Why State Legislators Shouldn’t be Proud of Home Rule

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I’ve noticed that several legislators have been celebrating the “home rule” issue when the Right the Farm act was being discussed.  Home rule essentially means that counties can enact whatever laws that they feel necessary at their level.  Many emails, tweets, and Facebook posts were posted by these leaders who decided to release their rightful reign on this issues to rogue counties like the Big Island and Kauai.

I’m not sure why these legislators are so proud of letting counties have more power in dictating farm laws when the reality is, the state has the necessary resources to enforce and enact such laws.  As I see it, these lawmakers have decided to not beef up their resources in their bills to address such issues, and failed to take care of the perceived problem, if any.

The message I get from this kind of celebration is, “I have clearly failed my constituents to take care of their concerns at my level, so I will burden the counties with such issues.”  The people asking for county laws claim that they have been failed by the state so that is why they are seeking county rule.  Why are state legislators celebrating their supposed miserable failure to take care of this issue?  If these people feel there was real harm done by the negligence of the state, why didn’t they take the state to court and sue them?

While these lawmakers keep pushing the home rule issue, they are also talking on the other side of coin about food sustainability for Hawaii and keeping the country country.  A certain handful of lawmakers have grandiose ideas of everyone in Hawaii having their own sustainable gardens to feed themselves.  Of course, these will only feed themselves and not others.  Certain lawmakers side with the keep the country country folks but don’t even take the time to hear the farmers out.

The reality is that this kind of idea is shortsighted and poorly thought out.  This will lead to many unintended consequences.  With counties having to create their own regulating bodies to enforced these rogue laws, the money has to come from their residents.  Residents will have to pay for all of this with increased taxes and fees.  With the high cost of living already an issue, who has the time and money to start up their own gardens to feed just themselves?  Financially, working a 9-5 job allows one to afford much more food than tending to a garden and more reliable for our food supply.  How are the other residents like the seniors and disabled going to bear the burden of higher costs of living?  Is this really the right way to do things for everyone?

I guess in Hawaii, we celebrate our failure to constituents by letting others make bad laws that ultimately costs everyone along the line.  It’s easy to talk about what is pono but apparently no one has really figured out how to walk the talk.

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Johnny Gordines: A Farmer Caught in the Crossfire

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When most people think of Hawaii, they have the image of beauty.  Beauty of the mountains, the white sandy beaches and bright blue oceans and also the natural fauna of our islands.   The florals of our islands are truly unique and has become a synonymous with what we think of Hawaii.   We are so lucky to have many small farmers who make up the Hawaii floriculture industry.  Many of them have been at their work for a long time sending that bit of aloha around the world.  One of those farms is run by Johnny and Terry Gordines, who owns Tropical Flowers Express on Kauai.

When the issue of Bill 2491 hit the island of Kauai last year, some farmers, who know the agriculture issues in Hawaii, spoke out.  Johnny was one of them.  Others stood in the background instead of taking the risk of being a target.  Little did he know that he was not dealing with local folks, and was barraged with disrespect and hate for submitting testimony for the bill and for a letter in The Garden Island paper.

Here’s his testimony that he sent it which was publicly filed and viewable to all.

July 26, 2013

 

To Kauai County Council members:

 

It would be wonderful if farmers could stand in their fields, wave their arms and weeds, insects and plant diseases would magically disappear. It is too bad this cannot happen.

 

Instead, to banish pests and disease, farmers rely on sound scientific practices. They use pesticides and seeds resistant to insects and diseases. Their crops thrive and people all over enjoy a bounty of healthful fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers.

 

Farmers use pesticides with great care and regard for themselves, their families, the people who work in their fields and their neighboring communities. Authorities in the State of Hawai’i and the U.S. government monitor farmers and all of the work that goes into pesticide development and application.

 

With its Bill 2491, the Kaua’i County Council seeks to insert itself into regulating pesticides and GMO crops — the exact same things our state and federal governments are already doing. It would take years and untold millions of dollars for our county to develop the same expertise and professional staffing to do what Hawai’i and the federal government are already doing.

