HONOLULU, Hawai‘i - This past session, the Legislature appropriated $31.5 million to the Agribusiness Development Corporation for the purchase of 895 acres of agricultural land in Central Oahu. Sen. Donovan M. Dela Cruz (Dist. 22 - Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, portion of Poamoho), Vice Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was instrumental in building support for the funds to be included in the state budget.
Governor David Ige recently signed the release of the $31.5 million. When the acquisition is completed, these lands along with other parcels pending transaction, will increase the farmable acreage in the Whitmore Project from the initial 1,200 acres to over 2,800 acres.
Since Dole Food Company Inc. in 2012 announced its plans to sell nearly 18,000 acres of land in Central Oahu and on the North Shore, Sen. Dela Cruz has aggressively worked to ensure that the state acquires additional lands near the 1,200 acres. Neighboring state properties also include facilities in Wahiawa town and former Dole warehouses in Whitmore Village that will be retrofitted for processing and packaging.
"Under ADC's management, these lands will be protected in perpetuity for farming," said Sen. Dela Cruz. "Access to good farmland is needed to help farmers scale up their crop production which decreases our reliance on imported foods."
The Governor recently announced his plans to double local food production. According to the Increased Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy report, replacing just 10% of the food Hawai‘i currently imports would amount to approximately $313 million remaining in the state. The report further states that more public land is needed for commercial agricultural purposes. Land acquisitions such as this 895-acre purchase are in line with industry recommendations.
A recent summer harvest by Sugarland Farms, a tenant of the Whitmore Project, produced an estimated 2.7 million pounds of watermelon and 750,000 pounds of bell pepper. Crops were sold for local consumption, helping to replace imported products. The harvest of two different crops on adjacent parcels are examples of diversified agriculture in the Central Oahu region.
Other components of the Whitmore Project that have either been completed or are currently being worked on include an ag-foreign trade zone to defer duties on imported materials, tax incentives through the re-designation and expansion of Enterprise Zone No.1, creation of an agribusiness technology park to consolidate processing and packaging facilities, construction of workforce housing for farm employees, establishment of K-12 workforce training, and reclaiming wastewater for irrigation from the Wahiawa Wastewater Treatment Plant.
As the report indicates, Hawai‘i's farmers need more land. Acquiring the 895 acres to expand the agricultural footprint of the Whitmore Project not only preserves farmlands, but ensures farmers have access to public leases. The state's participation to support the agriculture industry is critical towards food self-sufficiency.
# # #
The Whitmore Project is a detailed plan to revitalize our local agriculture industry by bringing farmers and the state together to increase local food production, create jobs, engage in partnerships, and provide workforce housing. For more information on the Whitmore Project, please visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov and click on The Whitmore Project under the Documents and Links section on Senator Donovan Dela Cruz's member page.