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The Death of a Food Bill

  • Did Rep. Clift Tsuji Deliberately Sabotage a Food Sustainability Bill?
    By Alan D. McNarie
    Big Island Weekly, May 8, 2012
    Straight to the Source

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"The issue of boosting food farming in this state is not going to be taken seriously until Clift Tsuji ceases to be chair of the Agriculture Committee and indeed until the leadership of the house changes," fumed Anthony Aalto. "For a large segment of the not-for-profit and environmental communities, this has become obvious."

Aalto was the Hawaii Sierra Club's representative in a hui of environmental and agricultural organizations that had authored House Bill 2703, which would have made the doubling of local food production within the state an established priority. The bill had passed all the required committees of both the House and Senate, including the House Agriculture Committee headed by Rep. Clift Tsuji (D- South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown). But between the time that the bill passed out of its last House committee hearing and reached the House/Senate conference, which would have reconciled any differences in language between the House and Senate versions, Tsuji added a series of amendments that had appeared in none of the versions that the committees had voted on.

The bill had garnered numerous co-sponsors and drew overwhelming support from those testifying, who pointed out that by most estimates, Hawai'i currently imports all but about 8-10 percent of its food, and had only a week's worth of food stockpiled, making the state, as testifier Ileana Haunani Ruelas pointed out, "incredibly vulnerable to supply disruptions." Aalto pointed out that cargo ships that brought food here needed to refuel in order to get back, so if a tsunami or storm surge knocked out Honolulu's refineries, the ships simply couldn't come. Others noted that as the price of oil increased, the cost of imported food was likely to skyrocket, and that the increasing reliance on processed foods was contributing to health problems such as diabetes and obesity. O'ahu testifiers also noted that more than half of their island's remaining 3,500 acres of land suitable for food farming was threatened by two proposed developments, Hono'ulu'uli farmlands and Koa Ridge. 

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