THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

1618

THIRTY-SECOND LEGISLATURE, 2023

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO THE PROTECTION OF TARO LANDS.

 

 

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

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that taro lands are essential as culturally important agricultural lands for Hawaii's future food security, representing the smallest portion of agricultural lands but the highest-yielding staple food crop acreage in the State. Commercial, subsistence, and education‑based taro farms contribute substantially to Hawaii's cultural, social, and economic health and wellbeing, not to mention the role their presence plays in the advertising and tourist industry. The legislature also recognizes that Act 211, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, as amended by Act 196, Session Laws of Hawaii 2010, established a taro security and purity task force that was responsible for developing guidelines, protocols, and recommendations for taro policy, among other duties. In its 2010 and 2015 legislative reports, the task force recommended improved protections for taro growing lands, including loi kalo (wet fields and terraces), mala or maloo (dry fields and terraces), kuauna or paepae pohaku (stone walls), and auwai (irrigation ditches). The task force found that these key structural elements for viable taro production represent the fastest dwindling subset of agricultural land as the lands are destroyed, severed, and built upon by private and public development because of gaps in land use, historic preservation, and planning laws, policies, and statutes. Current department of land and natural resources and department of agriculture class designations for intensive agricultural lands do not adequately recognize productive taro lands or protect them for future use. Existing policies do not encourage state or private landowners to maintain, protect, or rehabilitate ancient taro infrastructure and taro farmers find themselves increasingly challenged and blocked from maintaining auwai and water flows that feed their crops where such structures cross multiple properties.

The legislature recognizes that section 165-3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which is part of the Hawaii Right to Farm Act, declares that the "preservation and promotion of farming is declared to be in the public purpose and deserving of public support". Further, pursuant to section 226-7(b)(17), Hawaii Revised Statutes, which is part of the Hawaii State Planning Act, it is a state policy to "perpetuate, promote, and increase use of traditional Hawaiian farming systems", including the use of loko ia, mala, and irrigated loi, and growth of traditional Hawaiian crops, such as kalo, uala, and ulu.

The purpose of this Act is to improve protections for taro lands and ancient agricultural structures and systems to retain and support the opportunity for future use and productivity and to provide consistency across statutes to allow for that support.

SECTION 2. Section 165-2, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending the definition of "farming operation" to read as follows:

""Farming operation" means a commercial, subsistence, or education-based agricultural, silvicultural, or aquacultural facility or pursuit conducted, in whole or in part, including the care and production of livestock and livestock products, poultry and poultry products, apiary products, and plant and animal production for nonfood uses; the planting, cultivating, harvesting, and processing of crops; and the farming or ranching of any plant or animal species in a controlled salt, brackish, or freshwater environment. "Farming operation" includes but shall not be limited to:

(1) Agricultural-based commercial, subsistence, or education-based operations as described in section [[]205-2(d)(15)[]];

(2) Noises, odors, dust, and fumes emanating from a commercial agricultural or an aquacultural facility or pursuit;

(3) Operation of machinery and irrigation pumps;

(4) Ground and aerial seeding and spraying;

(5) The application of chemical fertilizers, conditioners, insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides; and

(6) The employment and use of labor.

A farming operation that conducts processing operations or salt, brackish, or freshwater aquaculture operations on land that is zoned for industrial, commercial, or other nonagricultural use shall not, by reason of that zoning, fall beyond the scope of this definition; provided that those processing operations form an integral part of operations that otherwise meet the requirements of this definition."

SECTION 3. Section 171-1, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new definition to be appropriately inserted and to read as follows:

""Taro lands" means any currently undeveloped lands that were in wetland or dryland taro cultivation at any time prior to statehood."

SECTION 4. Section 171-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"171-10 Classes of lands. The board of land and natural resources shall classify all public lands and in doing so be guided by the following classifications:

1. Intensive agricultural use

(A) First class--Lands highly productive of intensive crops such as sugarcane, pineapples, truck crops, and orchard crops.

