New Ag Laws Help Maui Farmers
By Sonia Isotov
Governor Neil Abercrombie on Friday signed a number of measures into law including two bills that are aimed to benefit local farmers who want to sell their products and/or establish agricultural-based commercial operations.
“In my lifetime, agriculture has changed from family farms to industrial farms. Now the pendulum is swinging back. For economic, health and security reasons, local agriculture is a fast growing movement. These bills are written to benefit both segments of the Hawaii agriculture community,” said William Greenleaf, the treasurer and the legislative chairperson for Hawaii Farmers Union United.
Warren Watanabe, the executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau also shared some thoughts on several of the new laws that will affect agriculture and farmers in Maui County.
Act 113 (SB2375) authorizes agricultural-based commercial operations in agricultural districts which will increase our farmers’ ability to sell their products and promote food sustainability for the islands.
“The original measure allowing farmers markets was passed when direct marketing was at an infancy. The new measure recognizes that many of our farmers use multiple lots and are often involved in value-added production. This measure updates the role of farmers markets to current needs of the farmer and meeting consumer demand,” said Warren Watanabe, the executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau.
Another key piece of legislation signed into law by the governor that will benefit farms and aids diversified agriculture is Act 114 (SB 2646) which intends to promote and support diversified agriculture by exempting certain nonresidential agricultural buildings that are on commercial farms from county building permit requirements.
“Farming requires shelters to grow crops, raise livestock, and protect them and equipment from bad weather, thieves, and vandals. The Legislature and the governor recognized the importance of this issue and worked with HFBF (Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation) to exempt certain nonresidential agricultural and aquacultural buildings on commercial farms and ranches from the time-consuming building permit process; eliminating an unnecessary obstacle to the viability of Hawaii’s farms,” explained Watanabe.
“Streamlining agricultural building construction will encourage current and prospective farmers on Maui and the other islands to grow their operations and thereby reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported food and increase the sustainability of Hawaii’s farms.”
Act 113 goes into effect immediately and Act 114 is effective July 1, 2012.
Theft of fruit and other farm produce was addressed with ACT 125 (HB 11524).
“Among other things, this new law will deter agricultural theft throughout the islands by requiring every person who transports or sells farm produce worth $100 or more to provide a signed certification form, identification, and other information verifying identity,” added Watanabe.
“No middlemen buyers, such as vendors at farmers’ markets, can purchase produce from sellers without this verification.” A violation of Act 125 (HB1524) is a felony now; an offense of theft in the second degree and requires restitution to the victim.
“We are also excited about the signing of the invasive species measures, specifically HB1942 and 1943, which use technology and the dog detector to increase the efficiency of the inspection process. These bills make better use of scarce resources.”
In particular, HB 1943 appropriates $162,540 to reinstate the plant quarantine detector-dog program to help prevent the introduction of invasive species.
Governor Abercrombie today also signed into law several other agriculture-related measures:
House Bill 1942 – Appropriates $200,000 for the Electronic Importer Manifest Program to support our agricultural inspectors in the prevention of invasive species.
House Bill 2244 – Authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to establish compliance agreements with the federal government and other states regarding inspections for the import and export of plant commodities.
House Bill 2429 – Allows ex-officio members of the Board of Agriculture to designate a representative to attend board meetings.
Senate Bill 2695 – Appropriates $250,000 for a livestock feed feasibility project and another $250,000 to reimburse livestock producers for feed costs.