I know how busy you are and that you are dealing with a myriad of issues important to the State of Hawaii, so I will cut to the chase.
Taking away County authority to regulate agriculture and/or pesticides is both bad policy and bad politics. Please don’t go there.
Last year Monsanto and friends attempted to slip through SB727 literally taking away the Counties right to protect health and life. It’s no secret they will be trying again during the 2014 legislative session to both avoid any new regulation and to nullify existing laws passed in both Kauai and Hawaii County.
The Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Senator Nishihara has already announced introduction of a Bill he said “many are calling The Monsanto Protection Act”.
To say that this Bill and other similar efforts will be fought vigorously by thousands of residents who live in all parts of our State is an understatement.
One size does not fit all and the Hawaii and Kauai County situations are solid examples.
Kauai’s concern is primarily with the health and environmental impacts of intensive pesticide application being conducted near schools, hospitals and homes. Hawaii County is concerned with the impacts of genetically modified pollen drift combined with a desire to limit the unregulated expansion of agrochemical companies in their community. On Maui and Oahu the concerns will likewise be specific to those particular communities.
There is a clear disconnect between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA) with regards to responsibility in this area. Neither seems willing to assume the lead role in protecting the community from pesticide misuse and both are in the midst of a leadership changes.
The (DOH) conducts no regular consistent systematic testing of soil, water or air in the vicinity of these industrial operations. And there has never been a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of this industry on adjacent communities.
The (DOA) has shown by its past action and inaction that it’s not equipped or interested in accepting the responsibility. The DOA does not even know what pesticides are used, how much is used, nor where they are being used. On Kauai, companies that apply pesticides 250 times per year might be inspected by the DOA 7 times per year and 43% of the inspection logs are redacted and blocked from public review.
It can take years for the DOA to complete investigations of pesticide drift and the surrounding community is not notified or warned until after the investigation is concluded.
Taking away local control and replacing it with a one size fits all big brother solution, managed by industry friendly agencies woefully ill-equipped to fulfill their existing mandates is the answer being sought by Monsanto and friends.
These agrochemical companies produce no food for local consumption and pay minimal GET while benefiting from numerous State and County subsidies. They lease State lands, pay very low rents and have not complied with HRS Chapter 343 (EIS law). While claiming to be “highly regulated” they operate with impunity applying hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals annually into our local environment.
People on Kauai are getting sick. Local physicians testify their patients have ten times the national rate of certain rare birth defects. Sea urchins have died off and students and teachers at local schools located adjacent to heavily sprayed fields have been taken to the hospital. The new Kauai ordinance requires basic disclosure of pesticide use and modest buffer zones. We are not asking for trade secrets nor chemical formulas.
The industry response is to file suit against the people of Kauai and press upon their friends in the legislature to have our law and these minimal protections to our community nullified.
Please, don’t go there. Don’t give the largest companies in the world even more power through the dis-empowering of our community and others around our State.
Gary Hooser – Kauai County Councilmember and former Colleague