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deferred Agronomics tax bill deferred

Earliest proposed change could happen is 2016

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 2:00 am

LIHUE — A county bill aimed at taxing crop-research land separate from other agricultural land was deferred on Wednesday until Aug. 20, killing any chance of it going into effect during fiscal year 2015-2016.

I’m disappointed that the council didn’t chose to continue work on a very important issue,” Kauai County Councilman Tim Bynum, who introduced the measure, said after the decision.

Tempers flared during Wednesday’s special meeting, when the council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee — absent of its chair Mason Chock — took up the proposed legislation. If passed, Bill 2456 would establish “agronomics” as a new and separate real property tax class and exclude lands used primarily for crop research or parent seed production from the county’s definition of “agricultural use.”

Despite recommendations from council members Bynum and Gary Hooser to instead defer for two weeks, which would have given the bill a chance of taking effect by FY 2016, the committee voted 3-1 to push it back until the August date — 11 days after the primary election.

When Committee Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura cast the deciding vote, Bynum (who is not a member of the committee) threw his pencil and stormed out of the room.

“I can’t think of any obstacle whatsoever that would preclude us from going ahead with the normal process and revisiting this in two weeks,” he said before the vote. 

The council’s discussion and public testimony was reminiscent of talks about Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), a county law slated to take effect in August that governs the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops on the island. 

Adam Killerman, a former employee of McBryde Sugar Co., called Bill 2456 another “assault on agriculture” by the council.

Hooser clarified that the bill itself would not actually raise taxes, but merely create another category of agricultural use. However, he recognized that raising taxes for that new use could come down the road.

Fern Rosenstiel testified the county should be working harder to make things easier for the small farmers. She said she finds it “appalling” that large, multi-billion dollar corporations doing experimentation and research are taxed at the same or lower rates as the small people.

Bynum said his proposal is about addressing the question of whether crop research, which does not produce a product that is sold to consumers, either wholesale or retail, should be eligible for tax incentives. The practices of seed companies on Kauai, he said, are “far different” than the agricultural production practices the county has traditionally chosen to support. 

“They are experiments, not food,” he said, adding that the nature of Kauai ag “changed under our feet.”

Not everyone agreed. Councilman Mel Rapozo said crop-research is still ag, just a different type. And the issue is not about tax rates, he said, but rather the ag dedication process and that the county administration is not enforcing current laws properly. 

“That’s the root problem that we need to fix,” he said. “Passing this bill does absolutely nothing.”

For Hooser, it came down to equity and implementing the law. Referencing a tax property summary for DuPont Pioneer, he said the company operates 4,000 acres valued at $12 million, but pays only $4,180 per year in taxes on it. 

“It seems that something is wrong with the picture in my opinion,” he said. 

Yukimura told her colleagues that she isn’t convinced an agronomics tax category is the right answer. 

“But,” she said, “I am intrigued by this idea that there’s only two categories (of ag) under regulation right now — crop and pasture — which, to me, biotech research does not fall under.” 

If eventually passed, the agronomics rate classification would include parcels that are “used for no other purpose than science, research and development of crops” and which “do not directly gain monetary profit from the ultimate consumer,” according to the bill.

Additionally, the bill would require the county director of finance to submit annual reports involving all agricultural dedicated properties to the mayor and county council. The reports would include the name of the landowner, Tax Map Key of dedicated area, period of dedication, size of dedicated area, description of the agricultural use and taxes resulting from the dedication compared with their market value.


Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

© 2016 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • WestKauai posted at 12:56 pm on Fri, Jun 20, 2014.

    WestKauai Posts: 272

    I may be mistaken, but I believe DuPont Pioneer operates on leased land. Isn't the property owner responsible for taxes?

  • Tempi posted at 12:17 am on Fri, Jun 20, 2014.

    Tempi Posts: 21

    Interesting he doesn't believe seeds are food. Which part of the corn and soy plant does he eat?

  • KUPUNAHAWNVET posted at 11:01 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.


    Like I said give Bynum and Hooser a chance seeing they are the Only politician fighting for Us against all of this agronomic bs.
    But the powers to be, Did It Again and got 2456 Deferred until after election. So they would not have to open their mouths and be truthful about how they really feel.
    Maybe people Do Not realize the seriousness of Bill 2491 and 2456 for it helps to preserve the future of our keikis and this beautiful island we call home.
    The other politicians could care less about this issue, their only concern is getting back in and riding the Mayors gravy train leading to their political wealth. Take a look around and see that Council members don't even campaign because they Assume they are going to be back into office. The Mayor places his signs along the road side on the County/State land in every district because he is special.
    Like I said Look Around and get these Clowns Out of Office. We have enough new good people who are willing to save us from all of the others.
    Any one new is better then what's in office now. They have done enough damage which hopefully can be turned around for the better before its to late.
    All of these silly pencil remarks is unbelievable. Would any of you be willing to standup and fight for the passing of Bill 2491 & 2456? Have you signed the petition to stop all of these multi-million dollar companies from ruining our aina? Do you seriously believe a few jobs in agronomics is more important then the future of this island and our keikis? What has the mayor and the county council done for you and your family? You agree that our taxes should continue to be increased to balance the mayor's budget?
    The council stopped the representation by district for they would then be out of a job. All the other politicians are voted in by district, why not the county council, too?
    Wake up and take a look around people Yes what would our ancestors say about our island today?
    Please Vote them OUT of office and get fresh new people IN before its to late for Kauai and State of Hawaii.
    The time is Now for the people of Kauai to Unite and Stand Together for the Future of Our Home...

