Senator Malama Solomon Applauds Richard Ha’s Leadership in Agriculture

Submits testimony in strong support of the Hawaii Island farmer’s Board of Agriculture appointment

In written testimony to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Malama Solomon (District 9 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, and Kona) expressed strong support for the appointment of Richard Ha to the state Board of Agriculture.

“The challenges that face the agricultural business in Hawai‘i are daunting,” Solomon said in written testimony. “This is why we need Richard Ha’s leadership. His community involvement has given him in-depth knowledge of how the government, public, and private sectors cooperation is necessary so we can decrease our dependency on imported food and increase our local food production.”

Solomon also called to the committee’s attention the unfortunate, unwarranted and unfair scrutiny Ha received over the past week due to a targeted campaign to stop his reappointment.

“These falsehoods have targeted Mr. Ha’s pro-active positions and his strong avocation for the furtherance of geothermal energy development on the Island of Hawai‘i,” she wrote. She pointed out that geothermal energy development would reduce the electricity costs substantially and that it is key to accelerate local food production within the State.

Solomon called Ha an outstanding farmer and praised his holistic approach to agriculture.

Today, the Senate Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved Ha’s appointment with many of the senators praising his leadership in agriculture and willingness to serve amidst unjustified public assaults on his integrity. During discussion before decision making, one lawmaker said that the state is fortunate to have a man of his caliber in this position.

Richard Ha’s nomination will now go to the floor for a full vote by members of the Hawai‘i State Senate.

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Governor Signs Measures to Support Agriculture

(Senators Clarence Nishihara, Ronald Kouchi, and Gilbert Kahele join their House colleagues and Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of several agriculture bills.)

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law several measures relating to agriculture, helping to develop a strong foundation to enhance the State’s food and agricultural self-sufficiency.  Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, released the following statements regarding the enactment of Senate Bill (SB) 993, SB 586, House Bill (HB) 1263 and HB 353.

SB 993, relating to agricultural loans, expands the Department of Agriculture’s agricultural loan program by adding farm innovation loan programs and expanding the definition of a new farmer.

“One of the major concerns regarding sustainability of agriculture in Hawaii is a lack of agricultural entrepreneurs,” said Nishihara. “This measure helps provide Hawaii’s emerging farmers with the capital they need to start their farming operations and be innovative in testing new crops or techniques.” 

SB 586, relating to agriculture, provides, under certain circumstances, an exemption from building code and permit requirements for nonresidential buildings or structures, including indigenous Hawaiian hale, on commercial farms and ranches located outside the urban district.

“These agricultural exemptions enacted in this measure support agricultural development and expansion by significantly easing the financial and administrative burdens that we have placed on our farmers and ranchers,” said Nishihara. 

HB 1263, relating to irrigation, appropriates $75,000 for the East Kauai irrigation system and $45,000 for the Peekauai Ditch irrigation system, also known as the Menehune Ditch.

“Reliable irrigation systems are critical to Hawaii’s agricultural industry,” said Nishihara. “These irrigation system investments will help ensure that Hawaii’s agricultural crops have the opportunity to continue to flourish.”

HB 353, relating to agriculture, appropriates $250,000 in the 2013-2015 fiscal biennium for the Department of Agriculture to research and develop methods for the prevention and treatment of coffee berry borer infestations.  The measure also appropriates $300,000 during the 2013-2014 fiscal year for the Department of Agriculture to fund efforts to control and mitigate the damage from coffee berry borer infestation.

“The coffee berry borer is an invasive species that has caused considerable damage to Hawaii’s coffee industry,” said Nishihara. “The enactment of this measure supports the State’s efforts in controlling the damage from the infestation and ensuring the survival of our coffee farms. “

Governor Signs Measure to Benefit Hawaii’s Honeybee Industry

(Senators Clarence Nishihara and Roz Baker join Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 482 into law.)

