20,000 signatures: Farmland Initiative Reaches it Goal! Plus Maui News articles.
Successful Final Turn in of Signatures for Community Organic Farmland Initiative
The Community Organic Farmland Initiative has reached its goal with a total of almost 20,000 people signing the initiative petitions. To be exact, 11,339 signatures on 1st turn in on April 18th plus 8439 signatures on the 2nd turn in on June 1st make a grand total of 19,838 people signing the initiative.
On Wednesday, June 1st, the Farmland Initiative had its 2nd and final signature turn in event with 8439 supplemental signatures given to the County Clerk. That is double the minimum number of supplemental signatures required (4193).
We have reached our goal. We can now say with 90% certainty that we will be on the November ballot. The County Clerk will release the final signature count on June 10th.
On April 18th, the Farmland Initiative had its 1st signature turn in with 11,339 signatures submitted. Then 45 days later, on May 31st, the Maui County Clerk’s Certificate of Results declared 5008 of these signatures to be valid. The Clerk stated that 4193 valid supplemental signatures would be required to meet the required 9201 valid signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot.
It is expected that the 2nd signature turn in will have a much higher valid signature ratio then the 1st turn in. Our petitioners have learned how to be more accurate in collecting only valid signatures of Maui registered voters.
We want to mahalo all of the hundreds of petitioners, volunteers and support teams for making this a reality. The Aina thanks you, and our future generations will thank you. This is a monumental accomplishment beyond our wildest imagination.
We now prepare for the public hearings on the Initiative at the County Council in July or August, and the election campaign for the November election.
The Community Organic Farmland Initiative seeks to create a legal mechanism where Maui voters can convert the former sugarcane lands from private to public ownership to create the world’s largest community-owned organic agricultural park. These Community Farmlands would be dedicated to growing healthy food to feed Maui that will provide abundant jobs and a thriving local economy. These lands can be purchased with Revenue Bonds, funded by private investors that do not divert or risk public funds, and are repaid from revenues generated by the land itself, not from County funds.
KAHULUI – Organizers of the Maui Community Organic Farmland Initiative are laying out their vision for Maui’s post-sugarcane future, one in which a network of farmers turns Central Maui into a self-sustaining organic farming operation.
At a town hall meeting in Kahului Monday night, the group behind the initiative to convert former sugarcane fields into organic farms said that the land could produce enough food to support Maui’s resident population.
“The basic problem is that the Hawaii islands import 90 percent of what we eat, and we export 80 percent of what was grown here,” said Community Farmland Council spokesman Bruce Douglas, echoing state-reported statistics. “That’s a gross problem that didn’t used to be here . . . and must be corrected.”
Douglas and others are working to drum up support for a voter initiative that aims to have Maui County acquire agricultural lands from the largest landholders (1,000 acres or more) at fair market value, using the power of eminent domain. These lands would be turned into public agricultural parks “that exclusively use organic and regenerative agricultural practices,” according to the initiative website.
The group proposes purchasing the land using special purpose revenue bonds, which are funded by private investors, according to the state Budget and Finance Department.
Mike Zelko, farm director of Kula-based SEE Organic Research and Development Farm, said Monday that the plan could lead to complete self-sustainability on Maui. He estimated that Maui would need around 25,000 acres and 50 billion gallons of water a year to produce enough vegetables, fruits, starch, dairy and meat for 200,000 people. East Maui alone produces enough water to “put water back in our streams and feed our crops,” he said.
Organic crops, coupled with biofuel production and value-added products like homemade jams and ketchups, could cut down the costs of importing food, Zelko said. He envisioned a farming cooperative that could potentially produce 4,500 full-time, living-wage jobs.
“When people go, ‘Well, what are you going to do with all that land?’ . . . We’re going to grow food for you,” Zelko said.
Gathering the necessary farmers would be a challenge, Zelko acknowledged. However, Douglas said that improvements in the central valley, including soil remediation and improved infrastructure, could attract the farmers needed to achieve the initiative’s goals.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said. “It’ll be a chunk at a time, but in 20 years we could have that in full production.”
Agricultural experts said they supported increased local agriculture but that total self-sustainability would be difficult to achieve.
Linda Cox, community economic development specialist at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, pointed out that food production is not the most highly valued agricultural industry in terms of market prices.
“Locally produced food is much more expensive than imported food, if one looks at retail prices,” said Cox, who did not take sides on the initiative. “So, it is not certain that just because land and water is available that food can be produced profitably.”
“I am not saying more local food production is not possible at all,” Cox added. “It will involve many tradeoffs, and some people may not be willing to make these tradeoffs. Will everyone on Maui, for example, be willing to buy the starch, vegetables and fruit that will be produced?”
Any plans for agricultural self-sustainability would have to “backed up by a significant amount of vetting,” said James Leary, assistant researcher at college’s Maui Agricultural Research Center. He also did not take a position on the initiative, but added that with the end of sugar on the horizon, “now is a good time to come up with creative ideas” for the island’s future.
Dr. Lorrin Pang, state Department of Health Maui County District health officer, said Monday night that the creativity of small farmers would be the key to agricultural success in Central Maui. Pang is a backyard farmer who has experimented with everything from mangos to mountain apples.
“If I had to make my living from this, I wouldn’t fuss around,” said Pang, who supports the initiative as a private citizen. “But because I don’t, I have the luxury to fuss around. The backyard guys will bring to the central valley all the stuff we learned by fussing around.”
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. General Manager Rick Volner said in March that the company would “need to review the actual language of the initiative proposal before providing comments.”
“However, our vision for our diversified agricultural model is to redeploy the land into multiple productive agricultural uses, and we share the Community Farmland Council’s goals of providing jobs, healthy food and increasing food self-sufficiency for Maui,” Volner said.
