Five Local Nurseries Pass the “Plant Pono” Test

Six retail nurseries on the Big Island are the latest to receive an endorsement for their commitment to preventing the spread of invasive species. The Plant Pono program, a state wide initiative being implemented on Hawai’i island by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC), recognizes nurseries who implement best practices for control of certain pests and who agree not to import, sell or propagate any potentially invasive plant species.
“I really want to improve the land and beautify it, not cause damage with invasive plants and animals [like] little fire ant and coqui,” says Jacque Green, owner of Green’s Garden Gifts and Things. Her nursery is one of the latest to have earned the Plant Pono endorsement, along with ESP Nursery, Nui Loa Hiki nursery, Sustainable Bioresources, Tropical Edibles, and Pana’ewa Foliage. They joined The Nursery, Inc., Southern Turf, Kalaoa Gardens, and South Kona Nursery, which were the first Big Island businesses to receive endorsements in early 2015.
To maintain the endorsement, nurseries must undergo annual surveys by BIISC early detection specialists and implement stringent prevention measures against invasive pests developed by the Hawaii Ant Lab and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii. Nurseries can play a critical role in preventing the spread of pest plants and animals. Invasive species are defined as introduced organisms that cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. Worldwide, 10–?15% of introduced species become invasive. Many invasive plants, such as miconia and Himalayan (kahili) ginger, were originally introduced as ornamentals and spread through planting by garden enthusiasts before expanding into natural areas and disrupting native ecosystems.
Potted plants were identified as one of the top vectors in the spread of Little Fire Ant, which have cost millions for government and businesses in Hawai’i since they were first detected on the Big Island in 1999. Subsequent surveys completed in 2002 revealed populations of LFA from Kalapana to Laupahoehoe, indicating the ants were already present and well spread across the Puna and Hilo areas before they were noticed.
“Getting nurseries involved in detecting and preventing the spread of pest animals and plants just makes sense,” according to Jimmy Parker, botanist and coordinator of BIISC’s early detection team. “Very often we find that invasive plants are sold unknowingly by nurseries and then planted by well–?meaning citizens and landscapers. A Plant Pono endorsement lets the public know the plants they have purchased will not become the next albizia or miconia.”
The likelihood of a plant being invasive in Hawaii can be predicted accurately thanks to an online assessment tool called the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA). HPWRA was developed by botanists from Hawaii and around the globe, and uses 49 questions about a plant’s biology, ecology, and weedy tendencies elsewhere in the world to score its potential invasive threat. HPWRA is 95% accurate in identifying invasive plants. More than a thousand plants have already been assessed and can be viewed on the website, which also suggests safe alternatives to invasive ornamentals. While the Plant Pono program reserves the endorsement for exemplary nurseries, the risk assessment tool is free and available on to any nursery or home gardener considering adding a new plant to their collection. The Plant Pono program was initiated in 2014 by the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) and is funded through the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and the U.S. Forest Service.
Contact information for all Plant Pono nurseries is available on the BIISC website at

Commentary: “Safe and Accurate” Food Bill Isn’t What it Seems

Editor’s Note:  Rep. Mark Takai has sent this letter out to constituents on his e-mail list.  We pass it on to you.  –AM

Aloha Friend,

This week, the House will consider H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.  Under the guise of consumer protection, this bill would do nothing more than limit the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) products.  While it includes vague language regarding voluntary labeling, it would also nullify current state laws that regulate GMO foods.  I simply cannot support this bill. 

The people of our nation deserve to have consumer clarity, and be able to make their own decisions on the type of food they buy.   In order to meet this goal, I have joined with Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) to cosponsor legislation that will return transparency to the food labeling process.  Along with many of my democratic colleagues, I support H.R. 913, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  This legislation would enhance GMO labeling by creating a national standard to label food products developed by the FDA.

To date, our nation does not have a uniform system in place that allows consumers to make educated decisions. For nearly 15 years, we have had voluntary labeling; however, standards often differ and lead to variances in the definition of natural and GMO products. Clearly, this process must be improved. 

 Enacting legislation like H.R. 913 would harmonize U.S. policy with the 64 other countries that require the labeling of GMO foods, including countries possessing some of our largest agricultural markets.  This would make it easier for producers, processors, and packagers to comply with labeling requirements, and in turn help export our products around the world.