Honolulu- Today Governor Neil Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill (SB) 482, relating to agriculture, into law. This measure helps to ensure the continued viability of honeybee stocks by encouraging beekeeping operations of all sizes throughout the State. Following the signing of SB 482 the Governor also proclaimed June 17 through 23 as “Hawaii Pollinator Week.”

Hawaii’s beekeeper operations play a critical role in the vitality of our honeybees,” said Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. “The enactment of this measure seeks to promote the honeybee industry by leveling the hurdles currently required for beekeepers to operate in the State.”

Honeybees, as a primary pollinator of food crops, have a significant impact on agriculture in Hawaii.  Hawaii’s annual Farm Gate Sales from bee-pollinated crops is valued at $212,800,000. Unfortunately, vital honeybee populations are declining at a rapid rate due to the arrival of the varroa mites, nosema, and small hive beetles.

Small and large beekeeper operations are responsible for millions of healthy, pollinating bees throughout the State. Small beekeepers, however, have experienced significant barriers to beekeeping due to administrative and bureaucratic requirements.

It’s important that we continue to take the appropriate steps to curb the decline of Hawaii’s honeybee population,” said Senator Roz Baker, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection. “This law improves Hawaii’s current beekeeping requirements, helping to sustain small beekeeping operations and ensuring an adequate supply of honeybees throughout the State.”

SB 482 clarifies the maximum number of gallons of honey that can be sold by a certified honey house or food processing establishment without obtaining a permit from the Department of Health (DOH). The measure also exempts from the permit requirement sales of honey directly to retail stores that, in turn, sell the honey directly to consumers. Further, the bill requires honey producers to include certain wording on labels of each container of honey, take a food safety class and make records available to DOH.

Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz Introduces Senate Resolution 133

Urging the State to Purchase Land from Dole Food Company

Honolulu — Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz introduced Senate Resolution 133 which urges the State to purchase the 123 parcels of land in Central Oahu that Dole Food Co. has put up for sale.  These parcels will add approximately 22,500 acres of land to the 1,700 acres of Galbraith Estate agricultural land in Central Oahu that the State recently acquired.  The Agribusiness Development Corporation has received the transfer of 1,200 acres of the Galbraith land.

Senator Dela Cruz is champion of the Whitmore Village Agricultural Development Plan that is intended to return agriculture to the prominence it once had in Central Oahu.  He is urging the State to acquire the Dole land to protect this land from urban sprawl and preserve it for agriculture.  Further, those lands suitable for conservation or preservation may be transferred to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

As we increase the State’s inventory of agricultural land, we provide the opportunity for farmers to expand their business or encourage new farmers into the industry.  We also enable the increase of diversified agriculture and allow for self-sufficiency,” said Senator Dela Cruz.  “We want to demonstrate that farming is an attractive profession, agriculture is revenue generating, and that there is a career in agriculture.  We hope to see a new generation of farmers.”

Senator Dela Cruz acknowledged that today’s farmers face many challenges with the biggest drawback being the lack of long-term leases which makes it difficult for them to plan and budget.  In addition they are also faced with escalating costs of equipment and supplies, transporting and shipping, and liability and insurance.  They have to adhere to food safety certification and have to contend with agricultural theft and vandalism.  Adding to their problems is the lack of workforce housing.

The state currently imports 85-90 percent of its food.  By helping farmers with long term leases, it will  allow them to make investments in their business to increase production and encourage them to try raising new crops to determine their viability.  The intent is to create synergy and scale resulting in reduced costs of farming and ensuring supporting systems and activities become efficient.

The re-immergence of agriculture in Central Oahu will also create various levels of jobs in the industry and enhance economic development in a disadvantaged area.  The Whitmore Village Plan toward this end is a comprehensive, economically sustainable plan for agriculture that includes farms, packing and processing facilities, distribution systems, infrastructure and water, agri-tourism opportunities, public-private partnerships and long-term investments.