 

The bill will impose many of these costs on the commercial seed growers in Kaua’i. Faced with these new costs, the growers will probably close down their farms, layoff their workers and leave Kaua’i.  It has been stated by Mr. Gary Hooser, the introducer of the Bill 2491, that it will not affect the small farmers here on Kauai.  On the contrary, if the seed companies are forced out of business, the chemical supply companies here on Kauai (Crop Production Services and C.Brewer Chemical Co.) will be forced to go out of business. This scenario will be devastating to the farmers on Kauai. We presently purchase chemicals, soil amendments, irrigation supplies as well as organic materials from them!  This will have a major impact on my business Tropical Flowers Express. Please consider the impact on the Kauai farmers.

 

I do know that, as the former farm manager for the Kauai Ag Research Center operated by the University of Hawai’i, College of Tropical Agriculture, this bill would devastate our work. I have applied restricted use (RUP) and general use pesticides in my work at the University for the past 32 years and have been a certified Category 10 licensed applicator. Our employer has provided physical exams yearly as well as a cholinesterase exam.  Department of Labor & Industries rule (WAC 296-307-148) requires agriculture employers to provide blood testing to workers who handle pesticides that can lower “cholinesterase” in the body. In my 32 years of service for the U.H., neither mine nor any of the employees’ level of pesticide exposure or handling, has ever been at a level that was detrimental to our general health! I am now 63 years old.

 

I am also the president of the Hawaii Tropical Flowers and Foliage Association on Kauai and a Director for Kauai on the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association our statewide umbrella organization. The Floriculture industry is a vanity industry where the newest and unique catches the attention of the market. This means for our industry to remain competitive we need to have new and cutting-edge flowers and foliage in new colors and styles. An important tool for this is to be able to get new varieties, longer lasting varieties, and healthier varieties through the use of science, technology and innovation, such as GMO.

 

We believe it is important to look to the future of our agricultural industry and not handicap ourselves with laws that seek to close the door on technology. It is important that we keep finding solutions to pest and diseases that currently attack our plants and crops. With disease and pest resistant plants, we would be able to use less pesticides, which would lower costs for farmers and have a greater yield of product, allowing our sector in agriculture to improve efficiencies.

 

Please, County Council members, before you vote on this bill consider the damage it can do to agriculture on Kaua’i — the jobs it can destroy and the businesses and communities that will suffer. Please think wisely and vote “No” on Bill 2491.

 

Sincerely,

 

Johnny Gordines

Usually in Hawaii, most people are pretty respectful of differences, however on Kauai, the story is completely different.  What happened on the social media was totally shocking to most levelheaded folks.  The anti-GMO mob decided to attack his business online through his Facebook page and his Yelp page.  Just see what this small farmer and business owner had to contend with, a bunch of bullies right in his backyard.

This is what was being said about his business online in public posts on Facebook after he spoke out.

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One activist even posted this comment on his Facebook business page too.

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They went on Yelp too and disparaged his business.  Some review have been removed but others persist.

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You can read the corresponding reviews below to the above clip since they have since been removed.

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This issue goes well beyond the corporate hate and government distrust that these activists share.  It hurts everyone in the process.  The attacking of small farmers like this, who know the technology and tools available and speak up, ultimately pay the price for doing so.  That is why so many farmers like Johnny Gordines and others look to the leaders, to address this issue first and foremost, with facts and evidence, and not the loudest voices of opinion.

Farmers keep our country country and help the spread the beauty of Hawaii around the world. The support of the legislators is crucial in perpetuating this because you can’t tear apart agriculture, because doing so hurts it as a whole.  We need leaders’ support to keep Johnny at his work to spread that bit of aloha around the world!  Support the Hawaii Right to Farm Bill and stand up for what is right!

Visit Johnny’s work at Kauaiflowers.com and on Facebook at Tropical Flowers Express.

Support the farmers with local voices!

TFE3

A Journey Out of the Fear Mongering Jungle for a Politician

Just this past Sunday, Amy Harmon, a Pulitzer prize winning NYT writer, did a great story about a Hawaii County Councilman’s journey through what I call the fear mongering jungle here in our state.  It is something that many of our politicians should read about to get through the fact vs. the fiction around the issue.  It is a long read but covers through many of the statements that one has heard in testimonies from the anti-GMO activists.  It also points out to the resources that debunk many of those same claims.

It is of no surprise that the anti-GMO activists have jumped on this story.  Their retorts on this is far from facts but once again at personal attacks.  Just take a look at what Food Democracy Now posted about it on their Facebook page.