The initiative needs around 6,000 more signatures by June 1 to get on the November ballot, Douglas said. The group submitted 11,500 signatures to the county last month but is trying to collect more to make up for any invalid signatures.
The group also had a town hall in Makawao Tuesday night and has scheduled a final one for Hana at 6:30 p.m.Friday at Helene Hall.
Backers of voter initiative step up efforts as deadline nears
About 11,500 signatures gathered in effort to get proposal on ballot
May 15, 2016
The Maui News
A group spearheading a voter initiative for legislation to take over sugar cane lands and turn them into organic farms has gathered around 11,500 signatures and turned them into the Maui County Clerk’s Office for verification, Community Farmland Council spokesman Bruce Douglas said Saturday.
The group submitted the signatures April 18, with the amount gathered amounting to about 2,300 more than the 9,202 needed to qualify the initiative for the Nov. 8 general election ballot, Douglas said.
However, assuming a signature rejection rate of at least 50 percent, the group is working to gather another 10,000 signatures from voters by June 1, he added.
A total of 20,000 signatures would provide a “good buffer” to meet the required amount to get the initiative on the ballot, he said.
County clerk officials have 45 days to verify the signatures submitted last month, Douglas said.
To publicize the campaign, gather more signatures and recruit more petition workers, the group has scheduled three town hall meetings this week, all beginning at 6:30 p.m. Those are set for Monday at the Kahului Community Center, Tuesday at the Mayor Eddie Tam Memorial Center in Makawao and Friday at Helene Hall in Hana.
The group also is circulating a second petition calling for district voting.
Drafted by attorney Lance Collins, the farmland initiative proposes a law to establish a mechanism for county residents to petition the Maui County Council to convert Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands into public agricultural parks that exclusively use organic and regenerative agricultural practices, according to the group.
The citizens group has some of the same supporters as the 2014 voter campaign to pass Maui County’s first successful initiative, which called for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms. That ordinance was later voided by a federal judge, although that action remains under appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
If the group gathers enough verified signatures to get the proposed farmland ordinance on the ballot, then the question for voters will be written by the county clerk and corporation counsel, Douglas said.
Voters being asked to sign petitions may review copies of the proposed ordinance, he said.
The group proposes using special purpose revenue bonds for sugar cane lands to be purchased by the community through eminent domain at fair market value, “costing the government and people nothing.”
Creating publicly owned community organic farmland “will create more jobs and a thriving local economy,” according to the group.
“These lands will be dedicated to diversified regenerative agriculture to protect the aina, feed the people of Maui and Hawaii, and achieve food security.”
The group says it wants to avoid urban development of farmland and stop chemical drift and runoff from agricultural operations.
“We are losing our farmland at an alarming rate,” according to the group. “Thousands of acres of sugar cane land are already slated for development.”
The group’s effort comes in the wake of Alexander & Baldwin’s announcement in January that it would close the HC&S plantation by the end of this year.
The closure leaves all but 15 of the plantation’s 675 employees without jobs by the end of this year.
A&B has said it wants its 36,000 acres on Maui to be used for diversified agriculture, cattle grazing and biofuel crops.
Field burning, pesticide use controls included, anti-burning group says
May 18, 2016
The Maui News
A&B released a statement Tuesday afternoon. It said: “We are satisfied with the settlement reached with Stop Cane Burning Maui. While the lawsuit was meritless and the plaintiffs’ post-settlement claims are inaccurate, concluding these legal proceedings allows HC&S to focus on completing our final harvest and on our employees, who remain our highest priority. Throughout 2016, we will continue to work actively with DOH to adhere to the state’s burn procedures, which we implement field by field, to minimize the impact to our community.”
According to Stop Cane Burning, the settlement agreement includes the following limitations on HC&S’ cane burning:
* No cane planted on leased public lands or old government roads will be burned after June 30. The restriction applies to about 20 percent of the cane lands currently permitted for burning, the anti-cane-burning group says.
* Any other permitted cane burning activities must happen by Dec. 25. No cane burning will be allowed after then.
* Fields may not be burned fewer than eight weeks after herbicide has been applied; nor may fields be burned less than four weeks after “ripener” has been applied.
* Other than the limited use of herbicides, no fields will be burned where pesticides have been applied.
* Fields burned within half a mile of any school must be extinguished at least two hours before that school starts.
* Because the Health Department’s inspector finishes work at 3:30 p.m. and never works on Sundays, no cane burning will occur after 3:30 p.m. or on Sundays.
* The Health Department will follow state law and require future burning activities on public lands to assess the environmental impacts according to law.
Stop Cane Burning leader Karen Chun agreed to waive her right to sue A&B for overspraying her house and exposing her and her family to restricted-use type and other herbicides. The other individual plaintiffs also agreed to not sue A&B for health damages suffered as a result of cane smoke inhalation or exposure to pesticides.
“The more we investigated A&B’s operations, the more we realized that in addition to smoke, their pesticide application processes posed a huge risk to public health,” said Brad Edwards, one of the three plaintiffs.
He urged people to ask A&B and its helicopter contractor to stop spraying glyphosate, which he said has been listed as a probable human carcinogen by the state of California.
Plaintiff Trinette Furtado said that obtaining enforceable limitations on cane burning and pesticide use was a better option than further litigation, which could involve years of appeals.
“A&B is able to bend the entire political system to its will whether it’s stealing water, exposing the community to pesticides or choking us with smoke,” she said. “It was clear that A&B and DOH were likely to use procedural delays to avoid any limitations to this harvest season, pushing off any resolution of the case by the court into 2017.”
Chun said the more than 2,000-member Stop Cane Burning group was thankful to have a definite end to cane burning with additional restrictions.
“It is only when we work together that the community can protect our health and welfare against the greed and big money influence of corporations like A&B,” she said.