Small Farmers and Local Food Advocates Support a Maui County Department of Agriculture
A message to you from Maui’s small farmers: Please VOTE YES on the charter amendment to create a Maui County Department of Agriculture.
By now, you’ve probably received the glossy postcard, seen the big banners or heard the radio ads asking you to vote no on a county ag department. Who paid for those?
Not you or I, and not our local Maui farmers.
It’s offshore corporations who want to control the future of agriculture, land and water use on Maui. They’re putting big money into this campaign. Ask yourself why.
It’s reminiscent of the GMO moratorium.
In a telling “member poll” conducted by the Maui County Farm Bureau: 84% of respondents (which was less than half of their members, and could have been their corporate partners) will vote no on a MauI Department of Ag because it’s “redundant” and would “be a burden to taxpayers of Maui County.”
Ahem. This is the same Farm Bureau who OPPOSED the new micro grant fund for Maui’s farmers to increase food production during a pandemic. This is the same Farm Bureau who supported the corporate water theft bill at the state legislature, which would have allowed for the continued and increased water theft from East Maui farmers, and who continuously supports legislation robbing Native Hawaiian kuleana farmers of their water rights, in favor of large corporate agriculture. The Farm Bureau doesn’t represent small farmers.
Also in a telling move, the Hana and Haleakala chapters of the Maui Farmers Union both support a Maui County Department of Agriculture. Their membership? Small farmers.
How did tourism, Maui’s biggest economic driver, get so successful?
Resources. Local and state governments invested in it. For years, the County of Maui has put $4 million (give or take) of tax payer money into the Maui Visitors Bureau because they see tourism as an economic driver. They are investing cash into an important part of our economy. There is a state Hawai’i Tourism Authority, but Maui County finds benefit in controlling tourism locally too, because you get out what you put in (you reap what you sow, if you will).
So, let’s sow some seeds of food independence, economic diversification, a sustainable way of living through an increase in agriculture and food production.
In 2019, the State Department of Agriculture received less than half a percent of the state’s 2019 budget. That is simply not enough. Agriculture is a low priority for the State. The department is chronically short staffed and short sighted. We can not rely on them to solve Maui’s problems.
Meanwhile, the County of Maui only employs one agricultural specialist for the entire 4 islands. Agricultural related issues, permitting and duties are orphaned under various departments creating fractured communication and leadership.
This is much bigger than just farming. This is also about aquaculture and agroforestry. This is about Maui’s future, an improved support system for farmers, entrepreneurial opportunities for local business owners, and opportunities for leadership to create agriculture systems that benefit our interconnected island environment. This is about building an economy where low level tourism employees can become entrepreneurs who own their own small business, built on locally produced goods. With the right leadership, textiles, clothing, building materials, and plastic alternatives could be produced locally.
Who doesn’t want that?
The people paying for the vote no fliers. Off island interests who profit off our import-based economy, and our over-reliance on tourism. Big corporate controlled ag, who benefits from ‘Oahu-centric agricultural leadership (or lack thereof).
Increased food security and self sufficiency is a threat to development and tourism industry investors who need us to be dependent on them. Increased oversight is a threat to wealthy people using our ag lands for their gentlemen’s estates and getting ag water rights. Increased oversight is a threat to big companies committing pesticide use violations knowing no one is watching.
While tourism is an extractive industry that sends most of its profits to off-island investors, agriculture is a regenerative industry that will keep its profits in Maui County, benefitting local families for generations to come.
This takes me back to 2014 and the GMO moratorium, only now, we are talking about the entirety of Maui’s economy. For small farmers, sustainable agriculture, and local control, please vote Yes.