Panel to discuss challenges facing farming industry


The County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee, which I chair, will meet Monday at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers to discuss the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA.

FSMA was signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, by then-President Barrack Obama and was hailed as one of the most sweeping reforms of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. FSMA was created to help ensure the food supply in the United States is safe, while shifting the focus on the prevention of contamination in our foods. Farmers are now mandated to comply with these new rules. They are good for consumers, but what is impact on the farming industry?

At Monday’s meeting, we will hear from representatives of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources program to learn how they are assisting the Maui farming community with education, workshops and training, specifically on meeting the guidelines of FSMA.

Representatives from the farming community, including Maui County Farm Bureau and Hawaii Farmers Union United, will also be in attendance to share how FSMA affects the industry.

As a lifelong resident of Maui and current board member of the Kula Agricultural Park Committee, I find that issues faced by the county’s agricultural industry are close to my heart. I make it a priority to reach out to farmers and the public to hear firsthand about agricultural issues affecting the county.

In monthly talk story sessions at the Upcountry Farmers Market, local farmers and residents share with me the opportunities, challenges and demands affecting agriculture and provide important feedback on what is and what is not working. I value everyone’s input and use their knowledge to guide my actions as a council member.

When a large agricultural company such as Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. shuts down due to operational losses and market conditions, the closure grabs the public’s attention and makes headlines. When a single farmer discontinues operations, the loss may go unnoticed. What may be missed is the effect of closure of small-scale farmers in the aggregate. The loss of small agricultural operations over time may have a more significant and detrimental impact on local agriculture than the loss of a large-scale plantation operation.

I recently received disappointing news of a few local farmers on Maui who are leaving the agricultural business after years of toiling the soil. For these farmers, the risks and challenges have become too great. Rat lungworm disease is the most recent challenge affecting this once vibrant industry, but the challenges are many. Now is a good time to discuss and identify the challenges farmers face and look for solutions to keep farming alive in Maui County.

By having more of these types of discussions, I hope we can continue to support our farmers and help keep this treasured industry thriving for generations to come.

Testimony may be provided at the meeting or by email to pea.committee@maui

* Yuki Lei Sugimura holds the Maui County Council seat for the Upcountry residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to for more information.