Time to work together, oppose dairy farm

It was good to see many of you at the home owners meetings. It is so important for good governance that you come often and talk about the current issues. I want to give you an update on the dairy farm enterprise that has started preparations at Mahaulepu. Also take a few minutes and look up New Zealand “White Gold Rush” and learn what happened there with somewhat smaller industrial dairy farm initiatives.

It is imperative that we property owners individually  and collectively do our part to become informed and help stop or greatly downsize this huge dairy farm venture. We need to act very soon. It will be much more costly to sue after the damage is done and meanwhile the financial and aesthetic value of our island homes will greatly diminish. This project is happening on Grove Farm Land and is named the Hawaii Dairy Farm.  It is being partially funded with $17.4 billion by billionaire eBay Founder, Pierre Omidyar. Yes, it’s hard to fight big money but doable if the South Shore residents are determined and work together. This pristine South Shore and ocean life and our investments are at stake.

Following are some basic facts we should consider.

This plan has been in the works for five years but the public knew nothing of it until four months ago. Why not sooner? Perhaps they needed time to woo the regulators with such terms as “sustainability for Kauai” and “ milk for Kauai’s children,” neither of which are true. 

The plan is for a herd of 1,800-2,000 dairy cattle, plus calves. At least 30 percent of their feed will be imported grain in a good year. That is not sustainability. The milk will be shipped to Oahu and sold to Meadow Gold to pasteurize and sell wherever on the globe they choose. HDF admits now when questioned that none of the milk might be returned to Kauai and if it is, the cost will not be cheaper. Maybe 15 jobs will be had by locals. So you see, there are no benefits for Kauai but the damage prediction is astronomical. 

You ask why Mahaulepu Valley, owned by Grove Farms? A search revealed that the valley is designated  as “Important Agricultural Land” (IAL), which means set aside for food production. IAL lands are subsidized by our tax dollars in tax credits for roads, processing facilities, reservoirs, pipelines and even subsidies for repair and maintenance. In summary, our tax dollars will be subsidizing the $17.4 billion from Omidyar and HDF (Hawaii Dairy Farm) now and forever. That’s mostly why the site was chosen and it could be the beginning of a “White Gold Rush” here on Kauai. If one industrial dairy makes big money here, more will follow. Let’s see — year round mild climate (no barns needed), tax credits and subsidies, and perhaps less government oversight and regulation on a small island.

The waste output of the proposed dairy cows is 80 pounds of manure daily and six gallons of urine daily. The 1,800 head of cattle will produce at least 104,000 pounds of manure per day. Management has now admitted that the cows will only have 430 acres to graze on. In a week, there will be 1,694 pounds of bacteria and parasite-laden manure per acre and 70,000 plus gallons of urine per acre. Even if their waste is captured in part in holding ponds, the volume is staggering. The soil of Mahaulepu is largely clay. Drainage will be an issue and the risk of running right to the Mahaulepu and other Poipu shores is great. Should the operation proposed be modified? Shouldn’t we ask that HDF be more vigilant stewards of our land and avoid the detrimental impact experienced in New Zealand? Shouldn’t we demand an environmental study?

So taxpayers of Kauai, it would be a good idea if hundreds of us would make our voices heard individually and collectively about this project. At their very few public meetings, HDF had to admit that the farmland is not free draining, as they claimed, but clay based. They calculated the rainfall incorrectly for their predictions of flooding, and drew wind charts inaccurately. When asked about drainage studies, storm water studies, a hydro-logic model, they claimed these are a work in progress. Meanwhile, the first 800 cows have been purchased. They are grading and grubbing without having permits from the state. They quoted support from Dr. Lee, an expert from the University of Hawaii in grass selection but no consultation with the expert had occurred.

 This project is being shoved down our throats and the damage to the pristine South Shore will be incalculable. Health hazards, stench, flies, wasps, dangerous ground water will all factor in to the  devastation of the South Shore community. Let’s not put our heads in the sand. Any business founded on deceit is a business that should be forced to “hit the street.”

We all need to write individual letters and group letters with legal guidance. We need to start petitions and insist on association websites with a section that has an “op in” capacity for those who want to share their email addresses for more effective education and communication. We need to establish a legal fund to act sooner rather than later to protect this beautiful land and sea, plus protect our water supply and the value of our retirement homes. We may not always agree on everything but we can agree to disagree and work together. 


• Jan Muller is a resident of Poipu.


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