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Farming forever?

Bills would restrict county’s power to regular pesticide use, GMOs

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Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 1:00 am

LIHUE — A pair of bills introduced Friday in the Hawaii House and Senate seek to prevent counties from restricting farming beyond state and federal laws.

“It’s a right to farm bill,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa, D-Koloa-Niihau, who co-introduced the measure along with Rep. James “Jimmy” Tokioka, D-Koloa-Wailua.

“It has nothing to do with pesticides or GMOs.”

But others, including Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, don’t buy it.

“Both of these bills take away 100 percent of the authority of the county to regulate agriculture, which includes pesticides,” he said. “It is without question an attempt to nullify Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), as well as the ordinance passed on the Big Island.”

Hooser said the bill, if passed, would likely do away with County Ordinance 960, a law passed in November which gives the county the power to regulate pesticide use and genetically modified crop production by Kauai’s largest agricultural entities.

And in December, the mayor of Hawaii Island signed a law that bans new genetically modified crops on the island.  

The pair of bills introduced last week would expand the state’s Right to Farm Act of 2001 by adding language that says, “The right of farmers and rangers to engage in modern farming and ranching will be forever guaranteed in this State.”

“No law, ordinance, or resolution of any unit of local government shall be enacted that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production, and ranching practices not prohibited by federal or state law, rules, or regulations,” it continues.

In a written statement, Morikawa said the new proposal is simply about allowing farmers and ranchers the right to engage in modern farming and ranch practices.

“I am supporting the bill because, if we are truly serious about supporting local farmers and moving toward more food self-reliance in Hawaii, we should be giving the industry the tools it needs to grow food to feed our people,” she wrote. “This measure is intended to do just that.”

Hooser said he was surprised and disappointed that Morikawa and Tokioka would support a measure which tries to take away the Kauai community’s right to protect itself, especially after it went through the democratic process to pass Ordinance 960.

“For the Legislature to act like big brother, that they know better than the county, is just bad policy and bad politics,” he said.

The bill may have an especially difficult path in the House. Chairwoman Jessica Wooley of the House Agriculture Committee said she doesn’t plan to hear the bill.

Wooley said she’d rather focus on other food issues, like food security.

“I’m not going to hear a bill like that until we hear some good bills where there is a lot of common ground,” she said.

The issue of genetically modified foods has been a hot topic among political activists in Hawaii. Activists against genetically modified foods plan a rally at the state Capitol next week.

Earlier this month, three of Kauai’s biotech seed companies filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking implementation of Ordinance 960, charging the county with violating the United States and Hawaii constitutions, multiple federal and state laws and the Kauai County Charter.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • kauaiboy posted at 2:12 pm on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    kauaiboy Posts: 329

    I encourage the State House and State Senate to kill the ill-advised HB2506 and SB3508, which would eliminate home (county) rule for "agriculture" and give free rein to two groups who do not deserve it: 1) ranchers who, for the sake of raising a minimal amount of food for the people of Hawaii, introduced Guinea grass to Hawaii as cattle fodder, and which has become the single most costly error of introduced species in our state's history (despite being the "elephant in the room which no one seems to want to talk about) and 2) Biotech chemical companies who use vast amounts of valuable agricultural land to perform open-field testing of dangerous, restricted use pesticides on crops which no one eats, and which yield NO seed for sale or shipment! That is NOT farming; it is commercial pesticide experimentation, and not only should it be seriously restricted, the land upon which it is done should be taxes at COMMERCIAL rates.

    The residents of Kauai should retain the right to control dangers to their local environment and their own health. As a sustainable family farmer on Kauai, I am embarrassed that (Kauai based) Representatives Tokioka and Morikawa have signed on as co-sponsors to HB2506, and I encourage everyone to support local food security through sustainable farming methods and home rule, unhindered by the actions of those who would act solely in their own interest or for corporate profits.

  • tunataxi posted at 1:13 pm on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    tunataxi Posts: 795

    Just the fact that Morikawa and Tokioka would drum up a Bill like this shows the people of Kauai exactly why they should be voted out of office. Anyone believe after the years they both have been in Office all of a sudden they are worried about viable farming or could they be making a last ditch effort to save face in the eyes of Pioneer and Monsanto. Thanks to both of you for making it perfectly clear what's in your minds.

  • islandwide posted at 12:28 pm on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    islandwide Posts: 187

    Now what? Famers have rights too!! Ordinance 960 is invalid anyway. We are being rightfully represented by Ms. Morikawa and Mr. Tokioka. Hooser and Bynam should now head for cover! Big guns are coming...wait till the Feds step in!