  • BorninHawaii posted at 5:11 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    BorninHawaii Posts: 407

    I think we should ban all pencils in the Council chambers for the safety of all the council members, staff and public. A pencil has lead in it and lead has been shown to be dangerous as a poison. Frankly I would like to come to the chamber and testify but am afrais of balistic pencils coming my way and then getting lead poisoning. I would like to request a EIS to determine the extent of the damage that lead tipped pencils can cause to human health. Bynum needs to prove that lead pencils flying around the council chambers is safe before we can proceed. Maybe a kevlar vest and a face shield can be provided temporarily until the EIS is released.

  • islandwide posted at 2:20 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    islandwide Posts: 187

    Another 16" tile has been added to Bynum's and Hooser's feet while they try to tread in 10' of water. As boats pass by they are asking "should we throw to them a life preserver"? Hell no, with just 2 tiles tied to their feet, the life preservers won't even help! Bye, bye! They could/should try to untie themselves otherwise they will be lost between the waves!

  • notahippi posted at 2:03 pm on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    notahippi Posts: 531

    I am going to hold my nose and vote for Hooser and Bynum.....can't stand either one.....but I'm so against GMO and especially not having to label, is so deceiving...

    Growing food chemically is not agriculture.....and they should be taxed more....

    Yukimura is part of "the good ole boys" and stopped working for the people years ago.

  • ChuckL posted at 11:56 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    ChuckL Posts: 71

    “But,” she said, “I am intrigued by this idea that there’s only two categories (of ag) under regulation right now — crop and pasture — which, to me, biotech research does not fall under.”

    It would be nice if our Council members tried to learn what they're trying to regulate, instead of continually wondering and coming up with opinions based on nothing. How many times during the 2491 discussions did Council members say, "I don't really know anything about this, but...?" Way too many. Ruling from ignorance seems to be a Kauai tradition.

  • AnonyMouse posted at 9:26 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    AnonyMouse Posts: 987

    When Committee Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura cast the deciding vote, Bynum (who is not a member of the committee) threw his pencil and stormed out of the room. “I can’t think of any obstacle whatsoever that would preclude us from going ahead with the normal process and revisiting this in two weeks,” he said before the vote.

    That’s because this bill is an obvious attempt to drive the seed companies, who employ many Kauai people in good jobs, from the island. This is not about money or taxes. It’s about their anti-GMO mission. Hooser and Bynum will stop at nothing to drive these companies out and will use an means at their disposal to do it. Fortunately, the good folks of Kauai, the hard working kama’aina, are beginning to realize the damage these imposters are attempting to do.

  • John Zwiebel posted at 8:42 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    John Zwiebel Posts: 2442

    Gosh, if I were paying taxes on this same basis, my taxes would drop to around $250.
    And where do I get land for only $3,000 an acre. That's what it costs in Minnesota for farm land! Empty land on Kauai goes for as much as $1,000,000/acre.

    Hey Glenn! There's the money for your Kapaa by-pass!

    Hooser's numbers can't be real can they?

  • BorninHawaii posted at 6:58 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    BorninHawaii Posts: 407

    Bynum really hates pencils. I guess they cannot fight back.

  • surfsupWYB posted at 6:09 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    surfsupWYB Posts: 4

    Its amazing how powerful the big corporations really are. When did we become a society who takes from Kauai's humble people only to fill the already deep pockets of some of the biggest companies on earth? How deep are your pockets Kauai?We are being used, cheated and deceived...period.

    Also,how sad that a lifelong dedicated champion of the people is being vilified for being dedicated enough to investigate corporate "strategies", smart enough to see the deception and brave enough to stand against the tidal wave of corporate greed and professional slander. I hope the people will look to what motivates actions rather than listen to the professional spin doctors of these mega corporations whose profits come from around the world based on what they create on our beautiful island.

    Thank you Tim. People, please go to this site if you want to know Tim's motivation and dedication to us all...


  • 2491forkauaikeiki posted at 5:29 am on Thu, Jun 19, 2014.

    2491forkauaikeiki Posts: 91

    I thought the hard deadline for fy16 was oct 1, (with some lead time), clearly several members would not like this to affect their primary, but I don't think they made it impossible for FY16?


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