Farmers Say No To Proposed County Department of Agriculture

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Maui County Farm Bureau Member Poll Rejects Proposed Charter Amendment

The Maui County Farm Bureau (MCFB) announced the results of a recent member poll to determine how their farmers felt about the proposed charter amendment to establish a County of Maui Department of Agriculture. The results revealed a strong objection to the proposal with 84% of farmers & ranchers responding saying NO to the ballot question: “Shall the Charter be amended, effective July 1, 2022, to establish a Department of Agriculture to develop a sustainable regional agricultural system for Maui County?”

The poll was taken during the first week of September. “The farmers have made a strong statement that they do not believe a new county department is necessary and that this is a terrible time to expand government when so many of our residents are jobless and county revenues are plummeting,” said Teena Rasmussen, President of Maui County Farm Bureau.

Farmers’ Concerns:

Since it was first presented at the County Council, farmers have expressed concerns. They testified at the Council hearings that this will be yet another regulatory bureaucracy, making farming more difficult rather than helping. Farmers opposed the overarching plan that included an entire division of enforcement within the new department. Although the details have been removed, the Council did add language to allow the department to regulate and enforce against farmers.

The goals of the proposed new County department duplicate or conflict with many other federal and state organizations that regulate, advocate for, and oversee agriculture activity. Farmers must comply with laws, regulations, and policies under U.S. Department of Agriculture, State Department of Agriculture, the EPA, the State Department of Health, and many others. “Establishing yet another agency to oversee agriculture is redundant and will be a burden to taxpayers of Maui County who are already under duress,” said Clark Hashimoto, owner of Hashimoto Persimmon Products.

Farmers and ranchers also work closely with the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others who play a role in guiding agricultural producers. Hashimoto went on to say, “There are plenty of agencies already in place who are advocating for and regulating farming. The Maui County Farm Bureau is urging all residents of Maui County to vote NO to this charter amendment when receiving their ballots.” 

About Maui County Farm Bureau: Maui County Farm Bureau is a grassroots 501(c)(5) organization of farms and ranch families, agricultural industries, and associated organizations dedicated to supporting agriculture in Maui County. We are affiliated with both the statewide Hawaii Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Councilmember Sugimura’s County Council office is teleworking. For more information please feel free to contact her on her cell number at 808 870-8047 or YukiLei.Sugimura@MauiCounty.us.

*Yuki Lei Sugimura holds the Maui County Council seat for the Upcountry residency area.

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