(B) Second class--Lands having medium productivity for intensive crops.

(C) Third class--Lands having fair to marginal productivity for intensive crops.

(T) Fourth class--Taro lands. This class does not make a determination of productivity and recognizes the cultural, social, economic, and food security value of preserving traditional taro lands for wetland and dryland cultivation.

2. Special livestock use

(A) First class--Lands highly suitable for special livestock uses such as swine, dairy, and poultry production. In making the determination, consideration shall be given to drainage, climate, topography, proximity to market, and transportation and compatibility to adjoining land use, among other considerations. "Dairy" as used for disposition purposes means a "dry lot" dairy without allowance for grazing.

(B) Second class--Lands suitable for special livestock uses, but inferior to those of first class.

3. Pasture use

(A) First class--Lands having a potentially high economic animal unit carrying capacity and capable of correspondingly high liveweight gains per acre per year, such as, less than five acres per animal unit per year and more than one hundred pounds live beef gains per animal unit per acre per year.

(B) Second class--Lands having a potentially medium economic animal unit carrying capacity and capable of moderate liveweight gains per acre per year, such as, five to twenty acres per animal unit per year and twenty to one hundred pounds live beef gains per animal unit per acre per year.

(C) Third class--Lands having a relatively low animal unit carrying capacity and producing correspondingly low liveweight gains per acre per year, such as, more than twenty acres per animal unit per year and less than twenty pounds average live beef gains per animal unit per acre per year.

4. Commercial timber use

(A) First class--Lands of high suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential under normal forest management practices with yields exceeding amounts such as one thousand board feet per acre, and with location and terrain presenting favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

(B) Second class--Lands of high suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential under normal forest management practices with yields exceeding amounts such as one thousand board feet per acre, and with location and terrain presenting less favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

(C) Third class--Lands of medium suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential in amounts such as five hundred to one thousand board feet per acre under normal forest management practices, and with location and terrain presenting favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

(D) Fourth class--Lands of medium suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential in amounts such as five hundred to one thousand board feet per acre under normal forest management practices, and with location and terrain presenting less favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

(E) Fifth class--Lands of relatively low suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential less than an amount such as five hundred board feet per acre, and with location and terrain presenting favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

(F) Sixth class--Lands of relatively low suitability for growth of merchantable timber having mean annual growth potential less than an amount such as five hundred board feet per acre, and with location and terrain presenting less favorable logging, transportation, and marketing conditions.

5. Quarry use

Lands having sufficient quantity and quality of rock, gravel, and sand for purpose of commercial use.

6. Mining use

Lands bearing sufficient quantity and quality of mineral products for purpose of commercial mining and use.

7. Recreational use

Lands suitable for use and development as parks, playgrounds, historical sites, natural area, camp grounds, wildlife refuge, scenic sites, and other such uses.

8. Watershed use

Lands suitable for the use and development as watersheds or for the development of water, and requiring necessary restrictions on other uses.

9. Residential use

Lands suitable and economically feasible for residential development and use.

10. Commercial and industrial use

Lands suitable and economically feasible for commercial and industrial development and use.

11. Hotel, apartment, and motel use

Lands suitable and economically feasible for hotel, apartment, and motel development and use.

12. Resort use

Lands suitable and economically feasible for resort development and use.

13. Unclassified uses

Lands not otherwise classifiable under the foregoing sections."

SECTION 5. Section 205-3.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending its title and subsection (a) to read as follows:

"[[]205-3.5[]] Reclassification of land contiguous to a rural or an agricultural district; approval conditions. (a) Any decision approving a petition for a boundary amendment pursuant to this chapter where lands in the petition area are contiguous or adjacent to lands in the agricultural district, shall include the following conditions in the decision granting approval:

(1) A prohibition on any action that would interfere with or restrain farming operations[;], including blockage, disturbance, or destruction of traditional auwai irrigation rights of water access and delivery that may cross property boundaries; provided the farming operations are conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted agricultural and management practices on adjacent or contiguous lands in the agricultural district; and

(2) Notification to all prospective developers or purchasers of land or interest in land in the petition area and subsequent notification to lessees or tenants of the land, that farming operations and practices on adjacent or contiguous land in the agricultural district are protected under chapter 165, the Hawaii right to farm act, and that the notice shall be included in any disclosure required for the sale or transfer of real property or any interest in real property."

