals, legal or not, remember that the tax office taxes them at a much higher tax rate. If you eliminate a great number of these vacation rentals, then you also eliminate a significant contributor to the county's operating budget. That tax shortfall will mean regular homeowners like us will need to cough up more dough to keep the unions fat and happy. Currently, the vacation rental tax class accounts for about 10% of the island's properties by count, 15% by assessed value, and 21% by amount of taxes paid. Additionally, many of the vacation rentals would merely become second homes or fractionalized properties with multiple owners using them sporadically. Most properties will never become long-term rentals, even if the county shuts them down, as their owners want to use their Kauai properties at least a portion of the year. Be careful what you wish for. I fear the crackdown might be penny-wise and pound foolish in the long run.

Anonymous said...

@11:24am, The illegal TVR's don't pay taxes, therefore nothing would change revenue wise for the county...

Anonymous said...

I stopped renting my vacation rental and I keep getting an email from Hawaii Tax Online about paying "General Excise (GE) and Transient Accommodations (TA) " . Apparently someone didn't realize people aren't going to pay those taxes anymore if they don't do it anymore. All you cry babies don't realize you lose too when there is no money to hand out . Once that hits home I some attitudes towards vacation rentals will change.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:24

Good points.

I was assuming that if a person is running an illegal TVR they are not paying taxes on the same as they are not reporting their illegal behavior.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Joan cares about the workers in the chem fields but doesn't care about the workers in the vacation rental field. There are a lot of cleaners, landscapers, handyman out of work thanks to the crack down.

Anonymous said...

It's the same stupid people votes that put their families in office so they can be greedy and raise rents to obscene city prices. The same council members that have multiple properties and families and friends have multiple properties that want to keep the demand high and supply low. It's a public fraud case against these public officials that are in bed with unions. The same fucking people in office for decades the same ducking people who block stores from coming to kauai to compete and make prices affordable. The same fucking people!

Anonymous said...

Planning department has been enforcing for over a year now. enforcement just takes time.

Anonymous said...

@12:18 you don't know what you are talking about. I ran an "illegal" vacation rental and paid taxes. So did everybody else i knew doing it. There was no consequences for running an "illegal" vacation rental; However, tax evasion is a different story. The state gladly accepted GE and Transient Accomadation Tax and changed our tax rate from homestead to residential commercial. The county started issuing cease and desist orders to some of the vacation rentals and the rest of us pulled them offline. I don't pay GE and Transient Accomadation Tax anymore and I appealed my tax rate and it was changed back to homestead rate.

Anonymous said...

The Planning Dept is the main reason we have high rents and high home prices.
They make it very difficult to build a house, add a room or even put up a Sears Shed.
Eventually, the whole TVR, BnB thing will be deemed illegal.
The Planning Dept and Council over reached. I am not a fan of BnBs, but since there was no clear guidance on TVR/BnB licensing ever........The Planning Dept has the attitude that if the law does not specifically say you can do something, well then, you can't do it.
American Law is based on freedom. You can do anything as long as it is not against the law.
Until the Council pressures the Mayor to get rid of Mike D, who is a one man army against any development. Mike D's attitude is this "uhhmmm, since the Haoles may buy an Ag CPR, or rent a BnB or buy a residence...and since we don't want them Haoles buying everything up, we won't allow anyone to build anything. That'll stop them mainlanders from getting the properties"
Gee Mike....Doncha know that them Haoles are the ones still buying up the land. You have priced the locals out...but guess what, there are millions of Mainlanders with beauteous and beau-coup bucks that will always buy.
High rents and High prices are at the Planning Department's feet. Completely. SHAME.
(of course those creators of schadenfreude on Planning Commission and Council have a big foot in this mess as well. But the Commission is just an extension of Mike D's ego. Not a single person actually does their duty to listen to the applicants. Mike D has all them Commishners on a string to do as he directs, his vision of a bike path, coffee house, tree lined cute l'il Kauai....nothing for the locals) Shameful.

And again 3:33....the Planning Dept has no right to access any property with out a search warrant. They have been walking on property unannounced and the friendly land owner lets them "take a look".......all property owners should tell EVERYONE from the County to go get f*ckin' search warrant to "take a look".... Trust no one. They are not your friend. Pilau.

Joan Conrow said...

@1:55 The seed workers are legally employed in a lawful and highly regulated industry. There's a world of difference between them and the often under-the-table independents servicing the illegal TVRs. I'm sorry if people lost their gigs, but I used to hire cleaners, yard care guys and handymen. Good, solid workers in those fields are always in demand.

Anonymous said...

"KALAHEO – Kauai Coffee Company, Inc. was one of four growers statewide that agreed to a $2.4 million settlement Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for inaction against civil rights abuses against Thai migrant workers allegedly committed by the contract labor provider Global Horizons Manpower.

