Agricultural Land Disappearing

Agriculture Hawaii is nearly totally dependent upon food produced from out of state. On the one hand there are many studies and encouragement to make Hawaii self sufficient in food production. On the other we have immense political pressure to convert prime agricultural lands to house lots. DR Horton will build 11,750 homes on prime agricultural land. The Honolulu city Council voted 9-0 in favor of the Ewa development. What does that bode for the future of food sustainability in Hawaii?

Hawaii produces only 10 to 15 percent of its food. In spite of all the studies and recommendations we continue to remove ag land from the equation. Between 1960 and 2005, farm land in Hawaii shrank from 2.6 to 1.3 million acres. The trend is a warning sign. This is a clear indication that we are on a path to a dependency on the transportation system to feed Hawaii. Strikes and natural disasters can virtually shut off our supply. And, the “just in time” delivery system has sharply reduced the merchants’ need for warehouses, so now, if shipping to the state were to be suddenly cut off, the stock of food would last no more than a few days.

With these facts in mind one can wonder why the developers can get unanimous approval for projects which increase our vulnerability to food crises.


About the Big Island’s Water Quality

Blogger and farmer Richard Ha writes about the recent study on water quality.

About the Big Island’s Water Quality (Ha Ha Ha!): “About the Big Island’s Water Quality

Richard Ha writes:

The State of Hawai‘i tested 24 sites throughout the islands for pesticide residue, and the Big Island tested the lowest. Of all the islands, we had the lowest amount of pesticide residue.

It’s interesting to note that ‘the USGS laboratory methods used for this study measure compounds at trace levels; commonly 10 to 1,000 times lower than drinking water standards and aquatic life guidelines.’

The document is called the 2013-14 STATE WIDE PESTICIDE SAMPLING PILOT PROJECT WATER QUALITY FINDINGS, A Joint Investigation by the Hawaii State Departments of Health and Agriculture.

From the executive summary (there’s lots more detail within the study itself):

Surface water samples collected from 24 sites statewide were analyzed for a total of 136 different pesticides or breakdown products. All locations had at least one pesticide detection. Only one pesticide, a historically used termiticide exceeded state and federal water regulatory limits. Five other pesticide compounds were detected at levels exceeding the most conservative EPA aquatic life benchmark. All other pesticides detected were lower than the most stringent aquatic or human health guideline value.

These findings represent a snapshot in time from a single sampling event within watersheds with multiple upstream inputs. While they provide useful information about pesticide occurrence across different land uses, they may not be representative of typical conditions or identify specific sources.

Key findings:

Every location sampled had a trace detection of one or more pesticides; however, the majority of these represented minute concentrations that fall below state and federal benchmarks for human health and ecosystems.
Land use significantly impacted the number and type of pesticides detected. Urban areas on Oahu showed the highest number of different pesticides.
Oahu’s urban streams had the highest number of different pesticides detected. Manoa Stream at the University of Hawaii showed 20 different pesticides and breakdown products.
Dieldrin, a termite treatment that has been banned from sale in Hawaii since 1980, exceeded State and Federal Water Quality standards in three urban locations on Oahu.
Fipronil detected in Manoa Stream and Waialae Iki Stream exceeded aquatic life benchmarks for freshwater invertebrates. Fipronil is an insecticide commonly used in residential settings and applied by commercial pest companies to treat soil for termites.
Atrazine and metolachlor, two restricted use herbicides, were detected on Kauai at agricultural sites downstream of seed crop operations. One location had levels that exceed aquatic life guidelines, but remain below regulatory standards.
The number of pesticides detected in water samples on Hawaii Island was lower than that of Kauai and Oahu.
Atrazine, a restricted use pesticide, was the most commonly found pesticide in the study. Of the sites tested, 80 percent had atrazine detections. Only two sites, one on Kauai, and one on Maui, reflected elevated concentrations suggestive of current use of atrazine. All of the remaining detections were trace level concentrations far below state and federal benchmarks.
The pilot study tested stream bed sediment at seven sites and found glyphosate, in all samples. Glyphosate (trade marked as Roundup) is widely used for residential, commercial, agricultural and roadside weed management.
Read the rest”

(Via .)