SECTION 6. Section 205-4.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsections (a) through (c) to read as follows:

"(a) Within the agricultural district, all lands with soil classified by the land study bureau's detailed land classification as overall (master) productivity rating class A [or] B, or T, and for solar energy facilities, class B or C, shall be restricted to the following permitted uses:

(1) Cultivation of crops, including crops for bioenergy, flowers, vegetables, foliage, fruits, forage, and timber;

(2) Game and fish propagation;

(3) Raising of livestock, including poultry, bees, fish, or other animal or aquatic life that are propagated for economic or personal use;

(4) Farm dwellings, employee housing, farm buildings, or activities or uses related to farming and animal husbandry. "Farm dwelling", as used in this paragraph, means a single-family dwelling located on and accessory to a farm, including clusters of single‑family farm dwellings permitted within agricultural parks developed by the State, or where agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling;

(5) Public institutions and buildings that are necessary for agricultural practices;

(6) Public and private open area types of recreational uses, including day camps, picnic grounds, parks, and riding stables, but not including dragstrips, airports, drive-in theaters, golf courses, golf driving ranges, country clubs, and overnight camps;

(7) Public, private, and quasi-public utility lines and roadways, transformer stations, communications equipment buildings, solid waste transfer stations, major water storage tanks, and appurtenant small buildings such as booster pumping stations, but not including offices or yards for equipment, material, vehicle storage, repair or maintenance, treatment plants, corporation yards, or other similar structures;

(8) Retention, restoration, rehabilitation, or improvement of buildings, and walls, terraces, auwai and supporting structures for taro fields, or sites of historic or scenic interest;

(9) Agricultural-based commercial operations as described in section 205-2(d)(15);

(10) Buildings and uses, including mills, storage, and processing facilities, maintenance facilities, photovoltaic, biogas, and other small-scale renewable energy systems producing energy solely for use in the agricultural activities of the fee or leasehold owner of the property, and vehicle and equipment storage areas that are normally considered directly accessory to the above-mentioned uses and are permitted under section 205-2(d);

(11) Agricultural parks;

(12) Plantation community subdivisions, which as used in this chapter means an established subdivision or cluster of employee housing, community buildings, and agricultural support buildings on land currently or formerly owned, leased, or operated by a sugar or pineapple plantation; provided that the existing structures may be used or rehabilitated for use, and new employee housing and agricultural support buildings may be allowed on land within the subdivision as follows:

(A) The employee housing is occupied by employees or former employees of the plantation who have a property interest in the land;

(B) The employee housing units not owned by their occupants shall be rented or leased at affordable rates for agricultural workers; or

(C) The agricultural support buildings shall be rented or leased to agricultural business operators or agricultural support services;

(13) Agricultural tourism conducted on a working farm, or a farming operation as defined in section 165-2, for the enjoyment, education, or involvement of visitors; provided that the agricultural tourism activity is accessory and secondary to the principal agricultural use and does not interfere with surrounding farm operations; and provided further that this paragraph shall apply only to a county that has adopted ordinances regulating agricultural tourism under section 205-5;

(14) Agricultural tourism activities, including overnight accommodations of twenty-one days or less, for any one stay within a county; provided that this paragraph shall apply only to a county that includes at least three islands and has adopted ordinances regulating agricultural tourism activities pursuant to section 205-5; provided further that the agricultural tourism activities coexist with a bona fide agricultural activity. For the purposes of this paragraph, "bona fide agricultural activity" means a farming operation as defined in section 165-2;

(15) Wind energy facilities, including the appurtenances associated with the production and transmission of wind generated energy; provided that the wind energy facilities and appurtenances are compatible with agriculture uses and cause minimal adverse impact on agricultural land;

(16) Biofuel processing facilities, including the appurtenances associated with the production and refining of biofuels that is normally considered directly accessory and secondary to the growing of the energy feedstock; provided that biofuel processing facilities and appurtenances do not adversely impact agricultural land and other agricultural uses in the vicinity.

