BY MICHELE VAN HESSEN – Hawai‘i State Representative Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District: Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) today tried to save a food sustainability bill widely supported by local farmers by amending another agricultural bill, HB 280 HD1 SD2 CD1, on the House floor.
This amendment, which would have added the language in HB2703 HD2 SD2 to HB280 HD1 SD2 CD1, would mandate that the Department of Agriculture to develop a food sustainability standard which promotes local food production. Representative Thielen’s amendment required that, by 2020, food grown in Hawaii for local consumption would double from the amount which was grown in the state in 2014.
“Our farmers were so disappointed when the original bill, HB2703 HD2 SD2, was killed in Conference Committee only a few days ago,” said Representative Thielen, adding, “Hawaii cannot afford to ignore the importance of establishing food sustainability standards. We currently have only a 10 day supply of fresh produce. We import 92 percent of our food and we are the most geographically isolated state in the nation.”
She also told House members that farmers desperately need legislative support and Hawaii is missing a huge opportunity for self sufficiency and economic growth in the agricultural sector.
“By not passing this amendment which establishes food sustainability standards, the Legislature again has neglected an opportunity to offer our agricultural community much needed relief and support. Hawaii is just days away from disaster if our food resources were cut off. We have no control of escalating prices based on shipping and fuel costs. Our farmers and local agriculture provide a safety net and insurance that will protect our state for generations to come,” said Representative Thielen.
“According to the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, replacing ten percent of food imports with locally grown food would create a total of 2,300 jobs. This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars which would be kept in Hawaii’s economy, stimulating growth and strengthening our local economy,” noted Representative Thielen.
Representative Thielen’s amendment was killed earlier this week on the floor by the House Majority.