The resolution sets forth the purchase of the Dole lands through floating general obligation bonds and revenue bonds that do not exceed its annual debt service limitations.  The bonds are to be paid back from the tenants with current leases and including revenues from the Waiahole Ditch.


Dr. Dennis Gonsalves and Farmers Honored by State Senate

Senators honored Dr. Dennis Gonsalves with a Certificate of Recognition today for his work and research in the field of agriculture.   Dr. Gonsalves led a team of researchers that developed the first ringspot virus-resistant papaya in 1991, known as the Rainbow Papaya.  Before the Rainbow Papaya was released to growers in 1998, the ringspot virus had reduced Hawaii’s papaya production by 50 percent.  Dr. Gonsalves and the transgenic Rainbow Papaya he and his team developed virtually saved the Hawaii papaya industry from almost total demise.

Born and raised in Kohala, Hawaii, Dr.  Gonsalves is an award-winning researcher who has received international recognition for his work.

The Senate today also recognized farmers honored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.  The farmers traveled from the mainland to share their stories about how biotechnology is helping them with real agricultural challenges to ensure a sustainable food supply.

Bill to Promote Agricultural Tourism Activities Becomes Law

Honolulu- Senate Bill (SB) 2341, Relating to Land Use, became law yesterday without the Governor’s signature.  The measure allows agricultural tourism activities, including certain overnight accommodations of twenty-one days or less, in agricultural districts for any one stay within Maui County.

The intent of the SB 2341 is to enable Maui County to make their own determinations regarding the allowance of certain activities on, or uses of, land in agricultural districts.  To assist in this effort the measure provides that the county adopt ordinances setting forth procedures and requirements for the review and permitting of agricultural tourism uses and activities.

The enactment of Senate Bill 2341 provides a wealth of opportunity for Maui County farmers and ranchers as well as the greater community,” said Senator English, who introduced the measure. “Agricultural Tourism serves as a means of additional economic activity for agricultural communities as well as a learning vehicle for many people who might not otherwise have a connection to agriculture.” Senator English represents Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i and Kaho’olawe.

July 10, 2012 marked the 45th Day after adjournment and was the last day for the Governor to veto bills from his intent to veto list. Any bills not signed or vetoed by this date become law without the Governor’s signature.

Governor Signs Measure to Prevent the Spread of Axis Deer

(Senator Gilbert Kahele and Senator Clarence Nishihara join Governor Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 3001 into law.)

Honolulu- Today Governor Neil Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill (SB) 3001, Relating to Wildlife, into law. This measure prohibits the intentional possession and interisland transportation or release of wild or feral deer.

The introduction of non-native species to the State poses a negative effect on Hawai‘i’s environment and indigenous species in a variety of ways.  Specifically, the Axis Deer has caused great damage to native habitats and agricultural crops on Maui and are a danger to vehicular traffic on roadways. SB 3001 aims to provide a deterrent to the purposeful spread of wild or feral deer within the State and establishes penalties for the intentional possession or interisland transportation or release of wild or feral deer.

It is imperative that Hawai‘i’s environment and local industry be protected from the devastating effects that non-native species can pose to the health of our local economy and ecosystem, ” said Senator Gilbert Kahele (District 2- Ka‘u, Puna, Hilo), who introduced the measure. “This measure establishes the regulations needed to prevent the unwanted spread of Axis Deer so that our environment and businesses can continue to grow and prosper.”

We commend Senator Kahele, the state legislature and the Governor for passing SB3001 to prevent the cruel and irresponsible abandonment of deer across Hawaii. Such illegal introductions cause unnecessary animal suffering and harm to the environment” said Inga Gibson, Hawaii director for The Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, who worked in support of this bill, are offering a reward of up to $2500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal transport, release or abandonment of deer on the Big Island. The DLNR- Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) is asking anyone with information on this illegal activity to please contact their toll-free reward tipline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP (1-855-356-7847).

If anyone sights a  deer on Hawai‘i Island, please call the Big Island Invasive Species Council Deer Coordinator at (808)443-4036.

