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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Hawaii Leaders: Let’s Work Collaboratively in Agriculture

My mind is always thinking about things, reading, learning about what’s going on, etc.  It’s always busy.  I even dream about some of the issues that go on in Hawaii.  The other night, I had a crazy, innovative thought that might really solve a lot of problems with agriculture in Hawaii.  Read on…

Remember this poll on the Star Advertiser a few weeks ago?

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Note that these polls aren’t too reliable for multiple reasons, but the fact that homelessness is a top priority on the minds of the voters is telling.  No one can ignore the fact that there are homeless everywhere throughout our entire state and it’s an eye sore as well as saddening.

In the practice of occupational therapy, we know that by engaging in meaningful activity, we can restore well being physically and mentally.  As I watch many of these folks, they appear to be functionally doing pretty well.  I see them lowering themselves down to the sidewalk, laying down on it and getting up with ease much of the time.  Some of them can pace back and forth on highway medians begging for money for hours.  Others are able to squat down for hours outside of public places looking for handouts.  There is a lot of meaningless human energy here being wasted that could really be converted into meaningful work like being on a farm and growing food.  Voila!

Why not create a community based program that combines these two issues: growing food and homelessness. For one, you’d get people off of the street and into some form of meaningful activity and work.  They could work on a farm growing food as well as have a roof over their heads.  These people will be able to receive treatment for their conditions as well as not be an eyesore in public places.  They would also be doing something good for others and themselves by growing food.  That’s beautiful to me and I know it works based from my own experiences.

As a Star Advertiser Off the News post today said, we should end the food fight, and they are right.  Rep. Jessica Wooley wants more people to grow food and to keep agricultural lands in farming, while others want to take care of the homelessness problem here.  Let’s give Rep. Wooley her farms and walk the talk by doing what she proposes to do with it.  Then other’s like Rep. Tom Brower don’t have to get frustrated with the carts and homeless people all over his district.

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From an email sent out by Jessica Wooley’s camp showing how she thinks biotech is only about the agribusiness companies.  Note that HB147 is about firearms and not about GMOs.

We all know that Rep. Wooley isn’t a local person when she only stands for the activists and their demand to only go organic.  Local style is to take all sides and work together and come to an understanding and a plan.  As she states in her letter, she doesn’t like the “status quo.” You might not like how we do things here, but you can’t just come in and tear our livelihoods apart the way your activists demand.  It’s also too bad that other locals like Rep. Kaniela Ing have jumped on this fighting attitude.  That’s not the way we do things local style.  This is our Hawaii as much it is yours, but to point a finger at us law abiding family farms is basically standing on our yards telling us how to farm.  I don’t like this and many others too.  Your letter refers to fighting, and we don’t like to fight but are forced to.

Let the farmers farm, and go start up your small sustainable farms in the country.  Do your job for agriculture and work collaboratively for the sake of everyone involved.  Be creative in your plan, not just worried about your way or the highway attitude.  Take care of people too, including the homelessness by coordinating with other committees and do it.

The farmers have had enough of your activists attacks and here’s a way to give them what they want.  The attitude needs to change from “only organic” to “how can we solve this problem together.”  I ask that we end the fight now and actually do something purposeful with your talks about growing food and be that leader to stop the attacks against the biotech farmers big and small.  The bottom line is that we need all forms of agriculture.

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Live, eat, and drink farming rather than continuing to legislate what you don’t know on, and see a whole different side of the picture.  Take the path that will lead to helping people based upon evidence for it is better than leading us into a war.  That’s what a true leader would do.  Can you be that true leader and work with everyone?

There Is Real Harm in Misinformation

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It is good that there is an effort to teach people how to grow food in their own gardens and possibly start up their own farms.  What is quite disturbing to me to hear that the Hawaii Organic Farming Association in alignment with Representative Jessica Wooley are touting that only organic is the way to go to doing this.  There is a major problem with this and papayas.

As much as people would like to think that there is no papaya ringspot virus around and that organic methods will prevent this, they are far from the truth.  No amount of dirt that Senator Russell Rudeman proposed as  a solution to this problem is going to solve it.  Nor is Jeffrey Smith coming up with any solutions either to deal with this.

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It’s even sadder when a senator continues to perpetuate myths that harm his very own constituents on his own island.  He doesn’t even support his own papaya farmers in Puna!

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What he fails to realize is that every single thing we eat is a result of some form of modification.  We humans have been tampering with nature since the beginning of civilization.  Genetic modification is just another form of plant breeding.  So technically, yes, Senator Ruderman, we are all eating a form of genetically modified food for thousands of years, regardless of how it was grown.

