Tunnel Vision

Once again, the legislators in the state of Hawaii are saying one thing but doing another. At the start of this new session, so many proclaimed that they want to support agriculture but their actions say something else.

Take into point the raising of the minimum wage to help Hawaii’s low wage workers over 4 years.

With inflation, our small business costs are rising. This means the cost to deliver our goods to the store is much higher as fuel continues to run over $4.30 a gallon. That also translates to increased costs for our fertilizer, tractor parts, potting mix, and other supplies. Not only has those costs increased, new labeling laws have come into effect which means the printing of new boxes that costs more. Meanwhile, what we earn per pound has not changed to meet these costs.

To compound this even further, property taxes have increased and one of our vans had a catalytic converter sawed off. More money out and less in means we have to question our decisions on whether we can survive and plan for the future of our business.

Many farmers like Richard Ha and Dean Okimoto have stated that farmers are only going to farm if they can make money. Yes, we are a farm but also a small business. We may show profits on a ledger but most of it stays right on the farm to invest in it. We can’t share or grow if we don’t cover our costs.

I know that legislators see a very limited vision of how this will impact workers in the hotel and restaurant industries but fail to see how it trickles down to hurt the most vulnerable, our kupuna.

As costs for labor rises, caregiver costs have risen significantly. The wage for an hour caregiver is close to $30 to $35. With 3 hour minimums, a senior in need of care is paying over $105 a day if they can find one.

Not only do the cost of care rise but the cost of basic good also goes up. So many of my clients rely on takeout food for meals and a plate lunch has risen to $13. So many forget that their retirement income does not go up and as bills for basics go up, they have less to cover it.

Another consideration is that higher costs means that volunteerism can go down for those who service seniors. I know of several retirees who would love to volunteer to deliver meals but their costs to do so affects their ability to use that time to help others or work to meet their financial needs.

As a headline maker, raising the minimum wage sounds good in theory but in reality, is it going to help the local folks overall when small businesses are still being impacted by the pandemic?

After 2 years of dealing with pandemic and being a health care worker, I am tired. I am tired of having to wear PPE for work that leaves me hot, dehydrated, and sore. I do it to protect my family and others. The pollution of information by politicians have clearly demonstrated the dangers of it as we lost an opportunity to apply science to minimize the impact of this disease. The cost so far is over 800K lives lost and counting.

The legislature appears to be dead set on ignoring the entire impact of short term solutions and catchy soundbites. Over the years we’ve had bills attempting to label GMOs, legalize raw milk shares, anti-vaccine laws, buffer zones, and bans of who knows what proposed. We need to stop and ask if these time consuming legislative measures have served the needs of people of Hawaii or is it knee-jerk, serve serving for votes?

We all the know the answer.