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.
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.
One activist even posted this comment on his Facebook business page too.
They went on Yelp too and disparaged his business. Some review have been removed but others persist.
You can read the corresponding reviews below to the above clip since they have since been removed.
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.