Despite written testimony submitted by hundreds of citizens in its favor, HB2703, dubbed Hawaii’s food self sufficiency bill, has been shelved. HB2703 was killed when House Agriculture Committee Chair Tsuji, with the support of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, inserted new language at the last minute and without a public hearing, an apparently legal, if undemocratic, move. If passed, the bill would have required the state Department of Agriculture to keep track of the amount of food grown and sold in Hawaii and would have provided the incentives to ensure the state meets the food sustainability standard (doubling the amount of food grown for local consumption by 2020).
Tsuji’s last-minute changes, in opposition to the bill’s intent, made the goal of doubling local food production non-binding, equated reserving land for housing development with land designated for agriculture, protected GMO crops and made water resources for agriculture a public trust purpose, which would benefit large-scale farms.
“It’s clear that a bill that commits the state to supporting local agriculture is absolutely necessary,” says Rep. Chris Lee, one of the bill’s supporters, adding, “I think it’s clear the state talks a good talk about growing local agriculture and sustainability, but has yet to really commit to it, [but] HB2703 could definitely be successful in the future.”
With the 2012 legislative session over, supporters of food self sufficiency look to this fall’s key elections that might change the balance of power in the House of Representatives.