New House Agriculture Chair Fighting for Neighbor Islands

Nov 29, 2016

Credit Rep. Richard Creagan Facebook

When Hawai‘i’s legislature convenes its next session in January, the state House of Representatives will have a new chair of the Agriculture Committee. Former chair Clift Tsuji of Hilo died earlier this month, and the new chair is also from Hawai‘i Island. He recently spoke to HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken about some of his policy priorities.

Ka‘ū and South Kona State Representative and Agriculture Chair Richard Creagan is a physician and a farmer. “There’s going to be some discussion of the restrictions on GMOs, more transparency on the herbicides and pesticides used.  Part of that is precipitated by the court decision that invalidated the county laws on limiting GMOs.  The court said it’s a state prerogative. People want to know what’s in their food labeling, from a nutritional standpoint, I think that’s important.“

Governor David Ige wants to see food production doubled by 2030

Creagan says “That’s an ambitious goal, so much of our agriculture is devoted to items for either export or tourists.  How much do we want to expand a sector of our economy that has low paying jobs and what impact that would have on our society. When you have 10,000 acre farms in the Midwest that makes sense -- if we want local food we’re going to have to pay more for it.”

State Agriculture Director Scott Enright has created a biosecurity plan that addresses invasive species and increased agriculture inspections, among other steps. Creagan says part of the funding decision will include consideration of neighbor island agriculture issues. “We’ll look at their priorities and balance against our priorities.  Part of the problem with the legislature is it tends to be Oahu centric, until it affects them.  Little fire ants could devastate agriculture.  Rat lungworm disease is causing more death and disability by far than any of the mosquito borne diseases.  It’s an agricultural as well as a health issue“. Another priority for Creagan: science-based agriculture training in schools.