Innovative approach to providing animal feed in Hawaii

From Pacific Business News

May 13, 2014, 2:46pm HST
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative invests $1M in Hawaii Pacific University’s feedmill project
Hilo Feedmill Rendering Enlarge Photo
Courtesy Hawaii Pacific University
This rendering shows the proposed feed mill Hawaii Pacific University plans to build in Hilo. Ulupono Initiative, founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has donated $1 million toward the project.

Hilo feedmill rendering 304xx1200 800 0 0

Duane Shimogawa
Pacific Business News
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Ulupono Initiative, the Honolulu-based social impact investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has given Hawaii Pacific University $1 million as part of a newly formed partnership for the development of a state-of-the-art facility that aimed at helping with the issue of local food security.
As part of its mission to increase local food production, Ulupono Initiative is helping to finance HPU’s prototype feed mill to be built on the Big Island.
The long-planned project is spearheaded by Oceanic Institute-HPU, which became a direct research unit of the state’s largest private university last year.
Hawaii’s isolation makes food security a priority for its residents, since 85-90 percent of the state’s food is imported, making the state vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that disrupt shipping and the food supply, the two private entities said.
Nearly all of Hawaii’s animal feed is imported because the cost of local inputs is too high, and for local animal producers, feed is the single largest operational cost.
“Hawaii’s aquaculture and livestock industry play a critical role in the food security and resilience of our state, but they are threatened by the volatility of feed, fuel and fertilizer,” Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative, said in a statement.
Through this feed mill project, researchers from Oceanic Institute-HPU will create feed for animals including cattle, poultry, and moi, and will incorporate byproducts from local industries such as sugarcane, fisheries, papaya and algae, which otherwise go to waste.
Once formulated to meet each animal’s specific nutritional needs, the feed will be tested on a scale relevant to Hawaii farmers.

“Currently at our OI-HPU Makapuu campus, we have the only pilot-scale research feed mill for tropical and subtropical aquaculture in the US and Pacific-Island region,” Shaun Moss, executive director of OI-HPU, said in a statement. “This partnership with Ulupono Initiative provides an unparalleled opportunity for us to evaluate locally available waste products and transform them into feed ingredients on a commercial scale to support local food production.”
Ulupono Initiative said that its investment funds the installation of the necessary equipment to automate the plant, making it more productive, efficient and economically viable, which, if successful, would catalyze development of commercial feed mills in Hawaii.
The long-run competitiveness of Hawaii-based beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and hogs are dependent on local feed availability, the firm said.
“Feed represents 70 to 80 percent of the costs of raising an animal, and feed prices have nearly doubled since 2009, forcing many Hawaii producers to cease operations,” said Datta. “By investing in this feed mill, which is capable of supporting pre-commercial feed trials, Ulupono seeks to help lower feed costs with a locally produced alternative to imported feed that will improve the financial viability for Hawaii’s aquaculture and livestock producers.”
The feed mill is also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources and private donors.

The Ethanol Disaster

This article was originally published in

The Ethanol Disaster

Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel,” Bob Dineen, head of the Renewable Fuels Association, told The New York Times.

CornHere are a few possible reasons why: America’s ethanol requirement destroys the environment, damages car engines, increases gas prices, and contributes to the starvation of the global poor. It’s an unmitigated disaster on nearly every level.

Start with the environment. After all, when the renewable fuel standard (RFS), which since 2005 has set forth a minimum annual volume of renewable fuels nationwide, was first set, one of the primary arguments for mandating ethanol use was that it was a greener, more environmentally friendly source of fuel that released fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

This turns out to be complete hogwash. Researchers have known for years that, when the entire production process is taken into account, most supposedly green biofuels actually emit more greenhouse gasses than traditional fuels.

Some proponents of the ethanol mandate have argued that the requirement was nonetheless necessary in order to spur demand for and development of more advanced, environmentally friendly biofuel like cellulosic ethanol, which is converted into fuel from corn-farm leftovers.

