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Issue Position: Agriculture

Issue Position


Increasing Support for Hawai"i Farmers and Ranchers

Agriculture in Hawai"i remains an important contributor to our economy, especially in the 2nd Congressional District.

Congresswoman Hirono is committed to making sure that Hawai"i's farmers receive their fair share of support and assistance from the federal government. This is especially important because Hawai"i grows crops that are very different from those grown elsewhere. Research conducted on crops, diseases, and pests in other parts of the country does not easily translate to address Hawai"i's unique challenges.

Another difference for Hawai"i is that we are making the transition from large-scale plantation agriculture to diversified agriculture, and the number of farms has grown while the average farm size has decreased. This contrasts with most parts of the U.S., where agriculture is becoming more concentrated with fewer farmers and larger farms.

This year Congresswoman Hirono has worked on two major legislative vehicles affecting agriculture: the 2007 Farm Bill, which reauthorizes federal programs affecting agriculture from Fiscal Years 2008 to 2012, and the FY2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

The Farm Bill that passed the House in July includes several improvements that will provide Hawai"i's farmers with a fairer share of federal assistance than have previous Farm Bills. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson included several of Congresswoman Hirono's requests for Hawai"i in the House-passed version of the Farm Bill (see details below). The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Congresswoman Hirono is working with members of the House Agriculture Committee to get other provisions included in the final bill, including Country of Origin labeling for macadamia nuts.

The FY2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill included more than $24 million for projects that Congresswoman Hirono requested, including funding for critical Hawai"i water supply projects, agricultural research, and invasive species control.

2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419)

The bill that passed the House included three major Hawai"i-specific initiatives based on Congresswoman Hirono's requests:

* Adding Hawai"i 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 processing.

* Establishing a Sun Grant Insular Pacific Sub-Center at the University of Hawai"i to assist in commercialization of bio-based energy technologies and products in Hawai"i, Alaska, and the American-affiliated Pacific Islands.

* Authorizing construction of a multi-species fruit fly rearing and sterilization facility in Hawai"i to address concerns not only with the Mediterranean fruit fly but also with the other three species of non-native fruit flies in Hawai"i.

In addition to these Hawai"i-specific programs, Congresswoman Hirono strongly advocated for continuation of several national programs of particular importance to Hawai"i, including:

* Maintaining and strengthening the U.S. sugar program

* Increasing funding for specialty crops

* Rapid response initiative to prevent spread of invasive species.

Other notable achievements of the bill include:

* Increasing funding for Farm Bill conservation programs

* Implementing Country of Origin Labeling for fruit, vegetables, and meat after years of delay

* Expanding the USDA fresh fruit and vegetable school snack program to all 50 states

* Strengthening and enhancing the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support

* Supporting development of renewable energy by providing $1.5 billion for production incentives for ethanol and biodiesel made from agricultural, forest, and waste plant materials

Agriculture Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 3161)

The bill passed by the House includes funding for many projects Congresswoman Hirono requested:

* Continued funding for the Upcountry Maui Watershed irrigation project, the Lower Hamakua Ditch Watershed irrigation project, and the Wailuku-Alenaio Watershed flood control project.

More than $24 million was provided in the House-passed bill based on Congresswoman Hirono's requests to the Appropriations Committee:

* $9,548,000 for Tropical and Subtropical Research in the Pacific and Caribbean Basin regions (including the University of Hawaii)

* $4,158,000 to fund the Shrimp Farming Consortium led by Hawai"i's Oceanic Institute

* $2,402,726 to augment staffing at the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo

* $1,609,000 for Native Hawaiian-serving Education Grants benefiting the University of Hawai"i campuses

* $1,541,561 for Tropical Aquaculture Feeds Research

* $1,340,000 for brown tree snake control in Guam and Hawai"i

* $1,000,000 to offset the costs to the state of federally required passenger inspections on the neighbor islands

* $891,000 for each of the four Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils in Hawai"i to support sustainable development consistent with the unique needs of Hawai"i's varied rural communities.

* $481,000 for Agriculture Development in the American Pacific

* $348,000 for industry-directed floriculture research in Hawai"i

* $283,797 for pineapple nematode and papaya ringspot virus research

* $231,000 to support the National Wildlife Services Field Office in Hilo

* $219,000 for Agricultural Diversification research in Hawai"i

* $139,104 for Subterranean Termite Research

* $107,136 for the Hawai"i Plant Materials Center on Moloka"i, which provides native plant species for restoration of Kaho"olawe

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