City Council explores tax breaks for organic farmers, eco-friendly restaurants

Sustainability bills offer tax breaks to farms and restaurants
Updated: Oct. 11, 2017 at 8:48 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Going organic and helping the environment could soon pay off for local farmers and restaurants.

The Honolulu City Council is looking at ways to pay back organic farmers and eco-friendly eateries through two bills that would provide tax incentives to certified businesses.

"It's not easy to do organic farming but it's the healthiest type of farming and the most sustainable. So we want to help those farmers to succeed," Councilwoman Kymberly Pine said.

Because it costs farmers more to grow organically, Pine is looking at ways to reduce the property taxes for USDA Certified Organic farmers. Kahumana Organic Farm would benefit from such a break.

"Any assistance that farmers can get definitely will help," Executive Director Tom McDonald said. "Every single last leaf of kale, every single last sapodilla or organic papaya that we grow we can sell."

Taxpayer subsidies for businesses are always controversial, especially when the city is strapped for money. But Pine also wants to offer restaurants a property tax break if they're deemed Ocean Friendly.

To be Ocean Friendly, an eatery would have to cut down on using material that harms the environment. Hiking Hawaii Cafe would qualify because it uses re-usable metal straws and compostable products — not plastic items or Styrofoam.

Hiking Hawaii Cafe is one of more than 50 eateries on Oahu certified Ocean Friendly by the Surfrider Foundation.

"By promoting these sustainable steps you're also going to be doing good business, and you're going to attract customers because you're doing the right thing, you're protecting our ocean," Oahu chapter coordinator Rafael Bergstrom said.

Pine believes her sustainability measures could entice more restaurant owners and farmers to adopt sustainable practices that help the environment.

"We're trying to do everything right and do what's right by using eco-friendly items, so if I get a tax break that would be fantastic," owner Crystal Evans said.

The exemption amounts will be decided as the bills move through City Council hearings.

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