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Governor Enacts Measures to Support Local Farms

(Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor)

Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Clarence Nishihara and committee member Senator Ronald Kouchi joined Governor Neil Abercrombie today as he signed Senate Bill 2375 and Senate Bill 2646 into law. Together, these measures aim to benefit local farmers who want to sell their products and/or establish agricultural-based commercial operations.

Senate Bill 2375 defines agricultural- based commercial operations and authorizes agricultural-based commercial operations in agricultural districts. Senate Bill 2646 intends to encourage and support diversified agriculture and agricultural self-sufficiency in the State by exempting certain nonresidential agricultural buildings that are on commercial farms from county building permit requirements.

For more information and to view other measures enacted by the Governor go to:

Senator Ronald D. Kouchi Meets With Leilehua High School Students Participating In Youth Capitol Commentary

Senator Ronald D. Kouchi with Jeff Galicinao of Olelo Community Media and students from Leilehua High School.

OAHU- Director of Olelo Community Media, Greg Davis, and students from Leilehua High School, interviewed Kauai Senator Ronald D. Kouchi for the 9th Annual Youth Capitol Commentary on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, which was the Opening Day of the 26th Legislative Session.

Olelo Community Media is Oahu’s Public Access television station.  Leilehua High School students interviewed Senator Kouchi on various issues affecting Hawaii. Coverage of the interview will be televised on Kauai via Olelo Community Media’s, “Capitol Commentary” on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. on Focus 49.

For further information on future airdates, please check the Olelo Website at

Editorial: Threat of Axis deer

By Senator Gilbert Kahele
The following editorial was published in the September 20, 2011 issue of the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Recently, it seems that there has been a spate of news headlines about invasive species with snakes, horned lizards, and flying squirrels. While I do want to prevent these exotic animals from making their homes here in Hawai‘i, I want to draw some attention to another animal that is already here in Hawai‘i, and could pose a threat to our home here on the Big Island.

Axis deer have established populations on the islands of Lana‘i, Moloka‘i and Maui. Most recently, a Maui reporter wrote an article in August entitled, “D’oh! A Deer,” that highlighted the devastating effects that axis deer has had on the people of Maui. With a voracious appetite, the deer are not picky when it comes to food. From pineapple to sugar cane to vegetables in local gardens, the deer does not discriminate in its diet. Their foraging also creates problems for ranchers as the deer can wipe out large grassy fields that their herds use as grazing areas. Add to this the fact that the deer’s feces can carry diseases that can be passed on to people and it becomes clear that axis deer is a serious problem.

What would a population of axis deer mean for the Big Island? Coffee and macadamia nut farms have been longstanding industries for the Big Island, with our burgeoning Ka‘u coffee industry beginning to receive international attention. The demand for ono local beef from our ranches in Ka‘u, Waimea, and other parts of the Big Island has grown as people heed the call to eat local. Also, our nurseries and beautiful anthurium farms – imagine the ravaging effects a herd of axis deer could have on these industries.

As outlined in a Honolulu Star Advertiser article on May 28, 2011 and based on the best evidence I have available to me, I believe that axis deer may be making its way to the Big Island. Knowing the negative impacts that will occur to the environment and our local industry, I am doing everything in my power to prevent this animal from establishing itself on the Big Island.

By working with the State Department of Agriculture, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the State Department of the Attorney General, and the Governor, I am hoping to nip this problem in the bud. I am working with DLNR to change Hawai‘i Administrative Rule 13-124 to designate axis deer as an injurious species to ensure that its possession and potential transport between islands is regulated. This is meant as an interim step to limit any transport of axis deer to the Big Island until the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session where I plan to introduce legislation meant to more permanently address this issue.

I cannot stress how vital I believe this issue is to the health of our local economy and ecosystem. I will continue to push for awareness on this issue, knowing that with early action we can protect our home, the Big Island.

Senator Gil Kahele

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