- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Some lawmakers in the Hawaii House and Senate want to prevent counties from restricting farming beyond state and federal laws.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday (https://bit.ly/1mDqD6d ) that bills introduced in each chamber are a response to local laws on genetically modified organisms.

The bill would expand the state’s Right to Farm Act of 2001. New language would say the right to use modern ranching and farming practices “shall be forever guaranteed in this state.”

The proposal would immediately spur legal questions over bills passed on Kauai and the Big Island. The Kauai law regulates pesticide use and genetically modified organisms, while the Big Island law bans new genetically modified crops.

Several companies have challenged the Kauai law in federal court, saying federal and state laws trump the county.

Chairman Clarence Nishihara of the Senate Agriculture Committee says lawmakers can no longer dance around the issue of whether to protect farmers.

“To me, it’s now put-up-or-shut-up time as far as I’m concerned,” Nishihara said.

The bill may have an especially difficult path in the House. Chairwoman Jessica Wooley of the House Agriculture Committee says she doesn’t plan to hear the bill.

Wooley says she’d rather focus on other food issues, like food security.

“I’m not going to hear a bill like that until we hear some good bills where there is a lot of common ground,” she said.

The issue of genetically modified foods has been a hot topic among political activists in Hawaii. Activists against genetically modified foods plan a rally at the state Capitol next week.

Gary Hooser, the Kauai councilman who introduced the island’s new genetically modified food law, says taking away county authority is “both bad policy and bad politics.”

The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation supports expanding farm rights, President Chris Manifredi said.

“We certainly support the right of the public to know and understand what’s happening on farms,” Manifredi said. “But to have a patchwork of regulations across the state creates uncertainty in the industry.”


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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