Honolulu City Council Wants to Burden the Farmers

I was really disappointed to learn that there is yet another proposed bill on the books that is going to affect Oahu farmers.  The West Oahu Soil & Water Conservation District met a couple of days ago and discussed that the Committee on Zoning & Planning.  Honolulu City Council will hold a hearing on Thursday April 24, 2014 at 9 a.m. to hear Bill 34, introduced by Ikaika Anderson.  This bill will have a devastating effect on farmers and soil conservation efforts.

Bill 34 will remove the exclusion from the County grading ordinance, grading by farmers under approved Soil Conservation plans with a Soil & Water Conservation District for any project of more than 50 cubic yards of material.

If this bill becomes law, for any project of more than 50 cubic yards of material, farmers will need permits, will need to pay fee and will need to bond the project.

Let’s put some perspective into this law that puts yet another burden on farmers.  What does 50 cubic yards of material look like?

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If you take a look at the above picture, 50 cubic yards is basically one large container and a small one.  The law is seeking to remove the exemption from farmers for moving material.  Is that really a whole lot of material being moved?  I don’t think so and the number is so arbitrary.  What really is the purpose of removing the exclusion of farmers?  Is it to make farming a more attractive business for others to go into?

It’s just really disappointing that our lawmakers come up with this kind of shortsighted laws with no real rationale or idea of the consequences of such actions.  It’s funny how the state is talking about how Hawaii supports agriculture and yet propose these kind of actions.

The truth is that we must prefer importing foods because we are going to essentially tie the hands of the people who feed us.  If you love local food, say goodbye because it is going to get that much harder for farmers to get it on our tables.

 

Jessica Wooley Wants to Redefine Agriculture Rather Sink Farmers

I realized last year, with the brouhaha of the failed labeling law, that we do not have enough local voices in politics. I decided to start participating in the neighborhood board meetings. I have been attending these meetings monthly since June this year.

At this last meeting something very peculiar happened. Jill Tokuda and Ikaika Anderson’s representative attended as usual and are very regular in their participation to notify the community of what’s going on and what they are working on. The others like Clayton Hee, Cynthia Thielen, and Ken Ito, are non-existent. Jessica Wooley will send a representative twice but never attended it herself since June. At this past month’s meeting, no one on the board recognized her, and as a result, and mistook her for another presenter.

She did a quick report on what she plans to do as the agriculture chair. Basically she wants to redefine what agriculture means in Hawaii, referring to calling it the growing of food. I asked her what she will be doing to help farmers. She also talked about attempting to get that label on biotech derived foods and stated, “there is no regulation” on it. Of course she continued stating that consumers should be able to know and that papaya farmers are already doing it for export and it won’t shouldn’t affect them by doing it here. She did also state that, “I would not ban GMOs.”

As I listened to her answers and statements, I started to think more about what she was saying. Okay so you feel that there is no regulation, which is completely false, and that a label is going to suddenly create this sense if transparency that her “constituents” want. Something doesn’t make any sense here.

Why is a label suddenly going to solve the transparency and so called “right to know issue” after you just stated that there is no regulation? If you are so concerned about no regulation, then why don’t you work at the federal level to start these regulations that you claim there is none? Doesn’t that make more sense? If you were to travel to somewhere else, as a consumer, you won’t be able to get your right to know since there is nothing across the board by state. A consumer could unwittingly eat GMOs at a restaurant and that would be such a travesty too because that is not labeled!  Even the locally produced foods like papaya seed salad dressings to some locally made taro chips would all need a label too so that these folks’ right to know are fulfilled and that they are suddenly enlightened by this label!  Poor Hawaii constituents would not have their rights respected Ms. Wooley if they were to go to a Las Vegas Trader Joes! You’re not protecting peoples’ rights! What a non-tragedy!

Of course Ms. Wooley doesn’t show her transparency when it comes down to who’s feeding her this information. She is well connected to anti-GMO groups like Center for Food Safety attorney, Andrew Kimbrell, and is married to David Henken of Earthjustice. Take a look at what these people say about why they want this label from the Genetic Literacy Project.

genetic literacy

Knowing all of this, I asked her if she was aware of what is happening to many small farmers in the community. I shared with her, as well as all the board members present, about how some farmers reported being asked if their bananas and produce were organic.  When it was told to the person that it wasn’t, the questioner tossed it aside very rudely and marched away in disgust.  Jessica raised her eyebrows stating that she was not aware of this and it should have turned into a police report of some kind.  I told her that these farmers are afraid to speak up against this and become targets.  Local people don’t speak up against these activists for that very reason.  I’m not sure which planet she lives on but these anti-GMO activists have been doing this for some time already and there was a public incident with this already that made the news.

We all know that there is a lot of hope in the anti-GMO movement that somehow this is going to make people eat healthier.  Do you actually think that a little sticker on a package is going to help that?  When those fat free labels appeared on food stuff did it make people eat better?  Uh, no.  Shame on her for thinking that this really is going to make a difference all to earn more money from consumers marketed with fear.  That’s where shortsighted thinking in politicians get us no where.  A label isn’t going to change people’s weights! Education about healthy eating is!

If Jessica Wooley is really wanting the focus of agriculture to be on food and growing it, I suggest she rethink her strategy.  Making more laws against farmers isn’t going to make more people want to get into farming.  It already is a difficult business to stay afloat given the high costs of land, labor, and supplies.  It doesn’t help that weather, disease, and other uncontrollable variables can devastate your whole year’s worth of work either.  If you make laws to limit the tools and research in agriculture, that itself will make it even less viable as a profession.  Does that mean your out to kill farming that isn’t organic because it sure appears that way?

I was sent some commentary about the petition that was posted to help open up a forum for others to speak up for our farmers.  This has created a small storm of controversy in the GMO Free Groups of course and someone sent this comment to me.

selma

I find it amazing that her GMO Free followers actually get it but they just don’t connect the dots about what they say.  Yes, farmers are poor and why are you making it harder for them to do their job Ms. Wooley and GMO Free groups?  Wouldn’t it be better to ask them, “How can we make your job easier so you can do what you need?”  That would be a much better option then outright stating that you need to label your produce because your right to fair treatment is outweighed by the needs of activists.  That’s a pure kick in the face to our farmers.

If Wooley is about fulfilling her role as someone who wants to make Hawaii better as a transplanted local, she needs to take off the anti-GMO hood and stop wasting our taxpayer dollars on that little label of hers.  If she really wants to help people live better, have more farmers, and grow more food, she needs to get off her “right to know” “label it” podium and reinvest those monies and resources back to the farmers and towards educating the public about healthy eating if her motives were right.  But we all know the truth about her agenda here which is plain to see where she wants to take small papaya farmers…  Into extinction.