An embattled campaign to establish a dairy on Kauai’s south shore has collapsed after five years of attempts by Hawaii Dairy Farms to win regulatory approval and community support.

In a press release, Hawaii Dairy Farms pinned the decision to discontinue its efforts to build a 557-acre, pasture-raised dairy in Mahaulepu on regulatory hurdles. The project had also faced litigation, including a federal lawsuit by the advocacy group Friends of Mahaulepu charging HDF with Clean Water Act violations.

Concerned over the possibility that the dairy could send foul odors and flies downwind to its beachfront pools, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in nearby Poipu had also sued to force an environmental assessment.

The site of the proposed dairy farm is zoned for Important Agricultural Lands. HDF, which leases the land, said it is working with landowner Grove Farm and other parties to explore alternative proposals for food production in Mahaulepu.

The proposed dairy farm on Kauai met fierce local opposition expressed in litigation and bumper stickers that read: “No Moo Poo in Mahaulepu.” Flickr: Steven Zolneczko

Ulupono Initiative, HDF’s parent company, is a Hawaii-centric investment hub that funds environmentally sustainable projects aimed at bolstering Hawaii’s food security, clean and renewable energy production and water and waste management.

“One of our core mission objectives is to increase local food production, in any form, so that we are less reliant on imports,” said Amy Hennessey, a spokesperson for Ulupono. “If our state is to achieve its ambitious goal of doubling local food production, more must be done to create an environment in which commercially viable agriculture can succeed.”

(The Ulupono Initiative was founded by Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Pierre Omidyar is the CEO and publisher of Civil Beat.)

In 2016, Hawaii Gov. David Ige set a deadline of 2030 to double local agriculture production.

There used to be 160 dairies in Hawaii. Only two remain, and one is closing, meaning Hawaii could end up importing all of its milk.

The last two commercial dairy farms in the state are Big Island Dairy, which is in the process of closing, and Cloverleaf, a farm in Hawi on the Big Island that is trying to finalize a tenuous sale agreement with mainland investors.

The abandoned dairy venture on Kauai would have been modeled after New Zealand’s largely sustainable method of grass-fed dairy farming.

“Our proposal for the dairy farm was based on best management practices proven from around the world to create a more environmentally sustainable model of dairy farm that utilized active pasture management to minimize runoff and use grass as a low-cost source of feed,” Hennessey said in a statement.

“But rather than incentivizing local food production to meet our state’s food goals, Hawai‘i’s environmental regulations seem to unfairly place dairies and other similar animal agriculture operations in the same category as wastewater treatment plants.”

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author