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Kauai council defers crop research land tax bill

June 20, 2014 - 12:05am

LIHUE, Kauai — The Kauai County Council has deferred a bill aimed at creating a separate property tax category for crop research and development land.

The move kills any chance of the measure going into effect in the fiscal year starting July 2015, The Garden Island newspaper reported Thursday.

Councilman Tim Bynam, who introduced the bill, and Councilman Gary Hooser recommended a two-week deferral. But the Finance and Economic Development Committee voted 3-1 to push the bill back to Aug. 20 — 11 days after the primary election.

Hooser said the bill itself wouldn’t raise taxes, but merely create another category of agricultural use. However, he recognized taxes could rise for the new category in the future.

The council’s discussion and public testimony was reminiscent of debate over a county law regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops on the island. This law is scheduled to take effect in August.

Bynum said the proposal addresses whether crop research, which doesn’t produce a product that is sold to consumers, should be eligible for tax incentives. The practices of seed companies on Kauai, he said, are “far different” than the agricultural production practices the county has traditionally chosen to support.

“They are experiments, not food,” he said, adding that the nature of Kauai agriculture “changed under our feet.”

Councilman Mel Rapozo said crop research is still agriculture, just a different type. The issue is not about tax rates, he said, but rather the agriculture dedication process and that county administration is not enforcing current laws properly.

Committee Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura told her colleagues that she isn’t convinced a new tax category is the right answer.

“But,” she said, “I am intrigued by this idea that there’s only two categories (of agriculture) under regulation right now — crop and pasture — which, to me, biotech research does not fall under.”

If it passes, the agronomics rate classification would include parcels that are “used for no other purpose than science, research and development of crops” and which “do not directly gain monetary profit from the ultimate consumer.”

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