HC&S needs to adopt new harvesting practices

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.’s July 27 letter states that weather patterns have impacted harvesting practices for sugar cane but implies that HC&S can’t move toward greater use of green harvesting and remain a viable operation.

HC&S’ move to limited green harvesting was brought about by concerned citizens contacting the Clean Air Branch of the Department of Health. CAB responded to complaints by restricting burns during variable wind conditions. Citizen complaints also resulted in CAB issuing, for the first time ever, a violation against HC&S for excessive fugitive dust resulting in poor visibility along Mokulele Highway.

Changing weather patterns and a growing population with homes and schools now located in areas once unaffected by HC&S field practices have increased adverse health impacts to our community, so adapting to 21st-century sustainable practices makes sense.

Australia’s sugar industry can serve as our model as it’s developed a Code of Practice for Sustainable Cane Growing, addressing key environmental issues and adopting green harvesting for more than 80 percent of its crop. Australia has dramatically reduced the need for cane burning while increasing organic matter in the soil and protecting it from erosion.

It sees sustainability as a basis for ensuring long-term viability and a guarantee that future generations will continue to produce sugar – for a profit. HC&S should take note.

In the meantime, I encourage our community to continue to report incidents of smoke on the ground, excessive ash and fugitive dust. Learn more at www.cleanairforkeiki.org.

Irene Bowie