HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

2553

TWENTY-EIGHTH LEGISLATURE, 2016

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

relating to agriculture.

 

 

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

 


SECTION 1. Alexander & Baldwin (A&B), the owner of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S), recently announced the anticipated closure of Hawaii's last sugar plantation. A&B plans to close its thirty-six thousand-acre HC&S sugar plantation operation on the island of Maui by the end of 2016 and transition to a diversified crop model. Starting in March 2016, HC&S intends to begin terminating its six hundred seventy-five employees as their particular functions are completed, with about half being retained through the end of the harvest in late 2016.

This closure is devastating news. It will impose severe challenges and hardship upon the displaced workers and their families, the communities and businesses on Maui, and ultimately, the Maui economy.

The legislature finds that in response to this impending crisis, a concerted effort by the State, county of Maui, and all the stakeholders is critically needed. Action must be taken now to assist those who will be displaced, stabilize the Maui economy, and transition and prepare for a better future.

The legislature further finds that a key component in this regard is the aggressive expansion of diversified agriculture. Diversified agriculture will provide displaced HC&S workers and businesses and farms on Maui with critically-needed employment and economic opportunities. Furthermore, the expansion of diversified agriculture comports with the State's responsibility to conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency, and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands that is mandated by article XI, section 3 of the state constitution.

Diversified agriculture also promotes food security, which the legislature finds must be a priority goal of the State. In this regard, approximately ninety per cent of the food consumed in the State must be shipped in from the continental United States or foreign countries. Hawaii's geographic isolation subjects the State to shipping interruptions that are beyond its control. The aging agricultural workforce, together with a reluctance of the youth to work in the agricultural fields, only increases the challenges of reaching the goal of food security. An expansion of diversified agriculture will enable displaced HC&S workers to help Maui and the State meet its important food security goals.

The legislature further finds that the agribusiness development corporation was established by Act 264, Session Laws of Hawaii 1994, to create a vehicle and process to make optimal use of agricultural assets for the economic, environmental, and social benefit of the residents of the State. When the agribusiness development corporation was established, the sugar and pineapple industries were downsizing and the plantations were expected to release seventy-five thousand acres of agricultural lands and fifty million gallons of irrigation water per day, over the following decade. The agribusiness development corporation was tasked with administering a dynamic and aggressive program to assist the transition from plantation operations into other agricultural enterprises, to carry on marketing analysis to direct the needed agricultural evolution, and provide leadership for the development, financing, improvement, or enhancement of agricultural enterprises. The legislature finds that this kind of proactive and dynamic action is exactly what is needed today to address the many difficult challenges of the HC&S closure.

The purpose of this Act is to require the agribusiness development corporation to ensure that the agricultural lands and infrastructure to be released from sugarcane production on the island of Maui by A&B are used to optimize reaching the State's goal of increasing and supporting the development of diversified agriculture by requiring the corporation to, with the assistance of state agencies:

(1) Monitor the closure of the HC&S sugarcane plantation;

(2) Identify lands for possible acquisition by the State, through various means, suitable for diversified agriculture and an agricultural park and incubator; and

(3) Support the development and sustainability of diversified agriculture by investigating and determining the feasibility of:

(A) Establishing agricultural cooperative associations;

(B) Establishing public-private partnerships to provide historically appropriate workforce housing;

(C) Retro-fitting existing facilities into an agricultural technology park;

(D) Establishing an agricultural foreign-trade zone;

(E) Establishing an education and workforce pipeline with high schools and the University of Hawaii Maui College; and

(F) Assisting the research and development of diversified agriculture on Maui.