But there are two serious problems with cellosic ethanol. The first is that cellulosic ethanol turns out to be rather difficult to produce; despite EPA projections that the market would produce at least 5 million gallons in 2010 and 6.6 million in 2011, the United States produced exactly zero gallons both years — and just 20,069 gallons in 2012.

The second is that cellulosic ethanol is also bad for the environment. At least in the short-term, the corn-residue biofuels release about 7% more greenhouse gases than traditional fuels, according to a federally funded, peer-reviewed study that appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change last month.

The environmental evidence against ethanol seems to mount almost daily: Another study published recently in Nature Geoscience found that in São Paulo, Brazil, the more ethanol that drivers used, the more local ozone levels increased. The study is particularly important because it relies on real-world measurements rather than on models, many of which predicted that increased ethanol use would cause ozone levels to decline.

To make things worse, ethanol requirements are bad for cars and drivers. Automakers say that gasoline blended with ethanol can damage vehicles by corroding fuel lines and injectors. An ethanol glut caused by a misalignment of regulatory quotas and demand has helped drive up prices at the pump. And the product is actually worse: ethanol blends are less energy dense than regular gasoline, which means that cars relying on it significantly worse mileage per gallon.

American drivers have it bad, but the global poor have it far worse. Ethanol requirements at home have helped drive up the price of food worldwide by diverting corn production to energy, which dramatically reducing the available calorie supply. A 25-gallon tank full of pure ethanol requires about 450 pounds of corn — roughly the amount of calories required to feed someone for a year.

“[E]thanol requirements have few serious defenders except the people who profit from its production and the politicians who rely on those people for votes and campaign contributions.”
Some 40% of U.S. corn crops go to ethanol production, which in effect means we’re burning food for automobile fuel rather than eating it. Studies by economists at the World Bank have found that a one% increase in world food prices correlates with a half-percent decrease in calorie consumption amongst the world’s poor. When world food prices spiked between 2007-2008, between 20-40% of the effect was attributable to increased global reliance on biofuels. The effect on world hunger is simply devastating.

Ethanol lobbyists are still pretending the renewable fuels mandate is a success, and Senators from corn-friendly states in the Midwest are still urging the agency not to proceed with the proposed reduction to the mandate. But at this point, ethanol requirements have few serious defenders except the people who profit from its production and the politicians who rely on those people for votes and campaign contributions.

Judging by the cut it proposed last November, even the EPA seems to be wavering. A final regulation has yet to be submitted, but the proposal would reduce the amount of renewable fuels the agency requires this year from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.2 billion gallons. That’s if the EPA sticks to its original plan. The agency is under heavy pressure to moderate its proposed cuts, or avoid them entirely.

Those cuts, if approved, would represent a productive step forward. But they wouldn’t be enough. Congress should vote to repeal the renewable fuel standard entirely. The federal government shouldn’t be telling people to burn less ethanol; it shouldn’t be telling anyone to burn any of it at all.

– Peter Suderman

This article originally appeared here on

Peter Suderman is a senior editor at Reason magazine and, where he writes regularly on health care, the federal budget, tech policy, and pop culture. He is also a film critic for The Washington Times and a 2010 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. Suderman also worked as a writer and editor at National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Doublethink, and Culture11.

Farming and Ranching. Changing demographics. From NPR.

For Many, Farming Is A Labor Of Love, Not A Living


Bill Miller, a part-time farmer in Aurora, Mo., says farming “gets in your blood.”

Dan Charles/NPR
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture carries out a census of farmers: who they are, and what they are doing on their farms.

The agency just released the latest one, and it’s a feast for all ag geeks. And here’s the very first, most basic piece of new information: There are 2,109,303 farmers in this country.

But look a little closer at that number, and you can see that it’s not quite what it seems. Most of those farmers are not actually making a living by farming.

Bill Miller is a typical example. He grew up on a big cattle ranch in southwestern Missouri, near the town of Aurora, and he felt like the place was his. But he was the son of a ranch hand, not the owner. So when the ranch was sold to new owners, his father lost his job and the family had to move out of their house on the ranch.

Today, Miller works at a chemical plant near Aurora. But he and a co-worker rent some land where they graze cattle.

