THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

774

TWENTY-EIGHTH LEGISLATURE, 2015

S.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

H.D. 1

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO THE PROTECTION OF TARO.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. Hawaii imports eighty-five per cent of its food. In 2011, the department of agriculture pointed out that the State is most at risk for staple starches. Taro (kalo) is the most culturally significant food plant in Hawaii and also one of Hawaii's highest yielding staple starch food crops, producing between 10,000 and 30,000 pounds per acre per annum under current wetland cultivation practices. Hence, taro plays a critical role in food security for the State.

The State produces approximately four million pounds of raw taro on an estimated five hundred to six hundred acres (three hundred eighty acres in commercial loi) statewide and imports an additional two million pounds or more annually. Collectively this does not meet local demand which is diversifying as value-added producers and consumers become more educated about kalo, poi, and paiai. This demand is expected to grow as Hawaii moves towards greater local food self-sufficiency. Growing local also significantly reduces the threat of new taro pest and disease introductions from raw taro imports, a critical and necessary step for improving biosecurity control measures and reducing the high costs associated with control efforts.

Access to affordable taro lands remains a major challenge for young taro growers striving for success, greater family food self-sufficiency, and community well-being. In 2009, the taro security and purity task force, established under Act 211, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, found "no logical reason why we should continue to import any type of taro to meet local needs" and provided a series of recommendations for improving taro and taro farmer success. In its 2010 and 2014 reports to the legislature, the task force recommended greater protections for wetland taro lands (loi), including their structural elements, such as terraces, kuauna or paepae pohaku (stone walls), and auwai (irrigation ditches) within the boundaries of the State's public conservation districts to help meet food security needs and to support community and cultural resilience in the face of the rising costs of imported food for local families. The task force also found that these key agricultural structures for wetland taro production are frequently destroyed, severed, and built upon due to gaps in land use designations, historic preservation records, planning, laws, and agency policies, making the need for improved taro land protections more urgent.

Over the last five years, the taro security and purity task force has documented a strong and growing desire among Hawaii's younger generation of farmers, potential farmers, and community groups, to plant kalo and return to the loi on each island to grow food, care for their families, create places of education and renewal, and perpetuate Hawaiian culture.

As global warming and sea-level rise continue in the Pacific and Hawaii, existing lowland agricultural sites, particularly loi kalo, will disappear or become inundated with brackish water, raising the question of where we will grow our food in the future. At this time, since the State has no measures in place to protect the necessary upland taro-growing lands, we will need to mitigate these changes.

Historic, long-fallowed loi kalo lands can be found on public conservation lands within most ahupuaa on each island and point to an opportunity for greater food productivity and a chance to address the looming issue of food security in the face of sea-level rise.

The taro security and purity task force estimates between five thousand and seven thousand acres of historic loi lands may be found within state conservation districts based on maps developed by the office of Hawaiian affairs and department of land and natural resources during the 2014 legislative session, or less than three per cent of all department of land and natural resources lands.

There is a compelling interest in preserving wetland taro lands and their supporting structures on public conservation lands under the jurisdiction of the department of land and natural resources for these purposes.

Chapter 171, Hawaii Revised Statutes, entitled "Public Lands, Management and Disposal of", outlines the laws for land use specifically and only for public lands. Section 171-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, describes the allowable land uses on public lands. The taro security and purity task force finds that wetland taro lands are highly productive but often classed as marginal under the existing categories of paragraph 1, section 171-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, relating to intensive agriculture use.

The purpose of this Act is to improve protections for wetland taro lands (loi kalo) and ancient wetland agricultural structures on undeveloped state-owned or -acquired conservation lands for Hawaii's long-term future food security and well-being.

SECTION 2. (a) The board of land and natural resources, in conjunction with the taro security and purity task force, shall create an inventory identifying public lands that qualify as potential taro lands.

(b) The board of land and natural resources shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2016.

SECTION 3. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $         or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2015-2016 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2016-2017 for the purposes of section 2 of this Act.

The sums appropriated shall be expended by the board of land and natural resources for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2050.


 


 

Report Title:

Classification of Agricultural Lands; Taro Lands; Appropriation

 

Description:

Requires the Board of Land and Natural Resources to create an inventory of taro lands, in conjunction with the Taro Security and Purity Task Force. Appropriates funds. (SB774 HD1)

 

 

 

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