We are Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United, a group formed to protect our freedom to farm. We support House Bill 2506 & Senate Bill 3508, which amend Hawaii’s Right-To-Farm Act.

At an annual value of $194 million, we produce almost all of the island’s agriculture – 93 percent of the agricultural products grown and raised on the Big Island – and we unhesitatingly, passionately, support these bills.

They will amend Hawaii’s Right-To-Farm Act “to ensure that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances, or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.”

We are very concerned that Hawaii County recently passed an anti-GMO bill, which prohibits Big Island producers from using any new biotech solutions to their farming challenges.

It halts our public research projects. Our competitors, elsewhere in Hawaii and on the mainland, will continue to have the benefit of advancing science and technology. Taking advantage of biotech solutions on the Big Island is now a criminal act.

Demonizing and criminalizing our local farmers and ranchers is unacceptable.

The Big Island’s anti-GMO bill only harms our local farmers and ranchers, who are our family, friends and neighbors. It will harm our agricultural industry and the island’s economy, causing Big Island farmers and ranchers to be less competitive, which will result in higher food costs.

It jeopardizes our food security and will increase our dependence on imported food. This fails to make Hawaii sustainable, and ensure safe, affordable food in Hawaii.

It’s those on the lowest rungs of our economic ladder — our kupuna on fixed incomes, the single moms, and the working homeless — who will be most affected by rising food costs.

We need to concentrate on our remote islands’ food security. All our farmers, from conventional to organic to Korean natural farming to permaculture, should be looking for ways we can support each other.

However, we can’t have these crucial discussions while we are divided.

None of us went into farming or ranching to seek fame and fortune. A big motivator for what we do is personal satisfaction, but when farmers and ranchers are not appreciated, or, worse yet, are considered criminals, many will lose that motivation.

It will become even more difficult to encourage the next generation to continue farming and ranching. Who will grow our food? We are barreling down a road that leads to destroying the Big Island’s agricultural industry.

It is conventional agriculture that produces most of the world’s affordable food. If we can leverage our Hawaiian sunshine with specific biotech tools as needed, our farmers will have a competitive advantage over the rest of the world.

This is where we should be concentrating our time and energy. Lower food costs would give all of us discretionary income. It is “trickle-up economics.” Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending; everyone will benefit.

Allowing this issue to simmer is not good for Hawaii. As the divisiveness continues, the ends are increasingly justifying the means, and science has become marginalized. This is not what we should be teaching our children.

We are heartened that so many legislators have joined together to present HB2506 & SB3508, which would override the restrictions of the Big Island anti-GMO bill, and we ask all of them to support it. We are weary of sitting in hearings, trying to be heard. We need to get back to our farms and ranches.

Ross Sibucao, Hawaii Farmers & Ranchers United

About the author Ross Sibucao is president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association and a third-generation Hawaii-born farmer on the Big Island.

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