 If you have any questions regarding my stance on GMOs please feel free to contact my office  here .


Mark Takai

Free Talks Offered on Roundup and Public Health

Seeds of Truth and GMO-Free Hawaii Island are sponsoring a talk on “Connecting the Dots: the rise of Glyphosate, the active ingredient I the commonly used herbicide ‘Roundup’ and the link to the increase in diseases” with Drs. Stephanie Seneff and Judy Carman, on Saturday, July 25, 1:30-5 p.m. at Tutu’s House in Waimea; on Sunday, July 26, 6-9 p.m. at NHERC’s headquarters on 45-539 Plumeria St. in Honoka’a; and at the Kona County Council Chambers and at 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kailua-Kona. Dr. Senoff, a researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has traced links between Glyphosate and the rise of diseases such as obesity, Alzheimer’s, allergies and autism. Dr. Carman, who holds a PhD in medicine, nutritional biochemistry and metabolic regulation, was involved in some of the first independent animal feeding studies on the to investigate the safety of GMO crops in regard to human health. The talks are free, and pupus will be served.

A petition for the County of Hawaii to stop spraying Roundup on public roadsides has been started here.

Natural Farming Meeting Looks at Farming Through the Microscope

The Natural Farming Hawai’i June potluck meeting will be about looking through the microscope to understand the benefits of natural farming down to their smallest detail.

Soil isn’t just a dead medium in which crops grow; it’s a matrix of living things, some beneficial, some harmful.  In healthy soil, microorganisms interact in complimentary ways, but pesticides herbicides fertilizers can disrupt that balance.  The presentation at the meeting will cover how to use the microscope, how to identify bacteria, fungus, and nematodes, and what all this means for soil health.

The potluck meeting takes place on the second Tuesday of each month–in this case, June 9, June 9th, 2015, at  6-8 p.m at the Komohana Ag Research Center in Hilo, Hawai’i.


Letter: Oppose William Balfour’s Renomination to the Commission on Water Resource Management

Aloha, everyone. William Balfour’s response to questions by the Senate Water and Land Committee today at his confirmation hearing was disappointing to put it mildly. It is very hard for me to believe the Governor nominated Mr. Balfour to serve yet another term on the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM). Mr. Balfour did not know about the hierarchy of water uses or constitutionally protected rights and uses under the State Water Code, nor was he concerned that he did not know about this most important tenet of the code.

Five major decisions by CWRM have been reversed by the courts in the last decade or so. Most if not all of them involved stream diversions, Native Hawaiian water rights, and superior uses. As a past water commissioner, Mr. Balfour voted on two important decisions that were reversed by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in the Na Wai ‘Eha and East Maui stream cases.

The Committee is meeting again this Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:15 pm in Room 225 to give Mr. Balfour another opportunity to address the code’s hierarchy of water uses and rights under the code. Even if he does his homework in the next two days, his past record as a water commissioner speaks louder than any recitation of the State Water Code.

Please call and email members of the Senate Committee on Water and Land before Friday noon. Respectfully ask them to oppose GM 820 and the nomination of William Balfour, Jr. to serve on the Commission on Water Resource Management. Be sure to contact your own state senator too (see contact information for the committee and all senators below). Please share with others and broadcast far and wide. Mahalo!

We must not give up opposing this ill-advised nomination.

Our state senators are the only ones with the power to decide whether Mr. Balfour serves on the CWRM for another 4 years or if the people deserve someone who is committed to upholding the State Water Code and the state constitution, and righting the wrongs of the past.

Mr. Balfour already had his turn on CWRM. If he is confirmed for another 4 years, he will be voting on matters as they come back to CWRM as ordered by the courts. It is inappropriate for him to serve on CWRM again.

This is a new time, and the paradigm is shifting towards a more just and sustainable water management regime in the islands.

Mr. Balfour represents the old way of exploiting water at the expense of native stream ecosystems, estuaries, and fisheries, and on the backs of Native Hawaiian practitioners and kalo farmers.

The old way perpetuates illegal stream diversions that were so cruel and complete, they are beyond belief, and which continue to this day. The old way is not the way forward.

