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MidWeek Staff

Helping Farmers Is Important For Hawaii’s Future

BY STATE SENATOR DONOVAN DELA CRUZ

In my continuing efforts to promote and help the agricultural industry and farmers, I introduced Senate Bill 2375, subsequently passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, and which is now Act 113. This measure further defines agricultural-based commercial operations in agricultural districts. Previous to this, farmers were only able to conduct direct-sales agribusiness activity through roadside stands of products grown on the immediate premises; it did not consider farmers who produce on multiple noncontiguous parcels elsewhere.

This act includes agricultural-based commercial operations in the definition of “Farming Operation” in the Hawaii Right to Farm Act. Removing the restriction that the products must be grown on the immediate premises allows farmers to expand their sales.

Agricultural-based commercial operations include roadside stands, retail activities and retail food establishments that offer agricultural products grown in Hawaii and could include value-added products produced by using agricultural products grown in Hawaii. Agricultural-based operations include cultivation of crops, game and fish propagation, raising of livestock which includes poultry, bees, fish and other animal or aquatic life that are propagated for economic or personal use.

These commercial operations include roadside stands that are not enclosed structures and are owned and operated by a producer and display or sell agricultural products; retail activities and retail food establishments are enclosed structures owned and operated by the producer. Retail activities may also include the sale of logo items related to the producer’s agricultural operations. Retail food establishments prepare and serve food using Hawaii-grown agricultural products and value-added products produced by using agricultural products grown in Hawaii.

The owner of such an agricultural-based commercial operation, if requested by an officer or agent charged with enforcement, needs to certify that the agricultural products dis- played or sold by the operation meet the requirements of the law.

The best way to preserve agriculture is to make it profitable by reducing costs for farmers. We have not paid enough attention to the farmer’s plight. Many small farms are struggling to survive. Helping farmers sell their products also enhances food sustainability for the state. The governor, upon signing the measure, stated that these kinds of bills “are the epitome of where the state needs to go in terms of being progressive on food sustainability.” Once the Whitmore Village Agricultural Development Plan, which I discussed in an earlier column, starts becoming a reality, all the components needed for creating an agricultural hub in Central Oahu will begin to fall into place.

As agriculture starts happening on the Galbraith lands, and the packing and processing facilities become operational, agriculture can again become a viable industry, and there can be a promising future in agriculture.

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