Thai farm workers were contracted through Global between 2003 and 2007 under the H2-A temporary visa program. The EEOC alleges that Global violated requirements that H2-A farm workers be provided food and housing aside from paid labor.

In addition, EEOC said the workers paid exorbitant recruitment fees that created conditions of debt bondage and vulnerabilities to denial or delay of pay, controlled movement with confiscated passports, and inhumane living conditions. Those who complained were retaliated against."

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm going to catch hell for this comment.

The general consciences out of AMI symposium was farmer have a great deal of work to make our operations more sustainable. Point one to the antis with their CSAs. They recycle peelings, and flowers, composts and reapply those nutrients back to the land. That also reduces landfill waste. Our biggest concern going forward is finding a way to recycle Phosphorus and slow the rate that calcium and Potassium that is leaching from the soil. Right now, our solution is to keep reapplying fertilizer. That's ok till we run out of fertilizer. After that, we're going to be forced to coast on residual supplies in the soil profile. That's not very sustainable in long run. GMOs help, but they don't fix the underlining problem.

Anonymous said...

Joan Conrow said... "The seed workers are legally employed in a lawful and highly regulated industry. There's a world of difference between them and the often under-the-table independents servicing the illegal TVRs."

The chemical companies bring employees and labors from the US mainland, Mexico, and over-seas. I've met some of them.

The housecleaners, tradesmen, and landscapers have lived here for generations and are just trying to make a living.

When did you decide giant chemical companies and field workers from the mainland were more deserving of jobs than local familes?

Anonymous said...

@601 your anger is only surpassed by your ignorance. The mayor can't get rid of the planning director because the commission has removal authority. Furthermore planning isn't responsible for high rents because they don't rezone lands only permit already zoned lands. What you're talking about is re zoning which is what the council does. But why take the time to learn anything when everything can be a conspiracy theory and you can feel like a self righteous victim. Plus no need warrant if they advertise on the internet.

Joan Conrow said...

@5:56. This is why people need to visit the seed farms. Then you will see for yourself that many (most) of their employees are locals, fully deserving of good jobs. Yes, they do bring in seasonal contract workers when they can't find local workers to fill the jobs.

And please don't try to pretend all the cleaners and landscapers are locals. That's a huge laugh.

As for your final question, let me turn it around and ask, when did you decide it was OK to screw hardworking union hotel employees, many of them also locals, out of good jobs due to the proliferation of TVRs?

Anonymous said...

Hotels have been multiplying since Iniki. Nobody is losing their job in hotels because of vacation rentals. That's bull.

Anonymous said...

6AM Mayor Appoints. Commission has power to remove....but Gee Duh, this will never happen. The vetting and obsequious nature of kissing the Mayors ring takes care of any removal.
Every project goes thru Planning, yes Council gives density, But Planning and Water are the lynchpins. Planning can take years to get you to a shovel ready stage.
Ask any builder who tries to put up more than a few houses........of yeah and then there is that sidewalk, affordable housing fee, park fee, etc, time is money thing.........The Planning Dept and Water Dept have made it, that it is a cost over over a hundred per raw land unit BEFORE you but the land. Minimum 75K on a 10 unit project. Over 10 units your cost is over 100K BEFORE land cost. A simple house is over 50 before you buy your land and wood.
Fees, Time, Plans, Septic, More Fees, endless study, ad nauseum
No mo houses fo da locals.................all at the Council and Planners feet.

Anonymous said...

The planning commission has always appointed the PD. The Mayor may recommend someone, but the hiring and firing is the commissions perview. Mike has done an exceptional job, so wtf would they not be happy with him?

And TVR workers generally get no benefits beside being able to do their laundry in the units. Separate the TVRs in the VDA from the conversation, reframe it to the TVRs that are in residential areas. Let's see the job portfolio for those, benefits? Retirement? Get a good job cleaning at the hotel if your desire is to scrub someone's toilet. Get the TVRs out of the neighborhoods and kauai can start to heal, otherwise tourists are taking over. Too much greed here.

Anonymous said...

