THE SENATE

S.C.R. NO.

92

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

requesting the department of agriculture to consider amending the eligibility QUALIFICATIONS and lease terms for its agricultural lots TO AID SMALL FARM BUSINESSES.

 

 


     WHEREAS, Hawaii annually spends an estimated $3,000,000,000 to import approximately ninety percent of its food and pays food costs that are eighty-two percent higher than the national average; and

 

     WHEREAS, dependence on food imports threatens the sustainability of food producers on the islands and places the entire population directly at risk of food shortages in the event of pandemics, natural disasters, and economic disruptions; and

 

     WHEREAS, increasing local food production is essential for the future health and vitality of the State and despite the State's natural resources and goals for increased local food production, production has remained slow to develop; and

 

     WHEREAS, Hawaii has the fifth highest projected percentage (17.5 percent) of residents experiencing food insecurity and has the tenth highest rate of projected child food insecurity (29.9 percent); and

 

     WHEREAS, due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and the resulting unprecedented rate of unemployment, between April and October 2020, there has been a fifteen percent increase in the number of recipients of government assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and

 

     WHEREAS, an increase in the production and sale of Hawaii-grown food would contribute to significant job creation and replacing ten percent of current food imports with locally grown food would create a total of two thousand three hundred jobs and could keep hundreds of millions of dollars circulating within Hawaii's economy, stimulate growth, and create thousands of new jobs, ensuring that Hawaii has stable food sources; and

 

     WHEREAS, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 69, S.D. 1, Regular Session 2014, established the Aloha+ Challenge which, in part, specified that local production is to double by 2030 with a goal of twenty to thirty percent of food being grown locally; and

 

     WHEREAS, research has found that the State needs to be growing at least fifty percent of its staple crops to be considered self-sufficient; and

 

     WHEREAS, the State has many natural resources and vast agricultural lands that lend themselves to increasing local food production; and

 

     WHEREAS, farmers have difficulty obtaining long-term leases and reasonable lease rents because there is pressure on the use of important agricultural land for higher value purposes, resulting in accelerated agricultural decline near urban areas due to farmers' disinvestment in their farm operations in an anticipation of development; and

 

     WHEREAS, the agricultural parks program administered under the Department of Agriculture seeks to encourage the continuation or initiation of agricultural operations and lands that are acquired, developed, and leased to farmers with the objective of providing long-term tenured lands that are not subject to reclassification or rezoning, further subdivision, lack of monitoring of activities, or introduction of non-agricultural uses, available to small farmers at a reasonable cost; and

 

     WHEREAS, the agricultural parks program utilizes a thorough qualification process to ensure potential lessees will undertake substantial activity and that most of the total annual income of lessees comes from agricultural activities; and

 

     WHEREAS, lease rents in agricultural parks are lower than privately owned lands; and

 

     WHEREAS, Act 90, Session Laws of Hawaii 2003, established the non-agricultural park lands program to provide for the transfer of certain public lands from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture, in which the lands are to be used for the purposes of article XI, section 10, of the Hawaii State Constitution to develop farm and homeownership on a widespread basis.  The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved 5,186.843 acres for transfer and the transfer for 4,072.783 acres have been completed; and

 

     WHEREAS, the Agricultural Development Corporation is tasked with protecting the future of agriculture by facilitating its transformation from a dual-crop economy of sugar and pineapple to a multi-crop industry and is authorized to lease or sell its lands to agricultural enterprises and farmers without having to go through a public auction process; and

 

     WHEREAS, the Department of Agriculture has a number of eligibility requirements that make it difficult for small farmers to qualify and obtain leases for these agricultural lots; now, therefore,

 

     BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the House of Representatives concurring, that the Department of Agriculture is requested to consider amending the eligibility qualifications and lease terms for agricultural lots to aid small farm businesses; and

 

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Agriculture is requested to consider different solutions to encourage more affordable long-term leases including encouraging small farmers to obtain financing for affordable long-term leases and allow for public comment regarding the matter; and

 

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Agriculture is requested to 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 2022; and

 

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a certified copy of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture.

 

 

 

 

OFFERED BY:

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Report Title: 

Board of Agriculture; Food Security; Long-Term Leases