This Monday (Feb. 2, 2015) there is an important hearing on Senate Bill 593 (SB593). The purpose of SB593 is to make more public lands available for local food production. The bill would require the state Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC), a "public corporation" within the Dept. of Agriculture which manages over 20,000 acres of State/Crown lands, to place at least 50% of their lands into sustainable agriculture and local food production. Much of that is now being leased to chemical+GMO seed companies, and only a tiny fraction of these public lands are used for local food.

Introduced by state Senators Ruderman, Espero, Gabbard, Green, Riviere, and Thielen, SB593 would:

  • make the ADC's primary mission “increasing agriculture and local food production”,

  • establish a sustainable agriculture and local food production plan, and

  • lease 50% of its land to operations that support increasing agriculture and local food production.

More background on the ADC and the possible effects of this Bill:

1) The Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) was supposedly created to help “transition Hawaii’s agriculture industry . . . to one composed of a diversity of different crops.” (ADC website). Yet, while ADC controls over 20,000 acres of agricultural public lands, less than 5% of ADC lands are used for local food production.

2) Hawai‘i urgently needs to become more self-sufficient and “food secure.” According to the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s (DBEDT) “Increased Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy":

About 85-90% of Hawaii’s food is imported which makes it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that might disrupt shipping and the food supply.

3) Local farmers and ranchers state "the lack of long term affordable leases on good agricultural lands" as the most important roadblock to expanding local food production.

4) Almost all of the ADC's 20,000+ acres have been leased to non-food producing corporations for very long terms at very low rates.

5) Requiring the ADC to develop and implement a plan to lease a minimum of 50% of the tillable public lands they manage within the next 10 years for sustainable agriculture and local food production seems a reasonable approach to utilizing existing public lands to achieve our State’s goal of increased food sustainability.

6) SB593 would also benefit Hawai‘i economically, creating thousands of jobs and infusing the economy with millions of dollars. According to the Hawai‘i DBEDT’s “Increased Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy":

The economic impact of food import replacement is significant. Replacing just 10% of the food we currently import would amount to approximately $313 million. Assuming a 30% farm share, $94 million would be realized at the farm-gate which would generate an economy-wide impact of an additional $188 million in sales, $47 million in earnings, $6 million in state tax revenues, and more than 2,300 jobs.

7) The public lands the ADC is managing are held in trust and are supposed to be used for the public good. Sustainable agricultural practices (as opposed to pesticide-intensive industrial practices) are important to restore and preserve the land for future generations.

You can submit testimony on SB593 at the Capitol webpage. It takes only 30 seconds to create an account; then you can track bills, sign up for hearing notices, and submit testimony and greatly impact the future of the land you love.

Comment