Support Farming via Evidence-Based Policies, Rules

Star Advertiser: Editorial

May 1, 2018

By: Randy Cabral (Hawaii Farm Bureau President)


Hawaii’s farmers have one of the riskiest and most difficult professions, but also one of the most rewarding. They make up less than 2 percent of our workforce but they provide healthy fruits and vegetables, fish, beef, eggs, beautiful flowers and an infinite number of other products for our communities, and the world. Farmers work hard because they care about their families, their neighbors, and especially the keiki, who represent our future.

Over the past several years, farmers’ use of pesticides has been targeted. But the data is clear — it shows that none of the pesticide-related incidents at schools in Hawaii was caused by the farms targeted in this bill. The real threat to children from pesticides comes from mishaps in the home. More than a dozen studies have examined pesticides in air and water samples across the islands, and they show no indication that Hawaii’s farms are posing any risk to health or the environment.

Targeting Hawaii’s farms for new pesticide regulations, while ignoring all the evidence will make it harder for local farmers to continue farming.

You might be surprised to know that farmers in Hawaii are not the big users of restricted use pesticides; not by far. The vast majority of these pesticides are used by government agencies and ultimately by people like you and me, to protect our drinking water, our homes, our offices, our property and public health from dangerous and destructive insects and pathogens.

We understand that there are questions about pesticides, and we appreciate our elected leaders for being responsive and working to address those concerns. Given the facts, however, it would be far more appropriate to focus on pesticide use that has actually caused problems. Any new regulation or policy decision should be firmly grounded in sound science and evidence. To quote Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.”

Rather than focus negatively on agriculture, let’s have a conversation about working together when concerns arise about farming practices. Proponents of Senate Bill 3095 have claimed that this bill affects “only” 45 farms in Hawaii. Ironically, the bill targets the local farms that produce most of our food. Hawaii has already lost thousands of acres of productive farms and many other farmers are currently struggling to stay afloat. Do we want to lose more farms because of unjustified new regulations?

Farmers must overcome constant challenges, especially in Hawaii. As we try to speak for them at the Legislature, some of our Kauai members are putting aside their despair and doing the back-breaking work of cleaning up their devastated taro farms, their orchards and their fields. They have no other option. And it’s not just the extreme weather.

The high cost of doing business, expensive land, water and electricity, difficulty in finding farm workers, constant pressure from pests and diseases, fierce global competition, and increasingly stringent regulations, make farming unattractive to over 98 percent of us.

An unjustified attack on Hawaii’s farmers hurts each of us. Agriculture is a community of cattle ranchers, seed producers, organic farms, large farms, and 2-acre mom and pop farms working together to provide food and sustenance for our islands.

Visiting farmers markets, the Hawaii State Farm Fair, Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair, Maui County Ag Fest, rodeos, chocolate and coffee festivals, and lei day celebrations, you see how agriculture is a beloved part of our island lifestyle. Farming is not the enemy.

We ask our leaders across the state, and the public, to please focus on supporting laws and policies that support and strengthen farming in Hawaii.

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