For the purposes of this paragraph:

"Appurtenances" means operational infrastructure of the appropriate type and scale for economic commercial storage and distribution, and other similar handling of feedstock, fuels, and other products of biofuel processing facilities.

"Biofuel processing facility" means a facility that produces liquid or gaseous fuels from organic sources such as biomass crops, agricultural residues, and oil crops, including palm, canola, soybean, and waste cooking oils; grease; food wastes; and animal residues and wastes that can be used to generate energy;

(17) Agricultural-energy facilities, including appurtenances necessary for an agricultural-energy enterprise; provided that the primary activity of the agricultural-energy enterprise is agricultural activity. To be considered the primary activity of an agricultural-energy enterprise, the total acreage devoted to agricultural activity shall be not less than ninety per cent of the total acreage of the agricultural-energy enterprise. The agricultural‑energy facility shall be limited to lands owned, leased, licensed, or operated by the entity conducting the agricultural activity.

As used in this paragraph:

"Agricultural activity" means any activity described in paragraphs (1) to (3) of this subsection.

"Agricultural-energy enterprise" means an enterprise that integrally incorporates an agricultural activity with an agricultural-energy facility.

"Agricultural-energy facility" means a facility that generates, stores, or distributes renewable energy as defined in section 269-91 or renewable fuel including electrical or thermal energy or liquid or gaseous fuels from products of agricultural activities from agricultural lands located in the State.

"Appurtenances" means operational infrastructure of the appropriate type and scale for the economic commercial generation, storage, distribution, and other similar handling of energy, including equipment, feedstock, fuels, and other products of agricultural‑energy facilities;

(18) Construction and operation of wireless communication antennas, including small wireless facilities; provided that, for the purposes of this paragraph, "wireless communication antenna" means communications equipment that is either freestanding or placed upon or attached to an already existing structure and that transmits and receives electromagnetic radio signals used in the provision of all types of wireless communications services; provided further that "small wireless facilities" shall have the same meaning as in section 206N-2; provided further that nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to permit the construction of any new structure that is not deemed a permitted use under this subsection;

(19) Agricultural education programs conducted on a farming operation as defined in section 165-2, for the education and participation of the general public; provided that the agricultural education programs are accessory and secondary to the principal agricultural use of the parcels or lots on which the agricultural education programs are to occur and do not interfere with surrounding farm operations. For the purposes of this paragraph, "agricultural education programs" means activities or events designed to promote knowledge and understanding of agricultural activities and practices conducted on a farming operation as defined in section 165-2;

(20) Solar energy facilities that do not occupy more than ten per cent of the acreage of the parcel, or twenty acres of land, whichever is lesser or for which a special use permit is granted pursuant to section 205‑6; provided that this use shall not be permitted on lands with soil classified by the land study bureau's detailed land classification as overall (master) productivity rating class A;

(21) Solar energy facilities on lands with soil classified by the land study bureau's detailed land classification as overall (master) productivity rating B or C for which a special use permit is granted pursuant to section 205-6; provided that:

(A) The area occupied by the solar energy facilities is also made available for compatible agricultural activities at a lease rate that is at least fifty per cent below the fair market rent for comparable properties;

(B) Proof of financial security to decommission the facility is provided to the satisfaction of the appropriate county planning commission prior to date of commencement of commercial generation; and

(C) Solar energy facilities shall be decommissioned at the owner's expense according to the following requirements:

(i) Removal of all equipment related to the solar energy facility within twelve months of the conclusion of operation or useful life; and

(ii) Restoration of the disturbed earth to substantially the same physical condition as existed prior to the development of the solar energy facility.

