A sustainable operation preserves its environment

Sustainable agriculture has been defined by the United Nations, UNESCO and numerous agricultural sources. To be sustainable, a farming operation must: 1) protect and preserve the integrity of the ecosystem and environmental resources, 2) act in a manner that is socially and culturally equitable (doesn’t ruin the quality or way of life for neighboring property owners) and 3) operates in a manner that is economically efficient (doesn’t use up the natural resources to the point where goods have to be imported while producing a product that requires finished packaging elsewhere).

Hawaii Dairy Farms claims their dairy will be sustainable. However, their plan does not support their claim.

As Virginia Beck recently shared (TGI, Aug. 26), HDF’s plan calls for using water from the Waita Reservoir, 2.8 million gallons daily to operate their dairy.

The likelihood that rate can be sustained was not addressed in HDF’s Draft EIS.

While a reasoned, calm and fact-based analysis is prudent, as Ms. Beck suggested, the fact is that HDF’s own Draft EIS makes it clear their operation is not sustainable because their milk is to be shipped off island to Meadow Gold for final processing, packaging and distribution.

HDF loses all control once sold to Meadow Gold. Their plan is also unsustainable because HDF intends to import grain for at least 30 percent of the daily feed for the 699 cows, noting that their 469 grazing acres will not grow what they need. Finally, HDF admits that with tradewinds, odor and flies will reach its South Shore neighbors, hardly satisfying the concept of social and cultural equity.

Friends of Mahaulepu, a community-based, grassroots organization, has spent considerable time and money to find sustainable solutions for a dairy at Mahaulepu. Unfortunately, there are no good alternatives for this location.

Equally troubling is HDF’s statement that any drainage from their site empties into the ocean after flowing across the beach at Mahaulepu: “Spread across the pastures on the valley floor are numerous straight agricultural ditches that serve the purpose of draining runoff from various pasture areas.”

DEIS Volume 2, Biological Surveys, page 19. “Surface waters draining the project site meet Waiopili Ditch, and will eventually reach the ocean.” DEIS Volume 2, Surface Water and Marine Assessment, page 2. FOM scientists also confirmed these findings.

HDF’s experts were also unable to find a sustainable solution for their site’s drainage pattern. The current drainage of primarily clay soil was established more than 100 years ago when the sugar industry drained the aged old Mahaulepu Swamp, previously shown on survey maps from 1897 and 1903. In order to cultivate sugarcane, one map documents that the swamp had to be drained.

The extensive drainage ditch network installed was recently cleared and restored by HDF. Those ditches are needed to drain the water that would otherwise reform the swamp.

Unfortunately, HDF’s Plan relies on a 100 percent land application of all nutrients (manure and urine). Per HDF, the herd of 699 will produce 2 million pounds of manure and urine each month. Their Draft EIS reveals a hope to retain “nearly 98 percent of the nutrients.”

HDF is no longer claiming to be a “zero discharge operation.” That means, however, that some nutrients will leave the farm. Even if they are fortunate enough to retain 98 percent of the waste, whatever leaves the farm, HDF admits will empty via their extensive ditch network, into the Waiopili ditch and onto the sands of Mahaulepu and into the ocean.

As recently confirmed by the EPA, the Waiopili is already significantly polluted and now has signs to warn the public. If HDF’s waste runoff is limited to 2 percent, that represents 40,000 pounds of manure and urine monthly or 20 tons of nutrients flowing from the site into the ocean through an already contaminated stream.


Bridget Hammerquist is president of Friends of Mahaulepu.


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