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Pro-ag, but can’t give support to dairy farm development

My father was a cattleman who ultimately lost his ranch to the bureaucrats when it was decided to build Granby Reservoir up in Grand County, Colorado. The city folk needed water, so Dad’s ranch was flooded and he moved on. He later bought a little piece of land in the Deep South and raised a small herd of beef cattle more as a hobby than a serious endeavor. He was in his 70s by then.

My sister managed a dairy in Ellicott, Colorado. Holsteins. Her daughter, Heather, was active in 4H raising her own little heifer to maturity. My sister developed serious allergies to agricultural molds and came down with an illness that eventually took her life this last May. When she was in her 60s, she raised and showed championship Yaks at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

My son, inspired I suppose by his granddaddy and aunt, became a bull rider on the professional rodeo circuit for over 10 years. Literally riding horses before I walked, I bought my first Palomino when I was barely 16 and then went on to have Morgan horses on my one-acre “ranchette” where I also collected eggs from my own Rhode Island Reds. My daughter still owns and shows Morgans. My son is still involved with rodeos, but has retired from riding bulls, I am grateful to report. So it must be clear to anyone, I come from a long line of people oriented toward agriculture.

I am pro-Ag! I want the sincere farmers and ranchers on Kauai to keep the good reputation they have earned. I am upset that Hawaii Dairy Farms, who incidentally did not get its start in Hawaii, continues to try to use clever language that cloaks their real intentions. But what really gets me upset is that The Garden Island’s recent front page article printed only a partial excerpt from HDFs recent press release.

They left an important section out which I have included below, and without that inclusion, they seem like they are really trying to work to address our concerns. I have not altered the statement in any way. HDF has stated a very ominous intent. Please read it carefully!

The first phase starts with 650-699 cows and allows the pasture system to fully establish. The size of the herd in phase one equates to roughly 1.5 cows per acre of the farm’s 578 acres and is comparable to former cow-calf and sheep grazing operations within Mahaulepu valley. The stocking ratio of cattle for the first phase is consistent with temperate zone dairies and Hawaii’s more productive pasture-based ranches. Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plan for an Animal Feeding Operation is currently being reviewed by the Hawaii Department of Health.

The submitted plan includes facilities designed for the original proposed scale of up to 2,000 milking cows to accommodate for phase two, which will be part of a future application for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit.

For the uninitiated, a CAFO is basically a feedlot. HDF must realize that 578 acres in Maha’ulepu will not be able to sustain 699 cows. By the way, it is only logical to conclude that the “first phase” of “650-699 cows” are pregnant. Let’s not be naive. They need lactating cows. Cows won’t lactate unless they have calved. So HDF is really talking about 1,300 plus cows for their first phase. A reasonable amount of land for that size herd would be 2,600 acres — not 578 acres!

As a community, we who live her on Kauai need to stand up and protect the reputation of agriculture and protect the land in Mahaulepu or suffer the consequences: polluted water, high methane gas output, destroyed land, coastlines, and reefs. CAFOs stink! They are the pursuits of corporate America, not friendly farmers. As my Daddy used to say, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” HDF should have a right to farm but not when it has the potential for such devastating and negative effects.

Are we really willing to risk the loss of the beautiful Mahaulepu Valley to a greedy Goliath corporation that hopes we are too ignorant, too apathetic, too stupid to stop them. We might be a little David next to them, but we do not have to let them do this! Let’s fight back.

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Jacqueline Hoban is a Puhi resident

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