Mr. Balfour is also a climate change denier, and will hinder efforts by CWRM to mitigate impacts to our water resources.

Senate Committee on Water and Land Members:

Chair Laura Thielen
Phone 808-587-8388
Fax 808-587-7240
District 25 Kailua, Lanikai, Enchanted Lake, Keolu Hills, Maunawili, Waimanalo, Hawai‘i Kai, Portlock

Vice Chair Brickwood Galuteria
Phone 808-586-6740
Fax 808-586-6829
District 12 Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka‘ako, McCully, Mo‘ili‘ili

Les Ihara, Jr.
Phone 808-586-6250
Fax 808-586-6251
District 10 Kaimuki, Kapahulu, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, St. Louis Heights, Mo‘ili‘ili, Ala Wai

Gil Riviere
Phone 808-586-7330
Fax 808-586-7334
District 23 Kane‘ohe , Ka‘a‘awa, Hau‘ula, La‘ie, Kahuku, Waialua, Hale‘iwa, Wahiawa, Schofield Barracks, Kunia

Russell Ruderman
Phone 808-586-6890
Fax 808-586-6899
District 2 Puna, Ka‘u

Maile Shimabukuro
Phone 808-586-7793
Fax 808-586-7797
District 21 Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Ko ‘Olina, Nanakuli, Ma‘ili, Wai‘anae, Makaha, Makua

Sam Slom
Phone 808-586-8420
Fax 808-586-8426
District 9 Hawai‘i Kai, Kuli‘ou‘ou, Niu, ‘Aina Haina, Wai‘alae-Kahala, Diamond Head

–Marjorie Ziegler

Bad News for Hawaii: California Rice Farmers May Sell Water Instead of Rice

‘Think the California drought is just going to affect the fruit and veggies you buy? You can probably also expect sharp price increases in that staple starch of many diets in Hawaii: rice.

NBC Nightly News tonight carried a story about a new dilemma that Northern California rice farmers are facing: whether to grow rice or to sell their water allotments to southern California.  The story noted that due to the years-long drought in the state, water prices are two and a half times normal, and the thirsty cities of Southern California are offering to buy water that the rice farmers in the northern half of the state would normally use to plant their thirsty crops.  Right now is the planting season there, so what farmers decide to do with their water in the next few days could well affect what price Hawaii consumers pay for their staple Calrose rice, which by some estimates accounts for about 90 percent of the rice sold here.

“In nearly all cases, farmers will be making a decision to sell a portion of their water in the face of reductions to their own farms of 25 to 50 percent. These are acres they won’t plant to rice or any other crop. Revenue on the farm this year will be off by the same amount,” wrote Tim Rice in his blog at the commission’s California Rice Web site.  “If the farmer decides to sell some of the remaining water, they have the opportunity to generate some additional revenue on the increased acres that will be fallowed. This will increase the total farm revenue over what would otherwise be the case in this fourth year of drought. ”

But Johnson noted that farmers would not be selling all of their water: ” Water sales are nearly always highly limited by the water district. Some allow only one field per farmer to be idled. Impacts on endangered species must also be considered. Considerations for giant garter snakes require that fields be fallowed in a path work so that the snakes can have access to the flooded rice fields where they hunt.”

According to the California Rice Commission’s statistics page, in normal years, rice farmers in the state plant 550,000 acres of rice–almost all of it in the Sacramento Valley–and produce nearly five billion pounds of rice per year.

Hawaii itself once produced a substantial rice crop. with around 10,000 acres in production during the late years of the Kingdom.  Unfortunately, much of that rice was produced in a swampy district of Oahu known as Waikiki.


–Alan McNarie

Letter: Shame on You, Clifton Tsuji

Dear Editor,

Shame on Rep. Clift Tsuji from Hawaii island for killing the bill for pesticide buffer zones around schools, HB1514. What kind of person won’t protect kids from pesticide poisoning?  And it’s reported that as House Ag committee chair, he even cut off testimony from people who flew from neighbor islands to testify. How low can a politician go?  Tsuji unfortunately has become a mascot for corporate special interests, even given the dubious distinction of Biotech legislator of the year.  He should now be given the “poison award” by school children throughout Hawaii.  As a former banker, now politician, Tsuji deserves to be publicly shamed and exposed as a legislator that acts against the common good, including children’s health and safety.

