Monday | September 25, 2017
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County Council Update

Updated: 
September 12, 2017 - 12:45am

Aloha everyone. I wanted to give you all a brief update of some happenings in our county.

Kohala water

Recently, a meeting organized by Senator Lorraine Inouye was held in Kohala at The Hub to discuss the future of water and the Kohala Ditch. Our State of Hawaii legislature appropriated $1.5 million to study the water resources of lower Kohala, identify a sustainable yield and report this information back so a plan can be formulated. The timeline is expected to be about one year. Look for this report being issued sometime in Summer 2018.

2017 Hawaii Agriculture Conference

I attended the 2017 Hawaii Agriculture Conference in Honolulu from Aug. 26-28. Many topics were on the agenda. Discussions revolved around production, marketing, labor, resource management and other topics.

I sat on a panel discussing the availability of agricultural labor and how we might develop more. There are no simple solutions, no single answers. As I sat through the sessions, it dawned on me that we speak of agriculture as one entity, but it is truly multifaceted.

As I listened, I better realized that we could categorize agriculture in many, many different ways. Agriculture can be for food or for variform agriculture; meaning flowering plants and ornamentals/spices/specialty items such as chocolate and vanilla. It may be organic production methods or more traditional/conventional farming and ranching. It could be for plants or it may be for animals. It might be small scale, large-scale commercial production, or possibly a cottage industry/boutique form of agriculture raising very high value products.

Though it is very apparent to me that we have varied and different avenues for our agriculture, I am more and more convinced that we in agriculture have sent mixed messages to our communities of who each of us are in agriculture. When we discuss self-reliance, which implies sustainability, part of the sustainable model is profitability. For high-end food production, this returns a higher value to the farmer/rancher and thereby aids in their sustainability/profitability model, yet at the same time creates a paradoxical situation for our society.

Young families on struggling budgets that would prefer locally grown foods may be priced out of the market if the only production is for high-end retail sales. Specialty farming, which traditionally is smaller scale, classically has a higher unit cost of production. Larger scale farming and ranching traditionally have economies of scale coming to play which typically translates into more affordability. For families on a budget this becomes very important.

Because of all this, we have an evolving conundrum. It is important to realize that all agriculture is important. There is room and need for every form of agriculture. Each contributes to our society and in turn and of itself contributes to the overall agricultural fabric of our county and state. All are additive towards a critical mass that makes all agriculture increasingly potentially successful. Marginalizing any agriculture is short sighted and harmful.

Whether it’s taro, beef, tomatoes or other food for our bodies, or flowers which is food for our souls, supporting every type of agriculture is important.

Tiny house

While sitting on the panel on the labor in agriculture at the conference, labor housing came up. Being able to supply housing for agricultural labor is an important way of recruiting labor. The challenge of high cost for that housing was discussed. Earlier this year, Councilwoman Jen Ruggles and I put forth a resolution supporting tiny houses. Though this passed our County Council and the State Legislature, it was vetoed by the governor, citing that our county has provisions to allow this as is. After that session, I had a farmer come to me and volunteer to be the “poster farm” to test and see if we can get some small homes built for agriculture labor. Stay tuned.

Kamehameha Park

In North Kohala, Shiro Takata recently celebrated his 88th birthday or “Beiju.” In the Japanese culture, the “Beiju” is a celebration of a long life but more importantly, a life well lived. Takata embodies that. For as long as anyone can remember, he has been a leader for and giving back to the Kohala community. To honor him, the community set out and asked that one of the sports fields at Kamehameha Park be named in his honor of him. Look for that event in the very near future.

Waikoloa Safety Plan

Recently, the Waikoloa Village safety plan has been undergoing review. Community Police Officer Tom Koyanagi has worked very diligently to enhance and upgrade the emergency evacuation route from Waikoloa Village to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Coordinating with the County Department of Public Works, Koyanagi has been able to have that emergency route regraded and upgraded with concrete in areas that needed it. A big shout out and congratulations to him for getting this done.

Additionally, the Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno will be coming out shortly to tour the route and is in the process of helping review the emergency plans. Way to go Waikoloa.

Other information

As a reminder, our new office space is in the Parker Square complex in Waimea, suite 109. We are up and running for public testimony during County Council and committee meetings. We look forward to servicing you better out of our new location.

As always, it is a great privilege to continue to serve as your councilman and I look forward to our future together.

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