Maui News

Bill to Dissolve Agribusiness Development Corporation Advances Out of House Committee

February 19, 2021, 11:59 AM HST
* Updated February 19, 12:00 PM
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Sugarcane. File photo: Chris Archer.

A bill seeking to dissolve the Agribusiness Development Corporation and transfer all its resource except the director to the Department of Agriculture was passed unamended by the House Agriculture Committee on Feb. 17.

HB 1271 is in response to an audit of the ADC. Bill backers say the audit stated that “the company – despite being given a clear mission, broad powers, and millions of dollars over the last 25 years – had failed to promote diversified agriculture that would feed the people of these islands and provide employment after the closure of the sugar plantations.”

The audit stated that Legislature in 1994 established the public corporation to take the lead role in converting assets for use in commercial diversified agriculture enterprises to fill the economic void created by the departure of the sugar and pineapple industries. According to the audit, it was projected that shuttered plantations would free up 75,000 acres of agricultural land and 50 million gallons of irrigation water daily over the course of a decade.

“The findings were reaffirmed in an equally scathing report from the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization,” according to a press release issued by Representative Amy Perruso (D-46, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley), who introduced the bill.

Other backers of the bill include Representatives Jeanné Kapela, Matthew S. LoPresti, Lisa Marten, Richard H.K. Onishi, Adrian K. Tam, Tina Wildberger, Della Au Belatti, and John M. Mizuno. 

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“I introduced HB1271 because I believe as lawmakers, we have a duty to protect the common good. When problems with governance emerge, despite our best efforts, we are doubly obligated to move swiftly to address the situation by ending the malpractice and charting a better course,” said Rep. Perruso. “That’s what HB1271 does. I’m grateful for the support of my colleagues in moving to repeal this bill that created the ADC in the first place.”

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Rep. Perruso said she has heard regularly from several small farmers in her district about the difficulties encountered when trying to secure agricultural leases.

“We should be encouraging our small farmers, not putting up roadblocks or refusing to provide transparency as has been the case with the ADC. Importing 90 percent of our food puts us in a very precarious position. After more than two decades we are still without the plan that the ADC was supposed to develop to address food self-sufficiency. We cannot simply reproduce the status quo as if nothing is wrong with this attached agency,” Perruso said.

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