Hawaii's Farmers are Critical to a Sustainable Future

Yesterday, I visited Kahumana Organic Farm in Wai`anae, where I talked story with local farmers and delivered remarks at the Hawai`i Farmers Union United's 7th Annual Convention. This year's convention theme is "Cultivating Change" and is a 3-day exploration of the concepts Aloha `Aina and Malama 'Aina to create the regenerative agricultural systems we envision for Hawai`i Nei.

I've been working closely with the Hawai`i Farmers Union United (HFUU) for years, even before I was elected to serve in Congress, and I support their five-point strategy to build a vibrant and prosperous farming future here in Hawai`i. Together, we advocate for the small-holder farm, stand firmly behind organic agriculture, labeling that includes Brand Hawai`i and building capacity toward whole systems and regenerative agricultural solutions that are both pono and profitable.

Through workforce development programs, we can train the next generation of farmers who will be critical for our envisioned sustainable future. If county legislation supporting affordable housing land trusts is passed, farmers will finally be able to live on their land leases, cluster their houses, and grow equity in their farms, which they can sell when they retire or are ready to move on.

We must do everything we can to address the threat to our food security as Hawai`i continues to import more than 85 percent of its food. By supporting Hawaii's farmers, the entire community benefits--whether it's simply buying local, fighting for legislation that empowers our farmers, or working together to build food aggregation and distribution hubs that serve our farmers, distributors, and local communities. Getting the products from small farms to market affordably in accordance with new food safety regulations is essential.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, I'm working with Hawai`i farmers to empower those growing food to feed our people, rather than more giveaways to big agribusiness corporations. Together, I believe we can maximize profits for farmers, while keeping food prices affordable for local consumers, but we must keep working for affordable access to processing, packing, and distribution centers. By combining these centers with a permanent home for farmers markets, incubator farms, farm-to-school and other educational programs, agri-tourism, and so much more is achievable.

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