For the purposes of this paragraph, "agricultural activities" means the activities described in paragraphs (1) to (3);

(22) Geothermal resources exploration and geothermal resources development, as defined under section 182-1;

(23) Hydroelectric facilities, including the appurtenances associated with the production and transmission of hydroelectric energy, subject to section 205-2; provided that the hydroelectric facilities and their appurtenances:

(A) Shall consist of a small hydropower facility as defined by the United States Department of Energy, including:

(i) Impoundment facilities using a dam to store water in a reservoir;

(ii) A diversion or run-of-river facility that channels a portion of a river through a canal or channel; and

(iii) Pumped storage facilities that store energy by pumping water uphill to a reservoir at higher elevation from a reservoir at a lower elevation to be released to turn a turbine to generate electricity;

(B) Comply with the state water code, chapter 174C;

(C) Shall, if over five hundred kilowatts in hydroelectric generating capacity, have the approval of the commission on water resource management, including a new instream flow standard established for any new hydroelectric facility; and

(D) Do not impact or impede the use of agricultural land or the availability of surface or ground water for all uses on all parcels that are served by the ground water sources or streams for which hydroelectric facilities are considered; or

(24) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, composting and co-composting operations; provided that operations that process their own green waste and do not require permits from the department of health shall use the finished composting product only on the operation's own premises to minimize the potential spread of invasive species.

(b) Uses not expressly permitted in subsection (a) shall be prohibited, except the uses permitted as provided in sections 205-6 and 205-8, and construction of single-family dwellings on lots existing before June 4, 1976. Any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, no subdivision of land within the agricultural district with soil classified by the land study bureau's detailed land classification as overall (master) productivity rating class A [or], B, or T shall be approved by a county unless those A [and], B, or T lands within the subdivision are made subject to the restriction on uses as prescribed in this section and to the condition that the uses shall be primarily in pursuit of an agricultural activity.

Any deed, lease, agreement of sale, mortgage, or other instrument of conveyance covering any land within the agricultural subdivision shall expressly contain the restriction on uses and the condition, as prescribed in this section that these restrictions and conditions shall be encumbrances running with the land until such time that the land is reclassified to a land use district other than agricultural district. Taro lands with T designations shall not be reclassified.

If the foregoing requirement of encumbrances running with the land jeopardizes the owner or lessee in obtaining mortgage financing from any of the mortgage lending agencies set forth in the following paragraph, and the requirement is the sole reason for failure to obtain mortgage financing, then the requirement of encumbrances shall, insofar as such mortgage financing is jeopardized, be conditionally waived by the appropriate county enforcement officer; provided that the conditional waiver shall become effective only in the event that the property is subjected to foreclosure proceedings by the mortgage lender.

The mortgage lending agencies referred to in the preceding paragraph are the Federal Housing Administration, Federal National Mortgage Association, Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, Federal Land Bank of Berkeley, Federal Intermediate Credit Bank of Berkeley, Berkeley Bank for Cooperatives, and any other federal, state, or private mortgage lending agency qualified to do business in Hawaii, and their respective successors and assigns.

(c) Within the agricultural district, all lands with soil classified by the land study bureau's detailed land classification as overall (master) productivity rating class C, D, E, T, or U shall be restricted to the uses permitted for agricultural districts as set forth in section 205-5(b)."

SECTION 7. This Act does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, and proceedings that were begun before its effective date.

SECTION 8. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 9. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2023.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

_____________________________

 

 



 

Report Title:

Taro Lands; Protection; Unique Land Use

 

Description:

Amends land use classifications to add taro lands to unique agricultural lands. Requires retention of supporting structures for taro fields. Adds growth and perpetuation of taro and crops native to Hawaii to agricultural planning policies.

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.