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2017 Hawaii State Legislative Session Update

April 5th, 2017
By: Ashley Lukens and Maria Juur
Center for Food Safety

LAST CHANCE TO TAKE ACTION!

Call your Representative now and urge them to schedule a hearing for SB 804 HD 1 in the House Committee of Finance ASAP! FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE HERE!

The 2017 legislative session is closing this month. Between January and April, HCFS has been lobbying and testifying at the Capitol on a weekly basis. We won, and we lost. But most importantly, we witnessed a radical shift in the conversation surrounding pesticides and genetically engineered crops at the legislature.

Our pesticide disclosure and notification bills (HB 790 & SB 804) were part of a suite of legislation aimed at reforming the regulatory framework for pesticide use in the state of Hawaiʻi. As we’ve said time and time again, voluntary disclosure programs (such as the existing “Kauaʻi Agricultural Good Neighbor Program”) don’t work. Voluntary programs may start with good intentions, but without someone holding large corporations accountable, they fail at protecting our health and environment.

The public agrees. Citizens’ testimony was unequivocal and clear – the people of Hawaiʻi wanted to see the state take action, and they understood the best ways to do so. The chemical companies were showing up in force at every hearing, but their talking points were increasingly falling on deaf ears. One of our favorite moments during the session was when Representative Matt LoPresti questioned both the chemical companies and Department of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright on being selective and incomplete with their facts. At this point, SB 804 HD 1 is our last chance to get the critical data we need to protect our keiki and ‘āina from toxic pesticide exposure. The bill would require commercial agricultural operations that use large volumes of restricted-use pesticides in any year to submit annual reports detailing their applications of all pesticides. It would also allocate funds to the University of Hawaiʻi’s medical school to study the exposure of pregnant women to dangerous pesticides (such as chlorpyrifos).

Our other bills included those mandating buffer zones (HB 842, SB 29, HB 1571), banning of glyphosate on public lands (HB 1282), and a ban on the neurotoxin chlorpyrifos (HB 253). The polemic around chlorpyrifos in Hawai’i illustrates the larger issue of federal vs state policy in the age of Trump and Pruitt’s EPA. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence against the use of this dangerous insecticide, the EPA reneged on a proposed federal ban in March. Once again, the state must now take action to protect its citizens.

On the positive food front, our “carbon farming” bill (HB 1578) is headed to conference! The bill would create a Carbon Farming Task Force that enables the State to offer local farms and ranches carbon credits for their efforts to improve soil health and sequester carbon. Soil health initiatives are sprouting up around the country, and Hawai‘i will now become a leader in this hopeful movement. Our bill was written in partnership with Center for Food Safety’s Soil Solutions program.

The bottom line is that we’ve had more hearings, more public engagement, and more well-informed legislators speaking out publically in favor of our issues. The rhetoric is shifting. The public is watching and holding their legislators accountable. The fight for a more sustainable food future for Hawaiʻi is far from over.

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