Measure Contains Provisions Protecting Macadamia Nuts, Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, and Spurs Biobased Energy Technologies
The Hawaii Congressional Delegation today hailed passage of the Farm Bill, and noted that the legislation included provisions that strengthen the state's agriculture sector and establishes the University of Hawaii as a regional center of study for biobased energy technologies.
The bill's key Hawaii-related provisions include:
- Adding macadamia nuts, one of Hawaii's signature products, to the mandatory
Country-of-Origin Labeling Program so that lesser quality macadamia nuts produced
elsewhere cannot be legally labeled as Hawaii-grown.
- Authorizing $15 million in reimbursements per fiscal year for farmers and ranchers in Hawaii,
Alaska, and the U.S. Territories because they are confronted with both production and
transportation disadvantages simply because of their location.
- Establishing a Western Insular Pacific Subcenter at the University of Hawaii for Hawaii, Alaska,
Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Federated States of Micronesia, the
Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau to explore how to enhance
agricultural production through biobased energy and product technologies.
- Adding Hawaii to the list of states eligible for grants under the Agricultural Management
Assistance Program, which provides cost-sharing assistance to help producers construct or
improve water management and irrigation structures, plant trees, control soil erosion,
practice integrated pest management, practice organic farming, and develop value-added
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who crafted several of the Hawaii-related provisions, said: "I am pleased that both the Senate and House have passed the Farm Bill by veto-proof margins. The overwhelming majority of lawmakers from both parties recognize that this measure is good for our nation.
"For Hawaii, which is known to produce the highest quality macadamia nuts in the world, the addition of macadamia nuts to the Country-of-Origin Labeling Program means consumers will get the high-quality product they expected when they purchase our macadamia nut products. That quality assurance will help to sustain our state's agriculture industry."
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka added: "This good, bipartisan Farm Bill benefits both consumers and agricultural producers. It will protect our natural resources, continue our investment in alternative energy to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, and better meet the needs of our children by ensuring they get nutritional food in school. This bill would offer reimbursement to Hawaii's geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers for transportation of agricultural products. It is also good news for local pet lovers, continuing the practice of allowing Hawaii residents to transport puppies from rabies-free countries."
U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie said: "One of the exciting prospects for Hawaii is how the bill expands economic opportunities by promoting alternate energy research and development, and Hawaii is the perfect proving ground for this. Our agricultural lands can grow crops to produce biodiesel fuel and ethanol or provide ideal locations to tap the sun, wind, and ocean for energy production. The establishment of the Western Insular Pacific Subcenter at the University of Hawaii is the perfect example. The subcenter will receive federal research funds to find ways to harness the energy of the sun by enabling entrepreneurs and others across the state - from a tree farmer on Kauai to algae growers on Hawaii Island - to compete for grants."
U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono added: "I am very pleased that my provision adding Hawaii to the list of only 15 states currently eligible for the cost-shared Agricultural Management Assistance Program was included in the final version of the Farm Bill. The program was developed for states currently underserved by crop insurance and provides the kind of farm-level assistance especially appropriate for Hawaii's diversified agriculture. In addition, the bill includes many other provisions I requested, including country-of-origin labeling for macadamia nuts, the Sun Grant Center at the University of Hawaii, increased funding for Specialty Crop grants, and other programs to benefit growers of fruits and vegetables, enhanced support for addressing invasive species concerns and for organic farming, and more funding for conservation and nutrition programs. This is the best Farm Bill ever for Hawaii."
The following are other Farm Bill provisions that benefit Hawaii:
Rural Utilities in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas
This provision formally recognizes the need to improve the availability and quality of utility services in Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native rural communities, defined as Substantially Underserved Trust Areas. The Secretary of Agriculture, through the Rural Utility Services, is authorized to assign the highest funding priority for loans and loan guarantees for telecommunication and other services in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas. Enactment of this provision is a step toward providing utility services for Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native communities at levels comparable to those of other rural communities.
Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research
This measure establishes a Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research Program to sustain the agriculture and the environment of U.S. entities in the Caribbean and Pacific basins, with particular emphasis on pest management and deterring introduction and establishment invasive alien species.
This program has been funded by the Congress since 1983 under the Special Research Grants program administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. The Congress provided nearly $3.6 million in Fiscal Year 2008 for Hawaii. "This measure, however, provides more specific authority for this program including definition of eligible entities and lead institutions," Senator Inouye said.
Agricultural Development in the American-Pacific Region
This provision amends the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998, to combine university experience and scientific capabilities in research, education, and outreach in the American-Pacific region.
Colleges and universities in the region are separated by thousands of miles of water in the Pacific, and by vast stretches of unpopulated and inhospitable distances in Alaska. They are the most physically and technologically separated Land Grant institutions in the United States. These land grant institutions typically serve ethnically diverse clients living in fragile ecosystems that need to be protected and enhanced for local, national and international benefit.
Through collaboration and resource sharing, this alliance will use limited resources to maximize benefits to residents of the region. The Pacific islands and Alaska also act as key gateways between Asia, Russia, and the 48 contiguous United States; as such, they serve as bellwethers for the impacts of global warming, the movement of infectious diseases and growing chronic healthcare issues, rising costs of transportation, and invasive species, and other biological threats.
Women and Minorities in STEM Fields
This provision would increase the participation of women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Rural and cultural barriers have historically precluded women and minorities from full participation in these fields. Innovative programs in Hawaii and other states are needed for underrepresented groups to overcome barriers, and enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Education Grants to Alaska Native Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
The authorization for the Education Grants to Alaska Native Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, Section 759 of Public Law 106-78 expired at the end of 2006. This provision extends the authority for this program through 2012.
Invasive Species Management
At the urging of delegation members, the Farm Bill contains report language that acknowledges the vulnerability of Hawaii's unique ecosystem to threats from invasive species, and urges the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Homeland Security "to work together in close cooperation with the State of Hawaii to effectively reduce the number of invasive species in Hawaii." The report stresses that "this collaboration is critical at Hawaiian ports of entry."
Exotic pests in Hawaii cause $300 million in yearly financial losses due to crop damage and lost export markets.
The Farm Bill cleared its final legislative hurdle when the Senate voted 81 to 15 to pass the measure on Thursday, May 15, 2008. A day earlier, the House gave its approval by a vote of 318 to 106. These strong majorities should be able to easily overcome the President's threatened veto of the Farm Bill.