It was Agriculture Day at the State Capitol today inside committee rooms and outside on display tables.
The House Committee on Agriculture reviewed a bill on industrial hemp which can now be cultivated under the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. Maui Representative Angus McKelvey says 41-thousand acres of former sugar cane land could be used.
“Hemp is a low water crop, it re-generates the soil, it’s got, of course, a ton of commercial uses you can make money off of, whether it’s food supplements, kitty litter, clothes, natural rope, the list goes on and on and on. It’s a great money maker for Central Maui, and again, with the water crisis that we have right now, it’s a way to solve that issue.”
Federal guidelines have not been developed and State Agriculture Department Hemp Coordinator, Shelley Choi, says plans must be submitted.
“Under the federal Farm Bill, we need to submit a plan for hemp regulation because, even though hemp is de-scheduled, it still needs to be grown under several guidelines. All states right now, I think, they are now gearing to submit a plan by 2020 or 2021.”
Outside of the committee room, more than two dozen display tables were featured for Agriculture Day at the legislature. In one corner, the Kaua’i County Farm Bureau displayed coffee from the largest coffee farm in the United States, with 3-thousand acres on the Garden Isle. Johnny Gordines is the county bureau president and says Horticulture is the second money maker for the state behind seed corn.
“Hawai’i flowers and foliage and nursery bring in close to $80-million a year into the revenue of the State of Hawai’i. Actually, right now, there’s a bill at the legislature to appropriate $200-thousand for a ginger virus and fungus, it’s on the north shore of O;ahu right now. So, this money needs to go to research to the University of Hawai’i to nip it at the bud and to pretty much quarantine the place.”
At another table, a local business called Two Lady Farmers, raise 300 pigs on a 4 acre farm in Wai’anae. It costs them 26-hundred dollars a week to import non-medicated grain feed. Co-owner, Patsy Kaneshiro, says lawmakers can help.
“We need to push the local, not only vegetables but livestock. We need a place to process our pork and maybe a learning center – you know – to teach the younger ones that wanna do livestock farming. That’s what we want.”
Co-owner Stacy Sugai says the pledge to “Buy Local, It matters,” can be achieved through a pound a week challenge.
“That each family would just buy one pound of local produce that’s – you know – grown here, raised here in Hawai’i and, I believe there’s 455-thousand households in Hawai’i. If they were to buy just one pound a week, it would equate to 23-million pounds of locally grown agriculture. That’s all we gotta do.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.