Jim Albertini

Ige Nominates Monsanto Grower to State House Seat, Young Bros. Head to Ag Post

Governor David Ige, already under fire for choosing Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources,  has made two more controversial appointments. The day after State Representative Mele Carroll (East Maui, Molokai, Lanai) passed away from cancer, Ige has nominated Maui rancher and farmer Lynn DeCoite to take her place. DeCoite owns L&R Farm Enterprises and R.J.’s Snacks and co-owns the V-8 Ranch on Molokai; she’s served as chair of the Farm Service Agency (Maui County) and president of the Molokai Homestead Farmer’s Alliance, and is a former board member of the Molokai Planning Commission.

“I’m confident Ms. DeCoite knows the issues facing the district and will listen to her constituents to address their concerns…She has deep roots in the community and is committed to overcoming the challenges by forming partnerships and working collaboratively,” Ige said in his press release about the nomination.

Carroll had resigned her House seat on February 1 due to her worsening medical condition.  DeCoite was one of three names suggested to the governor by a Democratic Party committee to fill the vacant seat.

But the nomination has already drawn fire from the anti-GMO organization Babes Against Biotech.

“We have been aware for some time that L&R Farms, owned by Mrs. Decoite, is under contract with Monsanto to grow seed corn. Lynn herself confirmed this to our Maui Chapter Coordinator over an extensive phone conversation in March of last year; it is not something she is ashamed to admit,” pointed out a statement from Babes Against Biotech, which called her nomination “another political powder keg. This nomination would create an even larger firestorm of public criticism and discontent, than his highly contentious nomination of Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.”

Also yesterday, the Molokai News reported that Ige had nominated Glenn Hong, president of Hawaiian Tug & Barge Corp. and Young Brothers Ltd., to the state’s Board of Agriculture.  A fair percentage of the cargo that Hong’s companies haul consists of meat, eggs and produce imported from California, Chile and elsewhere.

More Bills to Watch: Coffee Borers, Solar power, Lava Insurance, Videoconferencing, Pesticides, “Right to Farm”

Rep. Nicole Lowen (D-Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokahau(  has introduced the following:

HB 482 (SB598): Related to Agriculture: would provide state subsidies for coffee farmers attempting to control invasive coffee borers with pesticides.

HB484    Related to Energy. Creates a “community-based energy tariff” system to facilitate solar

HB786 Relating to Videoconferencing:  Requires both chambers of the legislature to implement rules to permit residents to present testimony through audiovisual technology.

Some other measures people may be interested in:

HB849  Related to Agriculture. Establishes disclosure requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in proximity to schools, childcare facilities, and certain commercial agricultural entities. Establishes reasonable pesticide buffer zones for sensitive areas. Establishes penalties.  Prohibits counties from passing “laws, ordinances, or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in agricultural practices.”  Among the bill’s introducers: Clift Tsuji  (Keaukaha, Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea) Richard Onishi (D-Hilo, Kea’au, Kurtistown, Volcano), Mark Nakashima  (D: Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo) and Cindy Evans (D: North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) NOTE: Hearing coming up before the House Agriculture Committee tomorrow, Thursday Feb. 5

HB1514  Related to Environmental Protection. Establishes disclosure requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in proximity to schools, childcare facilities, and certain commercial agricultural entities. Establishes reasonable pesticide buffer zones for sensitive areas. Establishes penalties. NOTE: Hearing coming up before the House Energy and Environmental Protection  Committee this Thursday Feb. 5 Committee tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 5

HB380:  Related to the Hawaii Property Insurance Association. Breaks the HPIA’s moratorium on re-insuring properties in the lava zone.  Sponsors include the entire Big Island House delegation. NOTE: scheduled for hearing at House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee TODAY AT 2:45 p.m.

Go to the attached links to track the bills and/or submit testimony.