SECTION 2. To ensure that the agricultural lands and infrastructure of the HC&S thirty-six thousand-acre sugar plantation operation on the island of Maui that are anticipated to be released from sugarcane production by A&B are used to optimize reaching the State's goal of increasing and supporting diversified agriculture, the agribusiness development corporation shall:

(1) With the assistance of the department of business, economic development, and tourism, monitor the termination of operations of A&B's sugarcane plantation on Maui and request from A&B information and updates related thereto;

(2) With the assistance of the department of agriculture and the department of land and natural resources, identify lands currently being used for the HC&S thirty-six thousand-acre sugar plantation operation on the island of Maui that are suitable for diversified agriculture and development of an agricultural park and incubator, to assist former sugarcane workers and new farmers to acquire the necessary capital and capacity to engage in diversified farming. The corporation shall also develop acquisition plans and strategies for those suitable lands, including purchase, lease, exchange, public-private partnership with A&B or other stakeholders, or a combination thereof. The plans and strategies shall also include estimations of acquisition and operating costs and the proposed means of financing.

(3) With the assistance of the department of agriculture and University of Hawaii college of tropical agriculture and human resources, determine the impact of establishing an agricultural cooperative association under chapter 421, Hawaii Revised Statutes, made up of former sugarcane workers and new farmers, on the transition of the sugarcane lands to diversified farming;

(4) With the assistance of the Hawaii housing finance and development corporation, determine the feasibility of a public-private partnership with A&B or other stakeholders to provide workforce housing with priority given to the preservation and restoration of structures that reflect the historic character of Maui;

(5) With the assistance of the high technology development corporation, determine the feasibility of acquiring and retrofitting the existing facilities of the sugarcane operation to establish an agricultural technology park in or near Puunene, Maui, for the handling, preparation, storage, processing, and packing of agricultural products produced by an agricultural cooperative association;

(6) With the assistance of the department of business, economic development, and tourism, determine the feasibility of establishing an agricultural foreign-trade zone to enable importers, manufacturers, and distributors to realize cost-savings benefits that will increase the competitiveness of diversified agriculture on Maui;

(7) Collaborate with the department of education and the workforce development council, to establish an education and workforce pipeline with high schools and the University of Hawaii Maui College; and

(8) Collaborate with the University of Hawaii college of tropical agriculture and human resources to aid the research and development of diversified agriculture on Maui by troubleshooting, patents, and exploring new crops and niche value-added crops that thrive on former sugarcane lands.

SECTION 3. Commencing with the regular session of 2017, the agribusiness development corporation shall submit a report to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session that includes:

(1) The status of the implementation or progress of the mandates described in section 2 of this Act;

(2) The timeframe and costs associated with developing, implementing, operating, and sustaining the projects, programs, and tasks described in section 2 of this Act; and

(3) Necessary proposed legislation.

SECTION 4. All state agencies, including the department of the attorney general; department of agriculture; department of business, economic development, and tourism; department of land and natural resources; department of education; University of Hawaii college of tropical agriculture and human resources; Hawaii housing finance and development corporation; workforce development council; and legislative reference bureau shall assist the agribusiness development corporation, upon its request, in any matters related to this Act.

The legislative reference bureau shall, upon the request of the agribusiness development corporation, assist in the preparation of the annual report required by section 3 of this Act; provided that the corporation shall deliver to the bureau all information and materials deemed necessary by the bureau for the preparation of the report no later than forty days prior to the convening of each regular session.

SECTION 5. 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 2016-2017 for monitoring, investigating, inter-agency collaboration, feasibility studies, reports, and any other matters related to the purposes of this Act.

The sum appropriated shall be expended by the agribusiness development corporation for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 6. This Act shall take effect upon its approval; provided that section 5 shall take effect on July 1, 2016.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

_____________________________

 

 


 


 

Report Title:

HC&S Sugarcane Plantation Closure; Diversified Agriculture; Agribusiness Development Corporation; Appropriation

 

Description:

Requires the Agribusiness Development Corporation to prepare for the closure of the HC&S thirty-six thousand-acre sugar plantation on Maui by, among other things, monitoring the closure; identifying suitable lands for acquisition by the State; and investigating the means necessary to develop and sustain diversified agriculture on the former sugarcane lands. Makes an appropriation.

 

 

 

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