“It’s just something you love to do, you know?” Miller says. “Born and raised with cows. Just enjoy being around them, messing with them.”

The land where his cows graze is beautiful. It’s a hillside with a pond at the bottom and a view across the valley to a mountainside covered with trees. Some evenings, Miller comes over here after work, sits on the hill and just watches the cows and their calves.

“Basically, it just gets in your blood. It’s what you love doing. There’s nothing like seeing a brand new calf, the first time trying to get up and walk, you know?” Miller says quietly.

But there are a couple of things he doesn’t get from farming: health insurance; a 401(k); or very much income, for that matter. “I work a job so that I have health insurance, some sort of retirement,” Miller says.

Miller is surprisingly typical. According to the newly released census of agriculture, more than half of all farmers say it’s not their primary occupation. Also, two-thirds of all farms sell less than $25,000 worth of crops or livestock each year. That’s not profit — that’s total sales.

Part-time farmers come in many flavors. Some are stepping away from agriculture. They may be semi-retired, or they inherited farmland and want to keep it in the family, but they don’t want to farm full time. Some are raising vegetables for farmers markets. Others have orchards.

But the biggest single group is made up of people like Miller, who raise cattle. It’s often the easiest way to farm part time. Cattle don’t take a lot of expensive equipment or a huge amount of labor. As a result, the average cattle herd in the country is just 40 animals.

Some of these part-time farmers would love to do it full time. “My whole entire life, all I wanted to do was farm. But things change as you grow up,” says Josh Kennedy.

Kennedy got married. He and his wife now have a young son. “It kind of became — how do I support my family? Of course, benefits and insurance are a big thing,” he says.

So he went to work at the Aurora Fire Department. When he gets off work there, he trades his fireman’s uniform for a pair of rancher’s boots, gets in his truck, and goes home to the work that he considers his real occupation.

“It’s hard to explain sometimes. People are like, ‘Why do you do that? It doesn’t look like it makes a whole lot of money!’ ” Kennedy says.

Kennedy would like to expand his farming operation by buying or renting more land, and grazing more cattle. “Ultimately, that’s my goal, to buy a bigger farm.”

But land is really expensive. He’s competing with other farmers, including bigger farmers, with much bigger lines of credit.

Devin Fisher, another part-time farmer near Aurora, also played with the idea of doing it full time and decided there was no way she could ever acquire enough land to make it work financially. “It’s virtually impossible to do it for a living unless it’s been handed down to you,” she says. “You almost have to walk into it, to do it as a full-time job.”

Being a hobby farmer, she says, is the next best thing.

The census numbers reveal the continuing transformation of American agriculture. The huge number of part-time farmers represents a kind of historical legacy. To a large extent, they are what’s left of the days, a century ago, when farmers made up almost a third of the labor force.

Meanwhile, though, big farms are getting bigger.

According to the latest census, there are just 80,000 farms with sales of over $1 million a year. They represent just 4 percent of the total farm population. But those few big farms account for two-thirds of all agricultural production in the country.

Hawaii and GMO crops. Big debate.

Isles’ key role in GMO corn sets off battle

20 B2 seed crop 2You can trace the genetic makeup of most corn grown in the U.S., and in many other places around the world, to Hawaii.

The state is so critical to the nation’s modern corn-growing business that the industry’s leading companies all have farms here, growing new varieties genetically engineered for desirable traits like insect and drought resistance.

But these same farms have become a flashpoint in a spreading debate over genetic engineering in agriculture.

Kauai and Hawaii counties have moved in the past several months to regulate genetically modified organisms and the pesticides the farms use. In Maui County, a group is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would impose a temporary ban on the crops.

Read the rest of the story here:

Electric car facts. Green or not?

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Proponents of plug-in electric cars would have you believe they are “green”. I wish it were true.

Forty two percent of the electricity in the US is produced by coal burning power plants, although this is projected to decline in coming years as natural gas and renewables take more share.

However, regardless of the fuel source for producing electricity, there is always a loss in transmission. Some transmission lines are more lossy than others. Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.6% in 1997 and 6.5% in 2007.

So, now we have the electric car powered by coal and subject to a loss of efficiency of over 6%.

Hardly green.