All in one day, there was a trifecta of good news for agriculture in Hawaii. Let’s hope there is more to come.
Farming on Kauai will not require an environmental assessment or impact statement. Despite the efforts of those wanting to keep agriculture in the Victorian era, Judge Randal Valenciano didn’t buy the argument that production of genetically engineered corn or use of pesticides was anything new that would justify more environmental studies in order to lease land for farming.
Water will continue to flow to 35,000 residents and farmers on Maui. The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted unanimously to re-authorize the annual revocable permits for Alexander and Baldwin, Inc., and the East Maui Irrigation Company, Limited, to take water from four license areas in east Maui and transport it to central and upcountry Maui for agricultural and domestic purposes. The largest users of this water are residents in Makawao, Pukalani, Kula, Olinda and Keokea and the Kula Agricultural Park, and the remainder goes to A&B’s former sugarcane land that is diversifying into several areas, as shown in the graphic below that was presented at the BLNR meeting.
A&B has converted 4,500 acres to diversified agriculture, is working with Maui County to expand its Kula Ag Park by 900 acres, and is in negotiations for leases to other ag users that could total more than half of the former sugar plantation’s 36,000 acres (27,000 of which are permanently designated as important agricultural lands). Replacing a significant portion of former sugarcane (and pineapple) lands with diversified agriculture has been quite difficult to accomplish – since 1980 the statewide acreage in crop land has fallen 57%, and that of pasture land has fallen 31%. The transformation occurring on Maui’s former sugar plantation is indeed impressive (and water is required).
The largest health study ever conducted on pesticide applicators and their spouses (The Agricultural Health Study) found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, shows no evidence of causing cancer. The study was based on 54,251 applicators, 82.9 percent of whom used glyphosate. It turns out the research had been written up in draft form for over four years and unfortunately had not been published by the time the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeled glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Timing is important, and if this had been published more expeditiously, IARC likely would not have reached their uninformed determination (assuming they follow the evidence). This finding complements glyphosate’s environmental benefit – the USDA’s comprehensive study of pesticide use over the past 40 years found the average half-life of pesticides in the environment has fallen dramatically since the introduction of herbicide-resistant GE crops in 1996, a significant contributor being the use of less toxic glyphosate which replaced herbicides with longer residence times.
To re-brand a favorite villain in Hawaii, my suggestion is introduce a new “no worries” label on the shelves soon.