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While Ruderman and Wooley, both of whom are not farmers, keeping harping their organic wheels of misinformation, there are those who believe this campaign.  Those are the people who have the learn things the hard way.  You can ask any long time farmer, not yardener, if one can grown GMO free papayas here on Oahu.  Most will tell you that it is hard because the virus is still around.  Piling soil on the roots isn’t going to prevent the papaya from getting a disease spread by aphids.  Learning the hard way doesn’t hurt the yardeners much but it could do harm to those investing in growing the fruit for an income.

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Example of a non-GMO papaya tree infected by the virus next to a transgenic variety that remains unaffected. Trees were grown on the Windward side of Oahu.

Why would you knowingly grow a crop that is known to be at high risk for disease?  No farmer would ever risk their livelihoods for that, which is why they are fortunate to have the choice to grow such crops, and provide fruits to their customers year after year.  Misinformation against this choice hurts every farmer and every farmer to be.  Of course, it isn’t Jessica Wooley’s or Russell Ruderman’s investments that are being harmed, so they really don’t care and it’s glaringly obvious.

The Hate Towards Farmers Must Stop

Today there were two articles featured in Civil Beat.  One was on Senator Nishihara’s introduction to the SB110, with the Right to Farm Act provision, and the second one was one done by Ross Sibucao, a papaya farmer and Hawaii Papaya Industry Association President.

I had thought that the hateful comments would stop, boy was I wrong.  The hate and nastiness is coming out in full force against the farmers.  It’s just despicable that our leaders can’t see this or choose to ignore it.  Read on below to see what heinous things are being said.

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This is not what Hawaii agriculture needs right now.  We need leaders who will foster its growth and development.  It’s amazing to me how so many people believe the earth is changing, but then reject the same technology that can give farmers the tools to overcome this.  A recent news article shows that this is indeed a real problem that will eventually affect us.  The farmers and scientists all know this but somehow the news has missed our government leaders.

It will be more important than ever to have the latest tools available to maintain our food supplies.  When there is a drought or some other extreme weather, we’re going to have to choose what works and in many cases, it may not be organic.  Whatever the case, the most efficient and highest yielding methods must be used.  Why limit the tools now with popular opinion vs. what the data says?

As legislators, you have a responsibility to all of us to do what is right, not just to the loudest shouters and conspiracy thinkers.  Many of you were able to make that same hard decision when it was the issue of gay marriage.  You chose to look at the evidence and support the minority that needed their rights protected.  I still can’t understand why you as leaders, can’t step up and do the same for the rights of farmers.  When there are no tools available to the farmers and too many burdensome laws, will you leave that as your legacy to our islands?

Why We Need the Hawaii Right to Farm Bill

Some thoughts about Hawaii Right to Farm Bill… It’s not just about the Monsantos, Syngentas, Dows, BASFs, or Pioneers. It’s about the family farms like Hamakua Country Spring Farms, Tropical Flowers Express, Kahuku Farms, Kamiya Farms, Ho Farms, Fat Law Farms, Sugarland Farms, Aloun Farms, Ska Tropicals, Nalo Farms, Kuahiwi Ranch, Parker Ranch, Ponohono Ranch, Belmes Farms, and so many more.

The farms are all a part of a system that works and runs together. The big farm companies lease lands and maintain the ditches and dams that bring water over the mountains. They pay to maintain this infrastructure that was built upon the cane and pineapple days. (You know the industries that brought us local folks together?) On those lands that they lease, they sublease it, ready to farm, to the small farmers that grow the bulk of the produce here. These small farmers could never afford to pay to maintain these lands and get rates subsidized to start their farms. That’s where our food is grown.  (Not many people actually want to do that unfortunately.)

The big farms use a lot of supplies and equipment that other farms can use. With more people needing farm stuff, the companies that bring it in can offer it at lower prices since there is a greater demand for it. Other farmers can get their fertilizers, potting soils, and other supplies much more affordably as a result.  This puts equipment dealers and other farm suppliers in business.

Not only does the big farms and small farms need supplies but they also need many other businesses. That includes construction workers to build sheds and processing places for their produce. Drivers and delivery workers to get their goods out to the market. Mechanics might be needed too for fixing equipment. Even plumbers, pipe layers, and an engineer or architect for designing a new building. Fence and iron workers might be needed for putting up fences and gates. A mason worker would be needed for building that foundation for the sheds and driveways. The farmers also need health care companies to work on providing insurance to their workers.  Doctors and dentists are needed to care for their workers to also.  Accountants are needed to help keep the books in order also.  Produce and seeds need to be shipped places by shippers, whether it be by air or cargo.  These are things that farmers need others for, which create more jobs in our communities. No farmer could do this alone.
What legislators like Wooley, Gabbard, Green, Ruderman, and Thielen are attempting to do is tear apart this system that covers more than just the farms itself. They want their Californian utopia of small little farmers growing food. Who’s gonna pay for maintaining the infrastructures in place? The state? No. They need companies that can absorb those costs and be reliable tenants to the state and other landowners.  This in turn creates jobs for the displaced ag workers, who relied on the plantations, which includes skilled workers to scientists.  If you tear out this component of the system, the entire system would collapse.  Do you think that is a good alternative for Hawaii? Hawaii was built on this system and relies on interdependence of all the parts.
So when you sit on the fence and don’t know whether or not to support the Right to Farm bill, you might want to think about it more, because it may spell the end of those nice little farmers’ markets across the islands, as well as impact others who don’t even farm.  Who would want to farm anymore when more and more laws are added on your back to make your business even harder? No one.
Support the farmers and it means all of them!

