Throughout our state the local agriculture community is under attack. Many small farmers at farmers' markets have reported that their produce has been dramatically thrown aside by some especially vocal consumers, if it was not grown the way they insisted it to be. On Oahu and the Big Island, over the last few years thousands of papaya trees were vandalized. Local farmers’ business pages have been threatened with boycott or disparaged publicly by activists. Some farmers have been accused of poisoning the land and environmental contamination in an attempt to invalidate their work and livelihoods. Scientists and other ag advocates, who have supported the farmers have been accused of lying and even threatened with death. The evidence of all of this is summarized in this story of the The Legend of the A'ole GMO. Is this the kind of aloha we want to have in our state towards our farmers and others who support them?
Historically, the agricultural industry relies on both big and small ag. It is a diverse industry that goes beyond just growing food. Attempts by activist leaders to destroy larger farms or agribusinesses ultimately harms the most vulnerable ones that rely on these larger entities to provide infrastructure support, research, and economies of scale to reduce cost of inputs. We cannot allow the heart of our agricultural communities, including our small farmers, to be subjected to these misguided attacks. Their hard work is too vital to our islands and food sustainability and a hit on them only unravels the very fabric of our agricultural economy that was started because of large industries like pineapple and sugar cane.
To further compound the problem, county politicians are listening to the most vocal and ill informed people to base these laws upon and farmers are being attacked by these same activists. These activists have come worldwide due to the overwhelming efforts of a well funded industry. They appear as if they are speaking for the local farmers and people, but the fact is they do not represent each and every small farmer affected by this. If we as a state are to maintain and grow our local ag industry, we need the support of our government leaders or our farmers will have no incentive to continue the tireless work they do. Farmers don't have the time to continually be defending their work.
Many of these activists are not well educated and it shows in their commentaries. In spite of this, somehow these are the very people that are getting the attention of the lawmakers of our state. They are the same people who even threatened Mayor Carvalho when he realized the difficult and problematic issues with the Kauai anti-ag bill. That is not pono at all.
In addition, the activist groups that are contacting our government leaders claim to want to protect the aina and our people, but then they misinform followers that have been fear mongered, which results in nasty commentaries. The Hawaii GMO Justice Coalition is a good example and has some of the most vile comments. Then there are the Babes Against Biotech with their ongoing campaign of misinformation and bullying tactics. Hawaii SEED is yet another group actually being funded by non-local sources that is out to destroy any type of agriculture that is not organic. These groups are all about keeping people in the dark about technology and taking away important tools for the future based upon fear and misinformation. They are out to destroy any farm big or small that does not comply with their ideology. This is not consistent with the heart of Hawaii agriculture that relies on cooperation and coexistence.
Do we want this kind of atmosphere to continue on our islands? Apparently rogue county council members like this kind of maneuvering and are on their way to destroying the future of agriculture. Here is a take on what will happen if we go the route we are heading if our leaders listen to them. We are about to reject the scientific evidence and consensus built over several decades in the name of ignorance? That's irresponsible and shortsighted.
Perceived public opinion does not always make for good laws. While still unclear if these activists have swayed a large majority of the state population, it still does not make for good policy. The consequences of shortsighted thinking and the latest trend of the moment can have long-term repercussions that we can never recover from.
In terms of policies that affect local agriculture and food sustainability, government leaders have a responsibility to do what is in the best interest for the future of our agricultural industry as a whole, and in particular focus on supporting the crucial minority who are the farmers and ag workers in our state. If you continue to listen and capitulate to activists who use fear, bullying, and a “our way or the highway” attitude , then you are sending a message to the vast majority of food producers in our state that they would be better off getting out of the farming business. Instead of worrying about meeting the demands of these fear-mongering activists, most of whom do not even farm or know how hard it is, you should be listening to the farmers and agricultural professionals that are doing actual work to solve problems and feed us. That is the responsible thing to do for resolving ag issues in our state and our farmers are calling upon you now. Honor and cherish our farmers across the state now by showing your support!