The state is doing loads to assist the farmers in Hawaii. However it’s not sufficient – Honolulu, Hawaii

When Max Bowman graduated from college in 2008, he struggled to find a job that would allow him to go home on the Big Island. It was in the middle of the Great Recession, there was a lack of affordable housing, and there weren’t many opportunities to take advantage of your English degree.

So Bowman decided to do something strange for his generation of workers in Hawaii. He founded the farm with his brother.

Bowman received a lot of help from the state in starting and operating the “Anoano Farm”.

The brothers began planting lush greenery on five acres of state-owned land that they had leased. Hamakua Ag Cooperative .. You have received a loan from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to support equipment and operating costs. The DOA made a second loan seven years later when Bowman and his brother moved to much larger property on the other side of the island.

“Our farm history has a lot to do with HDOA,” said Bowman.

Farmers and advocates say there are many things to keep agriculture going in Hawaii, from controlling pests to training farmers, researching new crops that can be brought to market, and providing credit when those Banks don’t want this. Say you do.

However, there is still a lot to be done.

The state’s Agricultural Parks program offers farmers long-term rental of small land. There are currently 10 agricultural parks with a total of 227 parcels. My Kauanoe / Civil Beat

Agriculture accounts for less than 1% of the state’s economy. According to economists at the University of Hawaii, the true value of Hawaiian farms has dropped a whopping 72.9% since 1980.

To reduce the amount of food imported from Hawaii and make agriculture a major contributor to the national economy again, it will require more farmers like Bowman and new technology, infrastructure, cheaper inter-island transportation, better data collection, etc. Big investment required. ..

Bowman can be seen as a success story of what young farmers can achieve with a little help, but the future of Anoano Farm is uncertain. Rising transportation costs and restaurant closings during the pandemic had a huge impact on Bowman’s business.

“There are many unique challenges for Hawaiian agriculture that we face every day,” said Bowman.

How the nation helps

Hawaii is not an easy place to start a living farm.

It’s hard to get land. Likewise water. Hawaii’s abandoned sugar and pineapple plantations abound, but many lack the critical infrastructure farmers need to grow new crops. There is a lack of housing for farmers. Transportation is expensive and there are many challenges in getting a product to market.

And there are pests. Hawaii’s climate makes it a perfect breeding ground for many insects that can destroy crops.

The state is trying to help with many of these challenges.

Most of the daily government support for Hawaiian farmers goes to the Department of Agriculture. University of Hawaii Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources College ..

While the Department of Agriculture plays an important role in regulating food production in Hawaii, it also does a lot of marketing for farmers and ranchers, says Brian Miyamoto, executive director. Hawaii Agriculture Office ..

The coffee drill beetle hangs on the fingernail of the UH expansion worker Eli Isele. Universities do a lot of work helping farmers control pests. Nick Grube / Civil Beat / 2018

However, much of DOA’s energy is devoted to combating threats to plants. Last year, the department budgeted around $ 16 million to contain pests like the coffee grinder beetle.

The agency also provided farmers with a loan of approximately $ 4.6 million in 2020. DOA’s loan program could be a lifeline for farmers who have been turned down by at least two banks, DOA said. Philis Shimabukuro Geyser.

The University of Hawaii CTAHR works closely with the DOA on research and is often funded by state or federal agencies through the DOA.

Some of the research is focused on short-term problems – new pests helping farmers fight crops – but universities also play an important role in helping agribusiness over the long term. Yes, says CTAHR Dean Nicholas Commerford.

Drink coffee – one of the most successful agribusiness in the state. Universities couldn’t completely reverse the decline in coffee in Hawaii – production peaked in the 1950s – but it did. Has helped keep the industry alive through decades of continuous research, says Commerford. It helped promote the Nationwide Coffee Producers Association, assisted mechanical cultivation and harvesting, and conducted research on new types of coffee and pest control.

University employees, so-called extension agents, act as a bridge between researchers and farmers. They help farmers find new crops to grow, solve soil and pest problems, and understand why some crops fail.

However, farmers say the number of local workers has recently decreased. And CTAHR is faced with drastic budget cuts. This area lost 60 jobs (20% of the workforce) this year.

“The pandemic has put us in a difficult position,” said Commerford.

But cuts are also an opportunity to understand how the CTAHR is getting the most from its resources and to reconsider its measures to support agriculture, Commerford said.

Comerford and its staff are working with consultants on a 10-year program plan. What do farmers need to move forward and how does CTAHR support this?

“I think we are at a stage where growth is really possible and before that, it is impossible,” said Commerford.

Make better progress

University of Hawaii economists say the state needs to scrutinize every effort to help farmers and strengthen agriculture. Sumner La Croix ..

And Lacroix isn’t just talking about Agribusiness Development Co., Ltd … —But he has few positive words for the government agency that was founded in 1994 to help the industry move forward during Big Sugar’s collapse Find.

The agricultural sector as a whole is getting smaller and efforts to enlarge it are not well discussed.

One of the major challenges, according to La Croix, is the lack of data on which crops are grown in Hawaii. The agriculture sector used to have much more robust statistics, but much of its work was cut down during the Great Recession.

“It’s a good idea to take Tesla’s autopilot off while driving on the freeway,” said Lacroix. “That means we really don’t know where we’re going.”

Vertical farming, like the two-acre indoor pilot project from Sensei Farms Lanai shown here, can significantly increase productivity. Mr. Ag

DOA chairman Shimabukuro Geyser said the agricultural sector will not be able to resume the level of market analysis and data collection from 10 years ago.

However, the agency made some new hires last year and is working with the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service to get more data.

Last year we were able to analyze the production value of the coffee industry and some other specialty crops, which enabled these farmers to qualify for the federal coronavirus aid program.

But farmers say they need more information. About what is grown in Hawaii. About what people are asking for those crops.

“We have set ourselves these goals like doubling food production,” said Governor David Ige, who called for local food production to double by 2030, said Miyamoto of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. I did. ”.. But double … what is double? “

According to Lacroix, there is a lot of leeway for the state to provide more services to farmers.

But it must first know exactly where and how the state can expand its agricultural industry and then support it more strategically.

According to Lacroix, the state could help address water access and general agricultural infrastructure challenges.

La Croix said more can likely be done to promote crops, identify new crops and help smallholders.

And farmers need help getting access to better technology, Commerford said.

Hawaiian farms can make better use of limited land in controlled environments like shaded houses – structures that protect plants from excessive heat and light. They need support in using nanotechnology to fight disease. And they have better access to the equipment that Japanese farms use on smaller areas. Federal environmental regulations make it difficult to import Japanese equipment. This can be supported by the state by funding regulatory authorities to bring in sample devices to be tested.

According to Commerford, MPs gave the CTAHR $ 2 million last year on a pilot to see what the university can do to increase agricultural production. So the CTAHR called on farmers across the state to make suggestions. More than 40 responses were received from farmers with suggestions for farm-specific barriers that, if addressed, could help increase production.

“We find that there are agricultural production barriers in the state that can be overcome with a small investment,” said Commerford.

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The state is doing a lot to help the farmers in Hawaii. But it’s not enough. The state is doing a lot to help the farmers in Hawaii. But it is not enough

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