It sounds nice, a farming bill that protects the right to farm from here to eternity, but opponents say a new bill in Hawaii has more devilish intentions. The bill, known as the “right to farm bill”, was introduced by Rep. Dee Morikawa (D-Koloa-Niihau) and Rep. James “Jimmy” Tokioka (D-Koloa-Wailua), and essentially seeks to stop counties from placing restrictions on farming beyond what’s already covered by state and federal laws.
“The right of farmers and rangers to engage in modern farming and ranching will be forever guaranteed in this State. No law, ordinance, or resolution of any unit of local government shall be enacted that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production, and ranching practices not prohibited by federal or state law, rules, or regulations.” - The Garden Island
The bill sounds nice, but when framed against another recent ordinance passed on the Big Island, or Kauai County, it sounds like an effort to give GMO and pesticides a limitless and never-expiring free pass.
County Ordinance 960 passed in November and gives Kauai County the right to limit the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. The new bill, which would expand the state’s Right to Farm Act of 2011, would essentially eliminate the County Ordinance.
Read: Hawaii Bans GMO Biotech
“Both of these bills take away 100 percent of the authority of the county to regulate agriculture, which includes pesticides,” said Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser. “It is without question an attempt to nullify Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491), as well as the ordinance passed on the Big Island.”
Hooser said he is particularly disappointed in the bill because the ordinance on Kauai went through the democratic process to be passed and that the people want it.
“For the Legislature to act like big brother, that they know better than the county, is just bad polity and bad politics,” he said.
Though it has some supporters, the opponents of the newly-proposed measures pull some weight. Chairwoman of the House Agricultural Committee Jessical Wooley says she doesn’t plan on hearing the bill at all and would prefer to focus on bills dealing with food security.
For their part, the supporters would have you think their bill is nothing but a pro-farmer effort. However, a closer look reveals it could undermine those practicing sustainable agriculture and farming as it should be.