Local farmers divided on food safety program - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Local farmers divided on food safety program

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

WAIMANALO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A food safety plan passed by lawmakers has been vetoed by the governor.  Some farmers say the issue is good on its surface but others say digging deeper revealed problems.

Glenn Martinez is out in front on aquaponics systems. He has an elaborate system at Olomana Gardens in Waimanalo. 

He also cultivated the charge against a bill that would have created a food safety and security program to provide training, certification, support and assistance to farmers.

"When this whole thing got written up it turned out to be a nightmare," said Martinez.

The bill has now been vetoed by Governor Neil Abercrombie mainly because of a lack of state money and power for the Department of Agriculture to establish regulations.

No one questions the need to keep people healthy, but Martinez says this bill had nothing to do with food.

"Politics yes. Money, follow the money. Who wants food safety? So the Farmers Union stance is this, we don't want Costco or Safeway or other mainland outfits coming to Hawaii and telling our Agriculture Department they're not good enough," said Martinez.

Now a division has grown amongst farmers in the state over the issue.

"This bill was all good. The bill didn't mandate farmers do anything. There's no prohibition of animals on a farm, infants on a farm, insects, there's no mandatory food safety certification. This bill was meant to support our local farmers," said Janet Ashman, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Stewardship Committee Co-Chair.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau supported the law saying it wasn't some plot to put small farmers out of business, but instead educate them and help comply with new federal guidelines that are coming.

"Any farm can be affected by food safety issues. It doesn't matter what size farm you are so it's always good to be more aware of contamination problems that can come up," said Ashman. "We need help in getting up to speed and complying with what's out there."

Now that the bill has been axed it will be up to farmers to produce a plan they can all agree on.

"We're all going to come together and state's going to help us write some legislation that will protect the public but also the farmer because otherwise we're dead," said Martinez.

To read the text of HB667 click here.

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