Kauai farmers, mothers, residents respond:
“Bad policy, bad politics.”
Lihue, HI – A growing statewide coalition of farmers, mothers, doctors, teachers, union workers, local elected leaders, and others from across the Hawaiian islands are reacting strongly to news of two bills, House Bill 2506 (HB 2506) and Senate Bill 3058 (SB 3508) that attempt to preempt the rights of Hawaii’s counties to protect the health and safety of their islands’ families and the environment.
The bills would undermine laws recently passed by County Councils on Big Island and Kauai, and a County legislation currently in deliberation on Maui.
Reaction from Kauai constituents island-wide was swift and strong, ranging from disappointment to outrage. Island response was particularly directed at Kauai State Representatives Dee Morikawa and James Tokioka, both who, this summer, witnessed testimonies from their Kauai neighbors, farmers, medical professionals and families as they pled for, and won, a Kauai County law (Bill 2491, now Ordinance 960) requiring disclosure and protections from the spraying of restricted use pesticides by agrochemical companies.
If passed, HB 2505 and SB 3508 could threaten the Kauai people’s populist win.
Backdoor Sabotage of the People’s Victories.
Mother and teacher Lorilani Keohokalole-Torio, expressed the sentiment held widely among Kauai residents, “Our communities worked so hard and played by the rules. We stepped up. We stood strong. And We, the People, won. We will not allow our state representatives to promote the financial interests of chemical companies over the health and safety of our children, our families, and the land.”
Keohokalole-Torio, along with thousands of other Kauai residents, testified this summer in favor of Kauai’s Bill 2491.
Dustin Barca, a voice of the growing statewide movement to oppose preemption agreed, “Oahu cannot tell our counties that we are not allowed to protect our children and land. The preemption bills, introduced by politicians who are kneeling to chemical corporations, are just another stab by the agrochemical industry to take away the people’s rights. These bills will be defeated.”
Fern Rosensteil, a leader of Ohana o Kauai added, “It is naive to assume that the federal government, who granted experimental pesticide permits for use on Kauai, and the state, whose large, corporate ‘Big-Ag’ interests have dominated the law for over 120 years), can effectively manage our county concerns. They have demonstrated clearly their failure to safely, effectively and transparently do so.”
Whose Right to Farm?
The bills, HB 2506 and SB 3058, quickly dubbed the “Hawaii Monsanto Protection Acts” were introduced late last Thursday. The bills, supported heavily by lobbyists and monies from the agrochemical industry, expand “Right to Farm” laws to benefit large corporate industrial agriculture operations over the rights of small, local Hawaiian farmers.
“These preemption bills would allow large agrochemical companies to continue poisoning our lands, resources and people without the counties regulating them,” said farmer Chris Kobayashi, “Every county needs to determine the future of food and farming on their island.
Louisa Wooten, whose family has farmed on Kauai for over 30 years, stated that the preemption bills do not represent the stance of many family farms and ranches throughout Hawaii: “The right to farm? Yes. The right to pollute and contaminate the environment and allow poisons to drift onto our neighbors? No!”
A Wave of County Legislation.
This year, Kauai and Hawaii Counties were victorious in winning new laws to protect children from pesticide exposure, require mandatory disclosure about agrochemical pesticide use, and limit the expansion of genetically engineered seed operations.
“The pesticide and agrochemical industry will attempt to restrict the rights of local governments, in favor of higher levels of government where they have more access and power,” said Kauai County Council member Gary Hooser. “But, there are consequences of these bills that have not been thought through, and this law is challengeable.