New incentives for farmers discussed at KCC Tuesday

New incentives for Kaua‘i farmers wishing for training or technical assistance in order to expand marketing opportunities for locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables will be discussed at a public meeting tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Kaua‘i Community College.

Leaders of the Kauai Food Industry Forum sponsor the meeting to discuss a new package of incentives for island farmers, they said in a press release.

The meeting will be held in the KCC dining room.

The meeting will focus on expanding marketing opportunities for locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables, training and technical assistance to improve crop production, professional help in obtaining loans and grants, and the development of an expanded program of state-level incentives for farmers.

The Kauai Food Industry Forum is a community-action organization whose members are seeking to increase Kaua‘i’s level of food self-sufficiency through improved methods of farming, food processing and packaging that will ultimately produce higher profits for local growers as an incentive for expanded production.

Because Kaua‘i currently imports approximately 90 percent of items for island residents’ and visitors’ daily diets, the profits are mostly returned to Mainland growers at present.

Forum leaders are seeking to alter this condition by encouraging local food production as a means to diversify Kaua‘i’s job opportunities and thereby enrich the island’s economy.

The meeting will focus on the Community Food Grant Proposal, an initiative of forum members recently submitted to leaders of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If approved, it will provide $281,100 to Garden Island Resource Conservation & Development leaders in a three-phase project to develop alliances between clusters of local farmers and markets in their vicinity; train farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their crops; and assist them in obtaining grant and loans for progressive expansion and improvement of their operations.

Forum leaders have created an advisory board of members to manage the grant, including Terry Sekioka, University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Services; Beth Tokioka, county Office of Economic Development; Owen Moe, Garden Island Resource Conservation & Development; Michael Furukawa, Grove Farm; Randy Francisco, Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce; Calvin Shirai, KCC; Roy Oyama, Kauai County Farm Bureau; and Fred Atkins, Kilohana Plantation.

The project director, Glenn Hontz of KCC, is working closely with members of the advisory board in the detailed planning of the project, and with Laurie Ho and Gilbert Peter Kea, of Garden Island Resource Conservation & Development, in the fiscal portion of the grant.

Also at the meeting, Duane K. Okamoto, deputy to the chairperson of the state Board of Agriculture, will discuss the implications for Kaua‘i farmers of Act 183, the “Important Agriculture Lands” law, which is designed to conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency, and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands.

Okamoto is working with state Department of Taxation officials and stakeholders to identify incentives for agriculture.

He will prepare a report to members of the state Legislature which includes recommendations and rationale for incentives and description of the process.

Okamoto will be calling for ideas and discussion from members of the forum group that he can take back as recommendations for incentives for agriculture.

For more information, contact Hontz, 246-4859 or 742-7820, or Okamoto, 1-808-973-9553.


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