Hawaii’s delegation seeks federal aid to help local farmers in wake of natural disasters
  • Monday, November 19, 2018
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Hawaii’s delegation seeks federal aid to help local farmers in wake of natural disasters

  • COURTESY TRACEY NIMI

    Former Hurricane Lane soaked the Hilo Bayfront in August.

  • JAMM AQUINO/ JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM / APRIL 2018 FILE PHOTO

    Floodwaters are seen in Haena, Kauai. Three days after heavy rain and flooding, many residents of Wainiha and Haena were cut off from many essentials including electricity and water.

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY / JULY 2018 FILE PHOTO

    A sunrise is seen over the Kilauea volcano lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii.

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Hawaii’s congressional delegation is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide financial assistance to Hawaii farmers affected by the Kilauea lava flow on Hawaii island, the flooding brought on by heavy rains in April and more recently by former Tropical Storm Lane.

“The dire situation that our farmers and producers are currently experiencing as a result of recent disasters cannot be overstated,” wrote U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard in a letter sent yesterday to Bill Northey, the DOA’s undersecretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service.

“We are already hearing reports of farmers, who employed multiple families and had millions invested in their agricultural business, having to lay off all of their employees and completely walk away from the agricultural industry because they lost all of their assets and cannot qualify for new loans to start over,” the letter said. “Agriculture in Hawaii is not easy during the best of times and now during the worst of times, many of our farmers and producers are being forced to give up on agriculture.”

The letter details the effects that natural disasters this year have had on the state’s vegetable, fruit, nut and coffee crops, as well as flower and nursery products — industries that are valued at tens of millions of dollars and support thousands of jobs.

In addition to the lava flow’s direct impact on Puna farms, the delegation notes that other farms in the area have had losses attributable to vog and acid rain.

Hawaii’s delegation urges the DOA to use its existing authority to tap into the “billions of dollars that USDA is allocating to offset the impacts of tariffs” — a reference to the Trump administration’s retaliatory tariffs employed in trade negotiations — to help Hawaii farmers.

The delegation also sent a letter to Northey seeking assistance for Hawaii farmers in June.

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