Judy Wicks to Speak at Local Economies Festival in Hilo

wicks 1

Judy Wicks

by Malian Lahey

Internationally known author/entrepreneur/social justice advocate Judy Wicks will be the featured speaker Local Economies Festival, at Shark’s Café on Keawe St. on January 31. The festival which is designed to shine a light on our economic behavior and how we can use it to protect our communities from corporate exploitation, will feature other speakers as well as live music by the Equals and local products direct from their producers. The event lasts from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Wicks scheduled to speak for an hour starting at 1 p.m.
In her book, Good Morning Beautiful Business, Wicks describes how, in the early 80’s, she was running a restaurant and working to save an enchanting historic area of Philadelphia from being razed to the ground to build a mall.
That’s when she met an Episcopal priest named David Funkhouser who was on his way to Washington, D.C. with a group of Salvadoreans with the intention of protesting U.S. government support for government death squads who pushed indigenous people off of their farmland to make way for U.S. corporate development.
Her word for the connection she felt with the Salvadoreans is “solidarity.”
In 1987, when the Reagan administration was deep into the Iran-Contra scandal, Wicks was running her own restaurant, the White Dog Café, creating her own signature style of New American cuisine, and enjoying great success building a local food economy based on ethical farming and ethical treatment of animals. In this time of achieving her goals, she reconnected to a deeper dream of creating true peace and justice in the world.
She contacted Funkhouser again and asked him to help her start “sister restaurant” relationships with restaurants in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Wanting to witness the truth about what was going on as President Reagan inundated Americans with the message that the Sandinistas who resisted the Contras were dangerous communists, Wicks found that the sister restaurants, including one called Selva Negra, were privately owned and unmolested by Sandinistas.
Her sense of justice inflamed by the absolute misinformation being spread in the USA by the government and mainstream media, Wicks made the White Dog Café a hotbed of intellectual exchange on social justice issues by inviting luminaries like Amy Goodman, Frances Moore Lapp?, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and Dan Imhoff to “Table Talks” with her customers.
A few years after that, she was invited to join the Social Venture Network by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s. All this gave her the courage to do what she did next.
In 1994, when the Clinton administration approved NAFTA, the Zapatista uprising began in Chiapas, Mexico. This is because NAFTA forced Mexico to repeal Article 27 of its constitution, which protected indigenous lands that US corporations wanted to exploit for their resources.
In 1995, the White Dog started a sister relationship with Casa del Pan in Chiapas. In November of 1997, Wicks accompanied Roy Bourgeois, the founder of School of Americas watch, to the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the torture, rape and massacres being perpetrated by SOA alumnae throughout Central America.
Says Wicks, “I went to the School of the Americas to protest the human rights violations. I had good company and I met a lot of really god people in the stockade. It was something we had planned for months. There was a whole scenario where some groups carried the coffins and someone carried a single sign of someone who had been killed, and when their name was called, the person carrying their sign answered ‘Presente.’ It was one of the highlights of my life. The soldiers were nice. They came and arrested us. There were hundreds of us; it might have even been a thousand. They took us to a stockade they had built outside of Fort Benning. We were given a citation and told that we were not allowed to be on the property.”
However, the U.S. government still continued to supply weapons and training to forces oppressing indigenous Maya people, and in December 2007, Wicks received an urgent email from Kippy Nigh, owner of Casa Del Pan, begging Judy to help find a way to stop the US government from sending guns to the Mexican army before it was too late.
Unfortunately, it was already too late. Colorado coffee importer Kerry Appel made his third annual coffee buying trip to Acteal, in the state of Chiapas, only to find that the paramilitary group Mascara Roja had stolen all of the coffee stores and murdered forty-five Mayans from the coffee growing community inside of a chapel where they had gathered to pray for peace. This event later came to be known as the Acteal Massacre.
Wicks responded by organizing Businesses for Ethical Trade and Human Rights in Chiapas (BETHRIC). She recruited her coffee roaster and supplier Myron Simmons of New Harmony in Philadelphia, Rick Stewart, founder and CEO of Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Kerry Appel of Human Bean in Colorado, Dan Cox of Coffee Enterprises in Vermont, Rick Peyser of Green Mountain and Jason Rosenthal of Equal Exchange to organize a trip to Chiapas.
After a fact-finding tour where they witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by government brutality in these villages, Wicks and the other BETHRIC representatives held a press conference in Mexico City. “We have come here in defense of the indigenous people with whom we trade, but we also come here to protect an economic system we believe in. We share the indigenous respect for the natural environment and promote the use of organic farming methods critical to the health and well being of consumers and future generations. Like many indigenous communities, we believe in an international economy based on healthy local economies, buying from family farms and neighborhood businesses.”
1997 was also the year in which the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International was created, supported by the efforts of Appel. For commodities, the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International stipulates that traders must:
• Pay producers a price that covers the costs of sustainable production.
• Pay a premium that producers can invest in development.
• Make partial advance payments to prevent producers from falling into debt.
• Sign contracts that allow for long-term planning and sustainable production practices.

