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Governor Josh Green signs agriculture bills into law

HONOLULU — Gov. Josh Green on Wednesday signed 11 agriculture-related bills to protect Hawai‘i’s biosecurity, preserve the safety of the state’s food systems and safeguard local farmers and producers through fair labeling.

State Sen. Tim Richards, vice chair of the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee, stated that in Hawaii’s $95 billion economy, 2.8 percent comes from agriculture, which is significantly larger than the national average of 0.7 percent.

“By strengthening each facet of agriculture, we strengthen agriculture as a whole,” Richards said. “We can actually start taking a step towards food self reliance and food security.”

Newly signed House Bill 2278 clarifies macadamia nut labeling requirements to ensure transparency about the origin of the macadamia nuts used in products.

“A lot of people might not see the huge relevance of this, but the more we respect our local farmers and our local industries, the more people hold them in high regard. And so it’s great to see a compromise — this helps with disclosure and branding, but really protects our own products,” Green said.

Nathan Trump, president of the Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association, thanked officials for passing the bill, saying it demonstrates the state’s appreciation for farmers.

“By passing this bill, the state is showing that it values our farmers by ensuring consumers who buy macadamia nuts know where those macadamia nuts are coming from,” Trump said. “This bill also supports regenerative agriculture practices, which for our macadamia nut farmers isn’t just the way we farm, but it’s about the way we live.”

He said that fair and healthy supply chains and marketing practices that return value to the farms are essential for farmers to reinvest in their land and communities.

After 30 years of discussion, House Bill 2298 now mandates that coffee products labeled as of Hawai‘i origin must primarily contain local ingredients.

“Our farmers deserve to get credit for what is very special,” Green said. “It is one of our signature crops in our state.”

Hawai‘i boasts over 1,400 coffee growers and supports thousands of employees in the industry, according to Suzanne Shriner, a board member at the Hawai‘i Coffee Association.

Beginning July 1, 2027, coffee products including roasted, instant and ready-to-drink beverages labeled as Hawai‘i-grown and Hawai‘i-processed must contain at least 51 percent coffee by weight from Hawai‘i.

Shriner also mentioned that requiring coffee bags to contain 51 percent Hawai‘i ingredients is a significant economic boost for growers and enhances consumers’ understanding of coffee flavors.

Senate Bill 2079 establishes a new electronic travel declaration and disclosure form for plants and animals. Currently, the mandatory declaration form is distributed to travelers — both visitors and returning residents — on their airplane upon arrival in Hawai‘i.

“We’re trying to come up into modern times,” Green said. “People often hate that form, so we’re trying to fix it and I think that that is very important to move forward.”

Green noted that many travelers have complained about not being able to fill out the forms.

On a date yet to be determined, the state Department of Agriculture will begin distributing the declaration forms electronically for passengers to fill out and submit.

HDOA Chairperson Sharon Hurd said that the HDOA IT department has been working on a prototype that will be shared with flight passengers to fill out using in-flight Wi-Fi systems.

Hurd said that for travelers who don’t speak English, the new electronic forms will include pictures of animals and plants to help them determine if they have brought such items into Hawai‘i.

Senate Bill 3365 enhances regulations for the importation of nursery stock, plants, animals and related products into the state.

The bill mandates the HDOA to certify treatments of plant care components — including wood chips, compost and filter socks — performed in Hawai‘i. It would also require out-of-state components to be treated and certified by the HDOA.

Green said the bill mandates immediate notification upon arrival, detailed shipment information, and secure holding to prevent pest spread until inspection. It also strengthens labeling requirements and grants inspectors the authority to enforce quarantine and treatment protocols.

“We have to be very thoughtful about invasive species,” Green said. “When invasive species get out of control, they can devastate crops and our agricultural industries and economies badly. So treating plants and pests properly is important.”

Other bills enacted during the ceremony include:

• Senate Bill 2960 requires lessees and purchasers of farm and ranch lots to use the land for farming and food production, under certain conditions.

• House Bill 2144 requires the state Department of Health to update the definition of “homemade food products” in its food safety rules and establish new rules for the sale and delivery of such products.

• Senate Bill 2413 requires the Board of Agriculture to report to the Legislature on the percentage of agricultural lands suitable for farming, their active farming status, and specified dollar amounts related to lease transfers between lessees.

• House Bill 1923 authorizes pre-1961 overnight camps to be regulated through a special permit process.

• House Bill 2337 replaces sugar and pineapple industry representatives with coffee and diversified agriculture industry representatives on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides.

• House Bill 2546 allows the use of fine mesh nets to protect plants from invasive species, under certain conditions.

• Senate Bill 2401 requires the HDOA to collaborate with counties to enact feral-chicken control programs and educate about feeding feral animals.
Source: The Garden Island

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