Hawaii residents are asking for more local grown food. Many farmers are working to expand their businesses; many new entrepreneurs are starting farm businesses.
All farms need land. On Oahu especially, access to land is our food farmers' highest priority. The laws governing agricultural land are in place to make sure farmland is used for farms and is affordable for farmers.
But the Legislature is changing that. They passed a law this year that will turn farmlands into vacation rental districts.
The Senate bill permitted vacation rentals on agricultural lands without any farming at all. Allowing tourism on agricultural lands without farms would have turned communities like Waimanalo and the North Shore into rural resort areas.
Turning agricultural lands into tourism areas will increase the price of farmlands to become unaffordable to new farmers, and the rising property taxes will drive some existing farmers out of business.
Senate Bill 2341 allowed vacation rentals on agricultural lands and eliminated the need to have a bona fide farm on the property.
Senate Bill 2350 allowed fake farms to add multiple houses to their site, which would increase the number of vacation rentals on a single lot.
The current Senator for Kailua, Hawaii Kai and Waimanalo voted for one bill and introduced the other.
As the City's first Agricultural Liaison and the former Director of the State Office of Planning, I have been a strong and reliable advocate for land use laws to protect and promote farms and to keep agricultural land affordable for farming.
I reached out to farmers, and through their testimony we changed Senate Bill 2341 to require bona fide farms and killed Senate Bill 2350.
If elected, I will continue to be a strong advocate for farming. I will oppose any effort to change the agricultural district into a tourism resort district. I will work to develop meaningful incentives that support increased food farming and agricultural operations that help Hawaii's resiliency and economy.