“I saw how the indigenous farmers were being driven off the land by policies and development and corporatism and that was a real turning point in my life, those were real turning points in my life and helped to shape my worldview,” Wicks says.
Seven months later, she returned to Chiapas with BETHRIC colleagues to establish a trade relationship with the Mut Vitz (Hill of Birds, in the Mayan language) Cooperative. Kerry Appel lined up buyers for an entire container of coffee from Mut Vitz, which eventually expanded into 15 containers over the years.
“Singing Dog worked with us to get their vanilla and fair trade cinnamon,” Wicks recalls. “Rick Stewart from Frontier Natural Coop provided technical assistance to the farmers about how to get organic certification and how to grow the coffee better.
Equal Echange provided assistance to them in organic certification.”
Wicks’ fair trade boutique in Philadelphia, the Black Cat, carried handicrafts and textiles among other products produced by indigenous communities in Chiapas.
Wicks writes in her Good Morning Beautiful Business, “With business as my vehicle, I had set out to bring some assistance to a beleaguered community with whom I felt a kinship in our mutual desire to build a just and sustainable world, and, working with like-minded partners, had succeeded…I began to envision an alternative to the corporate-based global economy – an economic system that was locally self-reliant in basic needs and interconnected globaly by an intricate network of small-scale business relationships that were win-win and supportive, rather than exploitative of the local communities where products originated. I saw a way out of the current form of globalization and the ruin it brought.”
Inspired by the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, and the sale of Ben & Jerry’s to Unilever, Wicks founded the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.
“We need to learn from indigenous people that they have a better relationship to the natural environment,” she stated. “At BALLE conferences they make a point of acknowledging the indigenous people of that particular place where they’re meeting. They speak and say something about their place and add their blessing to this work that fosters a place based economy that is in harmony with nature”.
Wicks continues to be a force shaping the conversation around business, investment, and local economies today, with appearances at the Social Capital Markets Conference and Slow Money in 2014.
In her Good Morning Beautiful Business, she writes, “We’re out to create a global system of human-scale, interconnected, local living economies that provide basic needs to all the world’s people. Yes, we want them to function in harmony with local ecosystems and support just and democratic societies. But we also want the people in them to have joy in their lives. To put it simply, we believe in happiness.”
Happiness is a value that Wicks lives out every day. Asked about at her ability to bounce back from any obstacle that life threw her way, she replied, “It wasn’t a conscious decision. I think it’s just my personality. We’re given this great opportunity to be on this planet.
If you didn’t enjoy the party, it would be a great disappointment to the creator. There’s a way of looking at it that all of this great beauty is meant for us to enjoy, to love life.” .
The Local Economies Festival is sponsored by Ka`u Specialty LLC, Hilo Shark’s Coffee, Petrogylph Press, and Basically Books.

Malian Lahey is a farmer and coffee broker selling 100% Ka`u coffee to Starbucks and others. Her social impact enterprise, Ka`u Specialty, is dedicated to the triple bottom line of planet, people, and profit