This kind of tactic only proves more and more that there is no facts or evidence in the so called GMO debates.  It’s based on conspiracy theories, propaganda, and fear mongering when they have to come down to this level.

Listen to the Farmers Representative Wooley

A few weeks ago at the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board meeting, I had the chance to talk in person to Representative Wooley.  She mentioned that we can contact her as to what laws she’d like us to consider for the upcoming session.  I decided to take her up on it and sent her this email tonight.  If you’d like to share a word or two with her you can contact her at repwooley@gmail.com or repwooley@capitol.hawaii.gov

Aloha Rep. Wooley,

I spoke with you the other night at the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board meeting and would like to take you up on the offer as far as what kind of legislation I’d like to see regarding agriculture in Hawaii.
As a daughter of a long time farmer and farming family for nearly 4 decades, I really think that as a leader, Hawaii needs to consider the bigger picture.  Your statement to me that we need to change the meaning of agriculture is very disturbing because for Hawaii. It is not only food that needs to be grown here.  We have many other thriving industries here from seeds to nursery plants and other non-food crops that would not fall under your umbrella definition.  If we want to grow more food, just going after the seed industry isn’t going to solve the problem.  As a leader, I would hope that you could see that.  That is a very linear way of looking at the problem which ultimately never solves anything.
If the goal is to grow more food in Hawaii, we have to look at all the issues that affect why we aren’t more self sufficient.  Look at the whole system to address the best way to reach the intended goal.  When you look at those issues like energy costs, labor, supplies, land issues, and the other factors, you can have a better view of a more holistic plan of solving this issue.  The problem has to be solved systemically.  Your simple solution of changing the meaning of agriculture to growing of food and asking for label for biotech food does nothing to make food more likely to be grown in Hawaii. It places a line between farmers and that is not what is needed.  As a leader for the agriculture committee, how can you best serve the farmers, not just a certain faction of them but all farmers?
Does siding with one kind of farmer do anyone any favors?  No, it doesn’t.  You as a leader need to band together all farmers to solve these problems.  That is the responsible thing to do.  Where does the research and evidence lead to?  That should be your guide through all of this.
I must also note that your broad statement that there is no regulation about GMOs is patently false.  If that were the case, why is it taking such a long time to get through the process to be approved?  I’d really appreciate it if you’d be more honest when talking about the issues.  You know darn well that there is many tests that have to be presented before anything is approved by the FDA, EPA, and USDA.  You may not be happy with the process, but don’t state outright lies about the issue.
I’m counting on you, as well as many the younger generation of farmers, who are hesitant on whether or not to continue family farms in this current environment.  They need to know if you are really going to be a proponent of agriculture and education and plan to secure the future of ag technologies in Hawaii since you stated that there will be an education campaign.  It may not make you popular to your activists but do the responsible thing for the real people who work and support agriculture in Hawaii.

Hawaii SEED Wants to Destroy Papaya Farmers

The Hawaii SEED version of Greenpeace photo shot.

Walter Ritte and his Hawaii SEED group are definitely helping farmers deal with issues, especially with papayas.  They are spending lots of money to test for GMO “contamination” so they claim but what have they done to solve the real problem that was happening?  *Crickets*

They did nothing.  That’s right, literally nothing. When farmers were getting hit in the 1990’s by the ringspot virus, they were no where to be found.  Nada, not around nothing.  Here’s what Hawaii SEED has to say about themselves: 

Hawai`i SEED incorporated as a non profit 501(c)(3) in September of 2005.

The corporation is organized for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to educate the public, government and business community about locally-based agricultural systems that create real food security for Hawai‘i and about the risk posed by certain agricultural and food systems while protecting human health and the environment.

Activities of Hawai‘i SEED include bolstering the community of sustainable farms and farmers throughout the state of Hawai‘i. By providing workshops to farmers, we hope to deemonstrate alternatives to genetic engineering. Hawai“i SEED facilitated the public testing of papayas for citizens throughout the state to determine if their fruit is contaminated with genetically engineered organisms.

Hawai‘i SEED also conducts general outreach to raise awareness about genetic engineering and alternatives to genetic engineering at public speaking events, and media outreach. We also give presentations to agricultural and other community groups about GMOs and their alternatives.

