Lawmakers question governor's goals for local food production

Lawmakers question governor's goals for local food production
Updated: Jan. 26, 2017 at 6:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Doubling Hawaii's local food production by 2020 is one of Governor Ige's marquee promises, and the state's Department of Agriculture is tasked with making it become a reality. But with the deadline just three years away, many are asking whether that number is still realistic.

"It's an aspirational goal," said Scott Enright, Chair of the Department of Agriculture. "The governor wanted the Department of Agriculture to get into hyper-drive, to see if they can move those numbers forward."

Lawmakers grilled Enright on Thursday while he presented what is supposed to be the department's road map to reaching the governor's goal.

"Do you believe the governor's doubling of food production is going to happen by the time stated?" asked State Representative Lynn DeCoite.

"Representative, my charge is to do all the work possible to achieve those ends, so I will support that effort with all the work I can do," Enright responded.

Part of the problem, Enright says, is that the department doesn't know exactly how much local food the state is currently producing, or how many farmers are growing food for a living.

"The answer is 'I don't know.' So we're going to double 'I don't know,' which is 'I don't know' times two. What's the metric we're going to be using?" Rep. Matt LoPresti asked.

"We know what the papaya industry is doing, we know what the mac nut industry is doing, so there are a number of commodities we have strong numbers on," Enright answered.

Even if they could measure all their progress, local farmers still find difficulty in securing loans and finding enough land, water, and qualified workers.

Since Hawaii's agriculture industry was initially built around sugar and pineapple, the Department of Agriculture says changing the industry to food production will require a community effort that includes both farmers and consumers.

"We're doing everything we possibly can and moving all the resources we can to hit that aspirational goal," Enright said.

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