Hawaii News: Task Force to Hold Hearings on Land Use Planning


The Hawaii State Land Use Review Task Force is preparing to hold a series of meetings throughout the state to gather public input on the state’s land use regulations and process. The Hawaii County meetings will be held, Tuesday, December 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the county’s Aupuni Center Conference Room in Hilo and Wednesday, December 3, from 6 to 8 p.m at the Kona Natural Energy Lab Conference Room.“These meetings may be of particular interest to land owners, developers, farmers, conservation groups, planners and others who have had or will have experience with State land use, district boundary amendments, and special permit matters,” notes the Hawaii Office of Planning’s Web site.But some conservationists worry that the hearings may be the beginning of another attempt to abolish or defang the state’s Land Use Commission. Public testimony and contested case hearings before the Commission have played key roles in stopping development projects at O‘oma, Pohue Bay, Keopuka and other areas on this island.
“I hear this ‘review’ of land use laws is supposed to happen every 5 years but hasn’t happened in decades – some people think this is yet another attempt to do away with the Land Use Commission/LUC – which would be a bad deal if you have a bad council and county administration,” noted Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney David Kimo Frankel, in a widely-circulated e-mail.
Conservation groups are heavily outvoted on the Commission, and Native Hawaiians are represented only by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs member; farmers are represented only by Farm Bureau. Consumer groups, homeowners, community associations and organic farmers have no representatives on the task force, which consists of representatives from twelve state and county agencies, the State Senate and House of Representatives, the Waikiki Improvement Association, Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, the Hawaii Chapters of the American Planning Association and the American Institution of Architects, the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, The Hawaii Sierra Club, the Outdoor Circle, OHA, and the Land Use Research Foundation, or LURF, which represents 21 large landowning and development corporations.
Among the things that Frankel says the Task Force is “pushing” are the conversion of the LUC from “quasi-judicial” to “quasi-legislative”–which could eliminate contested case hearings; the conversion of “non-productive” ag lands to easier-to-develop “rural” or “urban” categories, and the idea that the LUC may not be needed at all.


New Program Will Foster New Farmers

Press release from Kohala Center:

KAMUELA, Hawai‘i—November 3, 2014—A program aimed at beginning farmers and ranchers on Hawai‘i Island is seeking applicants for an upcoming classroom and on-farm mentorship initiative beginning in November.

The Kohala Center’s Beginning Farmer-Rancher Mentorship Program is accepting applications from prospective students for its first cohort. The re-vamped program consists of ten full-day classroom and hands-on sessions held one Saturday per month in Honoka‘a, and 160 hours of on-farm mentorship with a successful farmer or rancher. More information and application materials are available online at or by calling The Kohala Center at (808) 887-6411. The deadline to apply is Friday, November 14.

Although no previous farming or ranching experience is required, program applicants must meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) definition of a socially disadvantaged group or a socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher or be a United States military veteran in order to apply. Prospective applicants who have questions about their eligibility are encouraged to contact The Kohala Center. The course covers a wide range of critical subject areas such as soil management, irrigation, composting, cover cropping, and pest management, as well as the “business” side of farming—marketing, accounting, budgeting, and record-keeping. Students who successfully complete the course and create viable farm and business plans will be eligible for additional support services from The Kohala Center, including access to leasable farmland, technical assistance in agricultural businesses development, and guidance through additional support programs administered by the USDA.

The Beginning Farmer-Rancher Mentorship Program represents a unique partnership between The Kohala Center, local government agencies, academic institutions, and leading agricultural professionals. The program is funded primarily by an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture that supports outreach and assistance for farmers and ranchers who are socially disadvantaged and/or U.S. veterans.

The USDA estimates that 50 percent of farmers in the United States will retire in the next decade. Since 2012, the agency has awarded $37.2 million in grants to farmer training programs across the country in an effort to enlist and support new farmers and ranchers. “The average age of our farmers is increasing, while the number of farms locally and nationally is declining,” said Nicole Milne, associate vice president for programs at The Kohala Center. “Meanwhile, Hawai‘i imports nearly 90 percent of its food. This program seeks to train new farmers and ranchers—particularly those who may have societal or economic barriers to entering agricultural careers—and move Hawai‘i toward greater food self-reliance and security. By increasing the volume of food grown and produced locally, we can decrease our dependence on imports, create jobs, and diversify Hawai‘i’s rural economy.”

Lava News: Help for Horses

If you have to move but can’t take your horse, call Bird McIver at 987-9064.  Bird runs a nonprofit called CB Horse Rescue, which has been helping island horses and donkeys for years. ” We rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome horses in need,” she says.  “Hopefully people will call before the situation gets to the starvation point.”

If anyone else has room for animal evacuees, let us know and we’ll post a notice here at BIC.

