Tax credits for organic farmers

HONOLULU — Organic farmers have the chance to get a boost thanks to a measure that secures $2 million in state-funded tax credits for certified organic food production.

The landmark tax credit is the first of its kind in the United States and is designed to work in conjunction with existing federal programs that aid organic farmers with certification.

“This will definitely help organic certified farmers, and it gives them an incentive,” said Hawaii State Representative Dee Morikawa (D).

She said she wasn’t involved in the committee hearings on the bill when it was floating through the legislature, but she supported it through the entire process.

Kipukai Kuali’i, Kauai County Councilman, said he thinks the measure can be quite significant for some of Kauai’s smaller farmers.

“Any steps towards supporting more locally grown foods is definitely steps in the right direction,” Kuali’i said. “I would like to see us do what we can to incentivize more land and water use for more locally grown foods.”

Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser said he’s in support of the measure as well.

“Kudos to the legislature for recognizing the importance of supporting local organic farmers,” Hooser said. “More and more people in Hawaii, and around the world, are choosing organically grown foods over processed factory food as a healthier alternative for both the people, and the planet.”

According to a release sent from the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, legislators believe the new program will “reduce the burden on emerging small farmers seeking costly, but necessary, organic certifications and inspections.”

The state’s new tax credit will reimburse farmers the remaining 25 percent of the costs not covered by the U.S. department of Agriculture’s Organic Certification Cost Share Programs (OCCSP). OCCSP currently reimburses eligible organic producers and handlers up to 75 percent of certification costs each year – with a maximum cap of $750.

The new credit also extends beyond the USDA cost share programs and covers things like equipment, materials, and supplies necessary for organic certification or production.

That means, coupled with the existing programs, the new tax credit will reimburse an organic farmer for production and certification up to $50,000.

“Organic agriculture has a huge role to play in addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time — economic revitalization, climate change, public health and environmental protection,” said Ashley Lukens, director of Hawaii Center for Food Safety. “Through policy initiatives such as the new tax credit, we’re seeing the state step up to fulfill its responsibility to support local food and recognize organic farming.”

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