  • Andy Parx posted at 12:17 pm on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    Andy Parx Posts: 301

    Don't ya love the smell of political suicide in the morning?
    Dee Morikawa signed her political death warrant when she introduced this bill that is universally acknowledged to preempt the counties' right to protect themselves from the predatory practices of the purveyors of poisonous pesticides but when she says "It has nothing to do with pesticides or GMOs" she is either incapable of rational thought or lying to us.
    Either way it's time for you to go Dee.

  • BionicDread posted at 8:37 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    BionicDread Posts: 87

    One way, or another.....Biotech is LEAVING Hawaii!

  • Manawai posted at 8:31 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    Manawai Posts: 309

    This is what happens when we elect fanatics to the Council. These folks were granted office because their general goals of food sustainability and a clean environment mirror most folks’ thoughts. However, with a fanatic, the means to obtain these goals and the ultimate definition of them can vary greatly to, as we have seen, unpleasant results. In future elections, we need choose well-balanced, rational people to manage our island. We have not done this very well in the past. Hopefully, more of the now silent majority will participate in voting to prevent this from continuing in the future.

  • DaTruthHurts posted at 7:36 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    DaTruthHurts Posts: 79

    "Hooser said he was surprised and disappointed that Morikawa and Tokioka would support a measure which tries to take away the Kauai community’s right to protect itself, especially after it went through the democratic process to pass Ordinance 960."

    Seriously? Democratic Process? There was nothing but whining & corruption. You didn't listen to the mayor who was right in his decision.

    Stop the whining & bullying.

  • getreal posted at 7:30 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    getreal Posts: 58

    "“I am supporting the bill because, if we are truly serious about supporting local farmers and moving toward more food self-reliance in Hawaii, we should be giving the industry the tools it needs to grow food to feed our people,”

    Well said, Dee!

  • DINKYDAO posted at 7:01 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    DINKYDAO Posts: 221

    Megalomaniac Hooser is trying to justify the illegal ordinance. You cannot write an ordinance specifically against any company. The ordinance should affect all users of pesticides, not only the special five that he wants to control. It should include all small farmers, county and state users, pesticide companies, etc. Pending federal lawsuit against the county will show that it is illegal. We should commend both Jimmy and Dee for introducing the respective bills in both houses of the legislature. Again, where are you all those "pro bono" lawyers who promised to defend the ordinance?

  • surfer51 posted at 6:21 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    surfer51 Posts: 30

    When everybody talks about these companies "producing food to make our island self-sustaining," they don't seem to realize that they are called "seed companies" for a reason. They don't produce anything that we can eat, they only produce a one-time-use hybird seed. You can't collect and reuse the seeds again, you have to go back and buy their seeds for the next crop. Alot of the seeds are also bred so that you can ONLY use the chemicals that they produce, so you have to go and buy their chemicals. This is a monoply set up that is only good for the seed companies as it makes us rely entirely on how well they do their work. If things continue as they are, with their hybridizing and making us rely only on their seed production, they will eventually control all the seeds. And they are doing all this with the support of the US government through the lobbyists.

    This isn't some wild idea I'm putting forth here. I've tried reusing the seeds and they don't work the same. I have very few vegetables growing in my garden that are from seeds I have collected from what I've grown. I have to go and re-buy most seeds each year to have a garden.

    The seed companies aren't interested in feeding people as they say, they are interested in remaining in business to make money and the state of Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to do what they do.

    We should encourage farmers that grow crops that WE CAN EAT, that is how self sustaining works. We can use less chemicals than they spray with their huge overhead spraying rigs that send so much of the spray into the air that it is gauranteed to spread.

    Yes, sometimes home owners make mistakes when applying sprays at home, but that doesn't make what the big companies do any less bad.

    I had a restricted pesticide applicators license twice in my farming career. I watched a 30 minute film and was given the right to spray. Nobody ever came to see if I was doing it properly, not once. Learning what's safe and actually doing it are two different things.

    Oversight, regulation, and exposure are what keep people legal, not simply passing laws. We need to follow the example of the Big Island and move to have GMOs removed from our island. We need to progress to growing our own crops and produce our own food.

  • griz posted at 4:31 am on Sun, Jan 26, 2014.

    griz Posts: 4

    Interesting that a committee chairperson can decide what legally proposed bills would be heard in committee. I would think that all such bills would have a hearing and the committee would decide whether to advance a bill or not based on the bill's merits and public testimony.

    This subverts the democratic process in favor of a dictatorial process...where a dictator decides what is heard. Shame on this committee chair for putting herself in the position of hearing god.


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