State To Purchase Agricultural Land In Wahiawa

By Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz

The Galbraith Lands

The state administration recently released capital improvement funds for projects throughout Hawaii. Included in the list is funding to acquire 1,207 acres of Galbraith Estate lands in Wahiawa for $13 million. The state Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) requested the release of the allotment of capital general obligation bond funds. The ADC was established to acquire and manage in partnership with farmers, ranchers and aqua-culture groups, selected high-value lands, water systems and infrastructure for commercial agricultural use, and direct research into areas that will lead to the development of new crops, markets and lower production costs.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is facilitating the purchase of the 1,702 Galbraith Estate lands of which the ADC will acquire and hold title to 1,207 acres for agricultural uses. The remaining 495 acres will be acquired by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. ADC has been working with TPL for the past several years on the acquisition of high-quality agricultural land for the purpose of increasing our state’s agriculture production. Food security requires good agricultural land.

Rather than having these lands developed, the state has committed $13 million to purchase the unsold parcels. Acquisition of this additional land will provide more opportunities for farming and diversified agriculture industries. In addition to state funding, the TPL has commitments from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, U.S. Army, City and County of Honolulu and a private company to contribute to the acquisition.

The intent is to have 12 to 25 experienced farmers on 50- to 100-acre parcels. In conjunction with this acquisition, I am working to acquire and retrofit the Dole facilities in Whitmore Village to become the processing facility for farmers in the region. This project can address a multitude of needs, such as food safety and security to economic development and job creation.

Weighted Student Formula … a process for determining additional funds for schools

Hawaii, as the only state with a single statewide school district, depends on financing public education differently from other states. Funding for the operation of public schools comes from the General Fund, and the allocation is determined by the state Legislature and disbursed by the governor. In landmark legislation passed in 2004, the Weighted Student Formula allocated funds to public schools based on student needs. The formula consists of a specific dollar amount per student for each student enrolled plus additional funding for students with special needs that handicap their learning. Student characteristics weighed are: economic disadvantage, learning English as a second language, and transient movement of families. Other factors weighed are geographic isolation (since we are an island state), large and small schools, and grade-level adjustments for elementary and middle schools. The Senate Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, voted for the passage of an additional $15 million to the Weighted-Student-Formula. The schools in Central Oahu, K-12, receive varying additional amounts of funding based on student needs at each school.

Contact state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, D-22 (Kaena, Wahiawa, Pupukea) at 586-6090.