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Dairy is safe for the environment, and we will prove it

As residents of an island state, the ability to feed ourselves is one of our most basic needs, yet we rely on imports from the Mainland for the vast majority of our food.

The news in recent weeks that contract negotiations with dockworkers on the West Coast have slowed and could cause a disruption in shipping to Hawaii is an ominous warning of what could happen if we do not put substantial focus on local food production.

As a first step toward increasing local food production, Hawaii Dairy Farms plans to create the state’s first zero discharge, grass-fed dairy in Mahaulepu. Using best practices gathered from around the world, this single dairy will more than double local milk production and provide a viable opportunity to increase our ability to be more self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of inaccurate information about Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plans. This misinformation has spurred concerns from some in the community about the impact of the dairy.

Hawaii Dairy Farms takes community concerns very seriously. That is why we have volunteered to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, which is among the most thorough examinations available to ensure the dairy is protective of the environment. We are delaying construction on the dairy facilities until the EIS is complete, despite the fact that we have all of the permits and regulatory approvals required to begin construction.

As part of the EIS process, Hawaii Dairy Farms will be hosting a community briefing and open house at Koloa Elementary School cafeteria on Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to provide comments on issues they believe should be addressed in the study, resulting in a more comprehen-sive EIS.

One topic of interest that will be studied in the EIS was recently misrepresented in a guest opinion in The Garden Island.

Hawaii Dairy Farms independently modified the design of the dairy’s effluent ponds after we received additional rainfall data for the Mahaulepu area from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), data that included every major rainfall event in recorded history. This key improvement to our design was the result of a collaborative effort with community members and the Department of Health to ensure we continue to meet our objective of protecting the environment.

To be clear, there has been no storm event that would exceed the capacity of the effluent ponds since rainfall has been recorded in Mahaulepu Valley.

Hawaii will never be self-sufficient if we allow uninformed individuals to dictate our future. Hawaii Dairy Farms will help diversify Kauai’s vibrant local economy by producing fresh, local milk that Hawaii’s families can afford — and we will prove that it is safe for the environment by voluntarily conducting a thorough EIS.

We encourage you to be part of the EIS process so that we can continue to have open conversations based on facts, not fears.

•••

Kyle Datta is with Ulupono Initiative.

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