Hawaii’s Agriculture Could be in Big Trouble
Agriculture is in BIG trouble if certain provisions of SB 2646, HD 1 passes this week In one of the most brazen moves by the House and Speaker Say in recent memory is the ploy to hold the mandatory solar heating bill (SB 644) hostage to what the House has spun as the Ag "Incentives" bill (SB 2646, CD 1), so the latter can get out of conference committee for a floor vote. The story is as slimy as it gets – see details below from Sierra Club (esp. section highlighted).
In short, the bill provides landowners a huge potential windfall. The two most notorious sections would open up current Ag District lands for Urban and/or Rural District uses, either of which could negatively impact ag and lead to the kind of abuses currently illegal in the Ag District, but to which counties have been turning a blind eye. This bill would legitimize such uses in the future. Some major features:
(1) Allow landowners to reclassify their 15% of their lands to urban or rural under an expedited Declaratory Ruling Petition if they designate 85% of their lands as "important agricultural lands" (IAL). The implication of using this procedure is to avoid contested case procedures, which would otherwise apply, in favor of only public hearings.
(b) For landowners like Alexander and Baldwin and Wailuku Agribusiness, this bill also gives it the opportunity to get state tax credits for attempting to deprive taro farmers of water from streams by allowing it tax credits for "qualified agricultural costs" supporting IAL use. These costs not only includes the costs for the repair and maintenance of irrigation ditches and transmission facilities, but the legal costs of fighting for permits against others, which could include taro farmers, in order to provide water to IAL. See section 4 ofSB 2646, CD 1, under the proposed new HRS sec. 235-__(k), items 1 and 4.
(3) Holding SB 644 (the mandatory solar heater bill) as hostage to get this bill pass Conference Committee only adds insult to injury. the two are NOT linked logically. The ploy is a brazen power play to force the Senate to put up SB 2646, CD 1 up for a floor vote.
Your only chance as advocates for true farming is to call or email legislators to let them know how you feel about passing SB 2646, CD 1. Please call/email your legislators NOW to stop the biggest land development grab in history, now disguised as a IAL incentive measure.
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