Note that they are not about research and contributing to agriculture but more about blocking what has been done with papayas.  What is even more disturbing is this statement:

While the GMO Papaya is resistant to papaya ringspot virus, it brought many more problems than it solved. The GMO Papaya has closed lucrative export and organic markets and always has a low price point. This technology has come with too many strings attached and Hawaii has lost almost half of its papaya farmers.

This group constantly touts anti-GMO wording like contamination and so on to disparage papaya farmers and wonders why papayas don’t sell well.  They proudly proclaim how they help test for GMO papayas but what good is that?  Why not spend that money creating your non-GMO virus resistant papaya if you really want to have sustainable agriculture?  

Then Hawaii SEED has to go on complaining how Hawaiian papaya is not being accepted in the worldwide market.  Um, if you’d stop spreading untruths about it, maybe more consumers would not be so afraid of our Hawaiian fruit.  Support all papaya farmers and maybe you can sell it better to help all farmers.  Hawaii SEED is not about doing farmers good, they are about taking things away like all activists.  They contribute nothing to Hawaii agriculture.  That’s the bottom line with these folks because it is all about taking and not giving.  

This group is a far cry from local folks too as we know it is being funded by outside contributors big time.  The truth is that Mr. Ritte enjoys his papayas and doesn’t care if it is GMO or not because he knows that it is fine.  Remember the March ag day Mr. Ritte?

A Farmer’s Say Doesn’t Matter in Hawaii

It is so easy to sit back on a computer and have your opinion about how you  want your food grown.  You have a comfy chair to sit on, a nice computer with a quick internet connection, a fan to keep you cool, and a well stocked refrigerator to sustain you as you comment away on the social media.  That is how you are going to change the world to get farmers to grow food your way.  No. Never.

It is so easy for Jessica Wooley, Russell Ruderman, Mike Gabbard, Tulsi Gabbard, Gary Hooser, Billy Kenoi, and Brian Schatz to dictate the policies that they want done for agriculture because they have nice cushy offices and are guaranteed a paycheck, courtesy of the taxpayers.  They would rather stay in those positions then be on a farm any day.  Why do you think they are in office to begin with?  Farming is just too laborious and risky, while political office is a clean, stable position for life.

As much as these politicians are the listening to the public’s opinions, they have no qualms in ignoring the farmers, ranchers, and scientists testimonies on the future of agriculture.  We’ve seen that what is found on the internet and repeated as truths is much more valuable then the experiences of people who tend and till the land.  They have no say in the issue and are at the mercy of an uninformed public fear mongered beyond belief.  That is the direction that Hawaii is heading when we only consider public opinions for laws.

Our leaders talk about how they want to grow our ag industry in Hawaii but their actions speak otherwise.  Laws upon laws have become huge burdens on our farmers.  From business regulations, taxes, federal food safety laws, labor laws, county laws, and state laws all weigh upon these farmers who are growing food and cultivating the land.  We also can’t forget the outside factors that affect farmers too including energy costs, shipping costs, and being at the mercy of the weather.  These regulations may seem helpful on the outside but make the business and practice of farming less and less attractive.  With all the anti-technology laws being placed upon them also by Kauai and Hawaii county, how much more can these farmers take when potential tools are being kept from them?  What can our farmers do when their hands become tied by the wishes of ignorant politicians and an ignorant public?

As we see more and more farms closing down because of the regulations that our leaders have placed upon them, we get to thank each politician for being responsible for the demise of these farms.  The younger generations do not want to continue family farms because it just is too burdensome.  Would you take a job where your income isn’t guaranteed and bad weather can wipe out your entire crop?  What if the bugs eat up all of your crops and you can’t even use a tool that could help it because some politician said that you can’t?  Imagine having a job where you have to know everything about the tax, labor, and food safety laws to a tee to stay in business.  Not only do you have to manage those issues but you also have to physically work hard to get your product out to your consumers also.  Lastly, you are subject to criticism, thievery and even threats of crop destruction as part of your job description.  That sure doesn’t sound like a very attractive job to me at all. Our politicians have decided that this is the route they want to take with agriculture with their recent actions.  That’s the Hawaii that our leaders apparently want for our future of farming in our islands.

How to Make Use of 4000 Anti-GMO Marchers

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Characters of the anti-GMO club of Kauai.

