Categorized | Agriculture

Hoffmann on agricultural self-sufficiency

The following statement was issued by Waimea Councilman Pete Hoffmann:

The primary elections are behind us, and while not everyone is free from the prospects of sign-waving, fund-raising and candidate forums, some of us are free to focus fully on other items that have direct impact on the taxpayers. In that context, I think it’s time to focus a spotlight on agriculture in general and our County’s initiatives in particular.

After all, I’ve heard that a few of us really think agricultural self-sufficiency is not simply an election ‘buzzword’.

As another Council term begins in December, perhaps together we can energize some agricultural initiatives and make effective progress in the near term. If we are committed to this topic, more action is definitely required by the administration and Council. Progress to date has been ‘glacial’ when it should be aggressive.

Forward movement has been isolated when it could be better coordinated. Improvements have been talked about when they should be implemented. The following lists a number of so-called initiatives for consideration, and although they probably can’t be consolidated as an agricultural cure-all, each represents an ingredient of the solution that the County can build on towards the goal of self-sufficiency.

I list these proposals in no particular order, recognizing that many can be accomplished simultaneously:

* Resolve the Important Agriculture Land issue that has been pending for 30 + years. If it requires some resources, find those and get it done.

* Expand the amount of land under local farm production. Guarantee farmers a wider market for their products by participating local programs, for example the Senior Produce Program on a year-round basis and a much broader farm-to-school effort.

* Provide reasonable incentives to farmers who do put more land in production.

* Pass the County Agricultural Plan which was drafted 11 months ago.

* Have the County invest in a few trained individuals to assist and direct these efforts. One individual, no matter how experienced, is simply inadequate.

* The Mayors collectively did a good job earlier this year in lobbying to retain the County’s share of the Transient Accommodation Tax. The Mayors now must lobby the PUC to adjust farm energy rates so that the cost of irrigation and other expenses can be reduced dramatically.

* Develop the Agricultural Processing Facility concept island-wide (a pilot program for North Kohala was passed in Council several months ago).

* Seek a significant increase in the number of applications for federal grants under the Farm Aid Bill and Rural Development programs.

The list is not exhaustive by any means, but if some progress were made on each, the agricultural environment on this island would be impacted dramatically.

Despite the current lack of coordination on many items, I continue to remain optimistic that a different attitude will prevail, one that addresses issues such as these with the best interests of the people in mind, rather than mere political agendas.

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