6Am How do I know? I have 4 lots with at least 6 allowable units on each and one with 12 units.Plus a few Ag lots. I have been a builder type for 40 years on Kauai. After a few brief discussions with the NEW Mike D Planning, I decided I would be better off jumping off Wailua Falls instead of me marrying these guys to build out some 450K units for local purchase. Shucks, even my level of decades old ass-kissing has its limits. Mike D gives no clear cut plan. Just malarkey.
My land will go to my kids and to charity. Someday, maybe reason and friendliness and clear cut instructions will be in place with Planning. Planning Directors in the past...gave clear points of view of what they wanted and what you could do. Easy, a friendly mano en mano conversation. You left Planning knowing what you could do. And they honored their word.
Mike D's method is to NEVER let you know what you can exactly do. B'golly this department even writes in some permitting that the County can come on your property AT ANY TIME to make sure you are not doing BnB or that you are doing farming if getting a permit for Ag home. Access at any time FOREVER forever.
What? Forever home - entry rights to a group of ever-changing employees in a Dept that have cared for the PEOPLE to have open and free access to your land?
Annie-Get me my gun, put up my gate.
Bring back Tom,Jeff, Avery, Dee, Ian or anyone else..............These Planners of yesterday cared about the people.
And all you older folks in Puhi, Hanamaulu and not be duped by these new Rent Build Rules..once a PLANNER is on your property he MUST turn you in- Write you up- if you have un-permitted structures. About 40 percent of the homes in these districts have un-permitted decks etc....look out or you are marrying the Planning Dept and a huge expense to cure your property, TRUST NO ONE. If the Planner does not write your violation up, then the Planner is exercising "preferential enforcement" ----------this will be the big deal in all BnB court cases. Preferential enforcement. Watch out. There is no love, no real desire to cure your violation.....just a Department that wants to HIRE another 20 workers to enforce to rules that are on the books. Too many Rules Not enough Building/Planning Code Cops.
And why would GF, A&B, G&R ask for more density to help the citizens?.....when the council a while back tried to put them out of the Ag business? The Council MUST make an APOLOGY Proclamation to the Ag Owners.
Put JoAnn and Mason's name down on the Apology Parchment. These big land guys have feelings. And GF especially could fix ALL housing shortage "built-out" in 5 years with a little creative planning and a Planning Dept and Council that really wanted to bring some new nice neighborhoods in the 420K to 450K range. It can be done.
No anger here. Just a juicer and yoga and kale and deep breathing.
6Am - schpeaketh not unless you have run the Planning gauntlet a hundred times with several Directors. This new guy is a the worst. Usta be most permits were for the locals...NOW 70 percent of permits are for big estates (except for Shuler's 400 units @ $500,000 low income project) my my.

Anonymous said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! It has been a wonderful year reading your comments. Kauai is changing with the times(electronically). There is some good and not too good things with technology. Most everyone likes to do their job faster and with less physical effort. Technology has achieved this for us. There are those people that use technology to hurt people by stealing their identity and bad things for other people to see(bullying). Bullying kills.....There are those that cannot handle being bullied. The end result is not quite welcoming. Does Kauai have bullies??? You can read it on the comments.........Some people write like they going really fuck you up if you don't listen to them. Sad people....they only "Hate". Have some Kauai LOVE. They probably don't know what Kauai LOVE is...You don't get Kauai LOVE overnight. Kauai started off with Polynesians. Then the Haoles came. Then the "rest" to work the fields. All the "ethnicities" worked the fields for the Haoles. All the "ethnicities" shared their language, lifestyle, food and they made the Kauai LOVE. It was our "ancestors" that made it possible for all to be here. To the people who flew here, learn Kauai LOVE. Kauai is a special place. Hopefully you don't forget where you came from.....(so you can go back).

Anonymous said...

Your really reaching for it, Joan. Hotel industry jobs have increased every year for the last 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Joan (6:31) - That's why union hotel workers don't like timeshares as timeshare owners tend to eat in their condo (grocery store revenue instead of higher restaurant revenue & G.E. taxes) and reduced housekeeping jobs since they only clean once a week vs. daily in hotels. But then to prohibit timeshares is essentially featherbedding.

Anonymous said...

12:49 said “I stopped renting my vacation rental and I keep getting an email from Hawaii Tax Online about paying "General Excise (GE) and Transient Accommodations (TA)". Apparently someone didn't realize people aren't going to pay those taxes anymore if they don't do it anymore.”
@12:49 It’s your job to send in Form GEWE-TA-RV-1 to cancel your tax accounts. Otherwise they assume you’re just delinquent. Think it out buddy. How are they supposed to know? You want to hire an additional County worker to follow up on what is your lack of communication? Check the General Instructions page of your tax packet.

Joan Conrow said...

@8:31. Really? Show some stats. The bulk of growth in visitor accommodations over the past 20 years has been in TVRs and timeshares, which employ fewer people than hotels and are non-union.

Joan Conrow said...

@12:91-- I didn't answer your question because it was a "gotcha" that assumed a position I hadn't taken, which is why I turned it around on you.

No, I'm not worried about occupancy at any of the hotels. My point is that TVRs have taken the place of hotels, with their better-paying union jobs and benefits.

And FYI, you only have to submit a commen once, not 10 times. Next time you do that your comment will not be printed at all.

Anonymous said...

TVRS have put development in all the wrong places and is a big reason why Hanalei area is such a mess. No new hotels built, but one big horizontal hotel, the worse possible scenario.

Anonymous said...

Further proof is the introduction of the ADU was only slated for their Lihue/puhi/hanamaulu areas. Who lives in the those areas and who own properties in those areas? Who was the families to profit from this county bill? It all leads to the same phony council members that been voted in for years and some decades.