Story With Sen. Mike Gabbard
Aloha! I hope you and your family are well.
You may have noticed that more and more of our supermarkets
are carrying organic foods. My family and I have been eating
organic foods for many years. We appreciate the benefit of eating
healthy foods that are free of toxic substances like conventional
pesticides. We also like the idea of supporting organic farmers
whose agricultural methods promote sustainability, enhance soil
health and preserve our natural environment.
What you may be surprised to learn is that over the past decade,
sales of organic products have shown an annual increase of at
least 20 percent, making organics the fastest-growing sector
of agriculture in the United States. For example, in 2005 retail
sales of organic foods and beverages totalled $12.8 billion.
You also may not be aware that all organic foods on supermarket
shelves bearing the organic label have to meet USDA certification
standards first established in 2002. In Hawaii, the principal
certifier for organic farms is the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association
In 2004, while I was a member of the Honolulu City Council,
I authored legislation that put the city on record in support
of organic agriculture. Hawaii has a strong history of organic
farming. Today we have close to 200 organic farms located on
five islands: Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu. Our organic
farms range in size from one to 1,725 acres. Some principal
products include coffee, macadamia nuts, banana, pineapple,
ginger, mango, avocado and salad greens. It’s estimated
that Hawaii’s organic agriculture is a $5 million to $10
million a year industry.
However, right now there’s an increasing demand for organic
foods that exceeds our local supply. In order to meet this demand,
supermarkets are importing organic foods from the mainland and
other countries. This situation leaves us vulnerable, however,
to bringing in invasive species, which have the potential to
harm our environment. By expanding our local organic industry,
Hawaii has a great opportunity to prevent this problem and allows
us to become more sustainable by growing our own food.
In consultation with HOFA and the Hawaii Cooperative of Organic
Farmers, I’ve introduced two bills this session to help
strengthen and grow organic agriculture in our state. The first
bill, SB 2925, establishes a State Organic Program under the
direction of the Department of Agriculture. The bill also would
require the Department of Agriculture to come up with and implement
a plan to develop and expand the local organic agricultural
industry. The second bill, SB 2924, appropriates funding and
directs the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
to hire additional researchers and specialists to support organic
agriculture research and teaching programs. I’ll be working
with my colleagues in the House and Senate over the next several
months to get this important legislation passed.
So next time you’re shopping, think about buying some
of our locally grown organic produce.
If you’re interested in learning more about this legislation,
please contact my office at 586-6830.