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!

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Priced out of Paradise: What’s Hawaii Leaders Doing?

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Tweet made by Rep. Wooley back in March 2013.

Last night at the Kaneohe Neighborhood Meeting, I had the opportunity to talk to a fellow resident. She came to the meeting because she wanted to speak out about an issue she was having with where she lived. Her and fellow tenants live in an affordable housing complex and were being subjected to a huge increase in rent because the units were sold by the City and County to a mainland developer.

She continued to share her story with me about her life and why she came to the meeting. She has worked as an educational assistant at Castle High School. She’s employed but doesn’t make a whole lot of money so a rent increase will leave her with only $100 left over each month. She could live with her daughter but wants to remain as independent as possible.  It’s a struggle to make ends meet but she does it.

I really started to think about this more later on. There are a lot if people who are in a similar situation to her. Any local person will tell you that cost of living here in Hawaii has been rising. We hear and see it everywhere. Everything is going up: gas, electricity, basic groceries, property taxes, rents, car registrations, sewer fees, and so on. The only thing not going up is our income to keep up with this, and that is a major problem.  So many folks are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck as well as working multiple jobs to get by.  How can one have quality of life when most your time is spent working just to survive?

Earlier in the year, there was a Star Advertiser article that looked at the poverty issue here in Hawaii with kids.  The percentage of kids living in poverty was 12.5% in 2005.  This year’s Kid’s Count Report found that there were 51,000 kids living in poverty, which is up to 17%!  Then when you look at poverty in seniors, the AARP has found that nearly 20% fall into that category.  There are a lot of people in need in our state and what is being done to address this?  How can we make peoples’ lives better?

As I listened to her story, I really thought about the politicians of Hawaii and how they get into offices making lots of promises that we know can’t be kept.  Or there are issues that they bring up that don’t really help anyone other than their own personal agendas most of the time.  It was really nice to see many local looking folks, most of whom were born and raised here and had long time established families in our communities.  As the residents of Kulana Nani apartments sat in the meeting waiting for their turn to speak up, I could not help but think more about this issue.

In the back of the room, I noticed that Rep. Jessica Wooley came in and sat in the back.  When it was her turn to speak up, I had to ask her my question.  “As you know, many people are struggling to keep up with the cost of living here.  What are you planning to do as ag chair to help address this issue to keep things affordable as well as keep farmers in business?”

Her answer was that she realized that many farmers are at risk for going out of business and that we need them and she has various programs and things in the works to address this.  We all know that when costs go up for farmers, their products will cost more also, which is why local produce tends to be more pricey.  Not once did she go on about the labeling issue for biotech food in this answer.  I know for a fact that the labeling will mean that food costs will go up since manufacturers will have to specially label food just for our state.  How is that really going to help keep basic foodstuffs affordable for people who are already struggling?  She didn’t bring up that issue until my second question for her, which I’ll continue on another blog post.

Politicians like Wooley and others like her who have decided to align with the activist groups like Hawaii SEED, the Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii GMO Justice Coalition, Hawaii Farmers Union United, and the Hawaii Organic Farming Industry are all about self serving their own interests.  They are pushing to grow their industry that may increase availability of organic produce but at a cost that most folks can’t afford.  They have plenty of money to fly between islands, stay in hotels or other accommodations, or get funded by their supporters through subscriptions or gofundme.com and don’t have to work like the real local people.

When you have a lawyer for a husband who makes a decent salary and a property in San Francisco, it is easy to tout your agenda.  It’s easy to listen to activists’ cries for a label for food that many of them consume for the sake of pushing your agenda and forget about your real constituents that struggle for years.  Have some empathy for these people Rep. Wooley for they are who you need to work for.  A good leader will look at all the issues, use evidence and best practices to help solve the problem, which is always more complex that what it appears.  Remember that you were elected by the very people in your community and should be lending your ear to them first and foremost, and not to a Babes Against Biotech activist or an outside environmental attorney, whom you fondly call Andy Kimbrell.