As I have followed so many commenters from the anti-GMO club there is definitely a pattern.  One one end you have the very vile, nasty, ones that have been fear mongered beyond recognition of a rational being.  On the other end you have those that believe that consuming organic food is much more holier than thou art and wanting a label.  Somewhere in between you have those that are anti-corporation, conspiracy theorists, and just plain old science deniers and earth saver greenie folks.  Also in the mix you’ll find the ban it all group, who really have no clue the extent of this technology.  It’s no wonder there are social workers, bus drivers, grandmas, pseudoscientists, criminals, entertainers, models, nurses, chemical sprayed doctors, religious preachers, radio hosts, MMA fighters, and surfers all in this mix.  Approximately 4000 of these folks supposedly marched on Kauai a few months ago to speak for the people.

You know, if 4000 really were a true number of people joining in, can you imagine the manpower you have there in one area?  They all marched along Rice Street for some distance that means the majority are all able bodied and has the potential to do something good with their energy.  That energy and planning should be put to good use to put their money where their mouth is.  I have a few suggestions for these marchers as far as how they could really strengthen their cause.

Help Kauai County Go Pesticide Free

We all know that they want less pesticide use by the seed corn farms that use 13% of the county’s total.  Who is using the most pesticides then?  It’s the county themselves!

Maybe on the next march, they can coordinate with the Kauai County to do a highway weed pulling patrol.  Spread out 4000 people along the highway to pull at least 50 to 100 yards of weed each and wow, imagine how much less spraying will be done and less contamination too?  You could do this every month and cut back or completely be pesticide free!

Another way that these marchers could help reduce pesticide use is to take advantage of the natural instincts of our little chihuahua terrier mixes that are so popular now.  If may be 20 marchers brought out their little dogs to the power plants or kept them tied to the power poles a few days a week, we could cut down the need for using rat poison since these little dogs are bred to kill rats.  Chemical free, all natural pest control at best which is what the anti-GMO club is demanding.

Start up the Save True Kauai Farms

It is pretty well known that Bette Midler is an anti-GMO activist also and she has lots of land on Kauai.  She has 1400 acres of it too!  We’d better alert Jessica Wooley because she doesn’t want to farm it for food but possibly grow hardwood trees on it.  Wouldn’t it be great if she donated a nice piece of her land to start up a Save True Kauai Farm there?  Or maybe a GMO/Pesticide Free farm there?  You could get that guy who couldn’t lease land from the seed companies and maybe 100 of the marchers to even work on that farm.  They appear to have lots of time since they were able to camp out at many of the hearings and stay really late there too.  The anti-GMO club can have their dream turned in to reality where they can feed the people their way.

Many people there also hate the dust from tractors plowing the lands.  If you take about 50 to 100 marchers and handed them a shovel and pick axe, you could plow a one acre field in no time with little to no dust cloud either.  Then instead of using heavy equipment to plant the seeds, each of these folks can hand plant it all.  Every few weeks they could come in again and do weed patrol too so that they don’t have to spray the dreaded weedkillers.  You can also bring in more marchers to do bug patrol too and pick off bugs from the plants to keep less pesticides off of it.  What a great way to teach the keiki to how to grow your own food and keep the dust and pesticides away!

Open an Ohana O Kauai Feed the Hungry Shelter

There are a lot of needy people across our islands and Kauai has its share.  The anti-GMO club staunchly believe that the seed companies are not feeding the world in any way or form.  With several thousands to volunteer and donate time, money, and energy, they could start showing the world their plan to feed the hungry because it is obviously more superior than what the other companies are doing.  This would truly be a great and innovating cause to show how much they malama the people and the land.

Then End of the Poisoning of Paradise

The potential conversion of marchers and people rising up to support this way of agriculture is truly amazing because it can be put to good use.  No one would have time to be sending death threats to the mayor, writing comments all over the social media, be exposed to less scary images on their Facebook feeds, accusing seed farm workers of killing babies and committing crimes against humanity, and will be able to live the natural healthy life that they all preach about.  Human energy can be converted to good when you put your money where your mouth is.  Volunteers anyone?

Last but not least…

Let’s do some math here…  4000 x $1.50 is $6000.  If all the marchers paid a mere $1.50, their bill would be covered.  Enough to pay the county back for their march and restore the county’s funds.  If some of the attendees could afford plane tickets, I’m pretty sure they could afford that pocket change to participate.  So has the Kauai County received some money to cover it yet???