Kona’s coffee farmers recognize and very much appreciate the unanimous adoption last fall of County Council Resolution No. 223-21 asking the Legislature to change the 10% coffee blend labeling law to a minimum of 51%. As farmer efforts for coffee labeling reform continue, what do you believe the County Council can do by way of additional support?
The Hawaii County Council can and should work towards anticipated steps in future legislative actions, by developing pro-active positions and sharing them with our legislators. By working with farmer-focused groups, we can put in place next step actions which would mean that no delays would happen after the current "study" is complete. Also, by working in collaboration with the other groups regarding coffee blending across the state, we can request that no delay is permitted in carrying out what is required. Finally, as a second generation small-scale farmer, my thought is to bring that perspective to the table with the County Council and have them recognize that the County Council needs to provide better outreach to farmers in terms of them feeling listened to and represented; I think that the County Council can listen more and better to farmer needs and concerns and priorities.
Hawaii County is the preeminent agricultural county in the state, but the County does not have a separate County Department of Agriculture. Will you pledge to work for creating such a department to support farmers—and, in particular, to support farmer efforts to combat recently introduced invasive pests like Coffee Berry Borer, Coffee Leaf Rust, and Avocado Lace Bug?
For the sake of support, involvement and encouragement, my first steps in this regard would be to work with Maui County regarding their experience and advice on what has worked and what has not in terms of establishment of their County DOA. Since Hawaii is home to the majority of farms in the state, it can and should already have much more HDOA presence than it does, and though that is separate, it can and should be considered when planning for a Hawaii County DOA. How would the Hawaii County DOA and the HDOA work together would be a necessary foundation point to move ahead effectively. Further, who would UH (including CTAHR) consult in terms of the DOA is important, as would be how Hawaii legislators would seek and respond to input and calls to action. With all of these pieces in mind, I truly believe that establishment of such a program makes sense and it should be created in a way which ensures that invasive pests are dealt with before the fact (through avoidance) and agriculture is best protected by the County first, then by the State. Farmers need as much support as possible and a well formed Hawaii County DOA could and should listen first to the farmers, and work on issues that they prioritize.
Because of COVID, the Legislature set up a system for testimony to committee hearings via Zoom. For neighbor island residents, this system for live virtual testimony (like what the Hawaii County Council and the Alaska Legislature has had in place for years) allowed Hawaii County residents to give testimony in 2021 and 2022 without the expense or loss of a day resulting from travel to Honolulu. Will you introduce and support a resolution asking the Legislature to enact a law making the system for live virtual testimony permanent?
As a County Council Representative, it would be my pleasure to take a lead on the outer island resident testimony policy in both the House and the Senate. Further, I will seek to consult with our legislators and aim to establish this as a policy which does not have to be re-visited as technology changes from one server (such as Zoom) to another one over time. Work would also include requesting that our Mayor consult with the Mayors of the other Counties which are similar to seek a unified voice on this topic.
Please close by telling us a bit more about yourself and your commitment to agriculture. Mahalo!
Hawaii County has the majority of Hawaii state farms and we can and should be sure that agriculture is on the top of the list for decision making. I a certified organic diversified, small-scale farmer. I have worked with the USDA to provide advice (for five full years) regarding organic policies and decisions (as a member of the National Organic Standards Board). It is clear to me that voices who remain quiet are not listened to, and I seek to ensure that there are ways for farmers to be heard even if they cannot play such public roles as myself. My desire is to truly represent my constituents and listen to concerns and priorities and put those on the table at the County level. Remember that Hawaii was a net produce exporter, prior to the present chemical-focused agricultural systems. Hawaii can and should be able to produce what we need (on this island) to feed ourselves, together (as farmers and distributors and consumers) we can do so again. Lets' put the policies and infrastructure in place to ensure that we are all working together, eat well and all of our critical needs (such as housing, community health care, eduction, and roads/public transportation) are met. Please share with me your needs and concerns and I will aim to prioritize them in my newly elected role.