Hawaii's natural beauty is the envy of the world. Our Spirit of Aloha, our unparalleled diversity, and our unique quality of life are a big part of what make Hawaii so special.
A state as distinctive as ours deserves a stronger, more self-sufficient, more sustainable future.
At a time when we're facing profound economic challenges, rising costs-of-living, and the mission of creating more middle-class jobs -- it's especially troubling that Hawaii currently imports nearly 90 percent of our energy and food -- 90 percent. This extreme imbalance of imported energy and food drives up prices on the basic necessities we buy in Hawaii and places an additional burden on everyday families.
The State of Hawaii deserves a future as self-reliant as the people who call Hawaii home. We are not a "dependent" people; we cannot continue to be so dependent on the mainland and other countries for basic necessities like gas and groceries.
We need a future that's built to last. We need a future that's built on Hawaii first.
Ensuring a more sustainable Hawaii has been a major focus of mine since I first came to Congress in 2007. Right now, a lack of water is the single biggest hurdle to expanding agriculture in Hawaii. That's why helping farmers get access to irrigation water has been a top priority for me. I've championed and helped secure funding to rehabilitate the Lower Hamakua Ditch and build the Up-Country Maui irrigation system. When this program was targeted for elimination this year, I was able to rally support for it on both sides of the aisle and save it.
To help support and grow agriculture in our state, I've secured funding for our floriculture industry, for community-based agricultural development on each island, for research on tropical crops, and for efforts to protect our honeybees. In fact, in my first year in Congress, I was in the top ten percent of all 435 members in the House for success in securing funding for my district. In the last federal Farm Bill, which governs America's agriculture policy, you've seen me fight to get Hawaii included on the list of only 14 states under-served by federal crop insurance so we could become eligible for federal grants.
Other priorities have been:
To help our macadamia growers compete against growing imports, got Country-of-Origin labeling for macadamia nuts.
Worked to make Hawaii eligible for federal grants under the Agricultural Management Assistance Program -- which helps local farms and farmers improve their water-management and irrigation systems, practice organic farming, and develop value-added food processing for their crops.
Press for the creation of a Sun Grant Insular Pacific Sub-Center at the University of Hawaii -- a fancy name for an initiative that helps local bio-fuel and alternative-energy producers bring their products and innovations to market.
Got House support for Senator Inouye's Geographically Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program, which provides funds to help offset the transportation costs of things like feed and fertilizer that can make it difficult for Hawaii's farmers to compete with the mainland.
All of this is designed not only to make Hawaii's economy more sustainable -- but also to create new and lasting Hawaii jobs. The kinds of Hawaii jobs our children can grow into. The kinds of Hawaii jobs no one can ship overseas.
In the U.S. Senate, I'll see it not only as my job but as my obligation to be an outspoken voice for Hawaii's self-sufficiency. I'll keep fighting to make Hawaii's economy and way of life more sustainable by helping our farmers not only grow local, but sell local too. I'll continue to support having more of what we buy in Hawaii be made in Hawaii. And I'll continue fighting to increase development and commercialization of Hawaii-produced, clean and renewable energy -- including an expansion of tax credits for producers of home-grown fuels like biodiesel.
We have everything we need to make our state more self-sufficient. We have the climate, the crops and -- most important -- the farmers to bring our agricultural products to local markets. We have the sun, the waves, the wind and -- most important -- the entrepreneurs to turn our natural resources into home-grown, renewable energy that powers Hawaii from within.
What we need now is leadership. And in the U.S. Senate, that's what I'll provide -- charting a course toward a more self-sufficient and sustainable future for this state that truly is the envy of the world.