Commentary– Constitutional Amendments Would Fund Private Agriculture

Ed. note: The following piece is reproduced, with permission, from the blog of State Sen. Laura Thielen (D., Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawaii-Kai).

Your General Election ballot will include several proposed constitutional amendments. Two proposals relate to agriculture. They both deal with Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (SPRBs).

There might be four words that are more boring than “Special Purpose Revenue Bonds,” but you’d be hard pressed to find them.

I’m voting for one of these amendments, and against another. But first let me quickly explain what a SPRB is:

In a nutshell, our State Constitution lists specific public purposes that are so important that the state authorizes private businesses to issue bonds as a way to raise capital. The banks work with the businesses to issue the SPRBs, investors buy the bonds, and the businesses pay back the bondholders (but see below for more info). These SPRBs allow businesses to borrow money at lower-than-market-rates – so long as the business uses the funds for the specific purpose listed in the State Constitution.

The first amendment would allow owners of dams or reservoirs to issue SPRBs to upgrade, repair and maintain reservoirs and dams. I support this amendment.

Many of our reservoirs feed water into irrigation systems used for agriculture. These systems were built and operated by plantations. We no longer have big agricultural businesses that can afford to maintain them. Many dams and reservoirs are located on private land. We can’t afford to let them fall into disrepair (remember Kaloko?), and if they are decommissioned, it will devastate a lot of small and mid-sized farms which rely on this water.

I think reservoirs and dams serve a broader public purpose (often the water flows to farms on land not owned by the owner of the reservoir).  Agricultural water rates have to be low enough for farmers to use them, so the reservoir owner will never make a profit on the system.  I’m voting “yes” on this amendment so we can keep these water systems working, and keep people below them safe from any breach.

The second amendment would allow businesses on any kind of agricultural land access to SPRBs to build any agricultural enterprise. I don’t support this amendment.

Several years ago we amended the Constitution to allow landowners who voluntarily designate their land as Important Agricultural Land (IAL) to issue SPRBs. The IAL designation provides some guarantee that the land will remain in agricultural zoning, and not be developed for other purposes. Authorizing SPRBs for IAL was an incentive to get the large agricultural landowners to commit to keeping land in agriculture and putting fallow land into production.  We have way too much privately held agricultural land that is fallow because it’s essentially being “banked” for future development.

I don’t see why we would approve SPRBs for agricultural landowners who are not willing to put their land into IAL. If anything, that eliminates any incentive for them to commit to agriculture over the long term.  I don’t want to see landowners putting in improvements that later serve a different purpose when the land is developed.  Therefore I am voting “no” on this amendment.

Here’s the actual language for the two amendments that you’ll see on your ballot.

CON AMEND: Relating to Dams and Reservoirs

Shall the State be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to offer loans to qualifying dam and reservoir owners to improve their facilities to protect public safety and provide significant benefits to the general public as important water sources?

CON AMEND: Relating to Agricultural Enterprises

Shall the State be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to assist agricultural enterprises on any type of land, rather than only important agricultural lands?


What happens if I leave the question blank on my ballot?

A “yes” vote counts as a “yes”; a “no” vote counts as a “no”; and a blank vote counts as a “no.”

What happens if the business defaults on repaying the bonds? Is the state on the hook?

I have been trying to find out what happens if the business defaults. So far I haven’t got a definitive answer. I believe the investor in the bond takes the risk that the business will be able to repay; and the bond issuer evaluates that risk in rating the bonds. But I am not 100% certain that the state is not on the hook at all.

AMENDMENT:  Someone brought to my attention an FAQ posted by the Department of Budget and Finance on SPRBs.  According to that FAQ, the State is not on the hook in the event the private business defaults on the bonds.  You can access the DB&F FAQ here.

Do these bonds affect the State’s bond rating?

The state issues a limited dollar amount of bonds in any given year. We use a “ceiling” on the amount of bonds to protect our bond rating (a higher rating means we pay less interest on the borrowed money). The SPRBs are counted in that total ceiling. So the more SPRBs issued may mean there are fewer bonds issued for state capital improvement projects.

For a list of all the Constitutional Amendments proposals that will be on the General Election ballot, click here.