Kilauea farm disaster survey estimates $28M in losses
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018
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Hawaii News| Top News

Kilauea farm disaster survey estimates $28M in losses

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    Garuda Johnson, who built Johnson Family Farm from scratch, hung on to his home and business in Opihikao despite current and previous Kilauea eruptions. Rising smoke, seen June 21, from neighboring Leilani Estates loomed ominously.

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A survey of Big Island farms impacted by the Kilauea eruption tallied nearly $28 million in losses for the floriculture and nursery, papaya, macadamia nut and other industries.

The Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association requested that the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources conduct a survey on the Big Island in the wake of the disaster. The results were released on Wednesday.

“We just felt we needed a survey that gave us reliable, substantiated numbers that we can go to our partners with,” said Eric Tanouye, president of HFNA. “If we have credible numbers, it will allow us to speak with our partners, like Hawaii County, the [state] Department of Agriculture, and our Congressional team.”

Tanouye hopes it will help get affected farmers the funding that they need.

“Primarily, our goal is to get the farmers back to farming as soon as possible,” he said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

The survey, which was distributed by CTAHR’s agents and other industry organizations in early August, was designed to gauge the losses sustained by producers from the Kilauea eruption, which began May 3. A total of 46 responses were received by mail and e-mail, according to CTAHR, which were completely voluntary.

While not all-inclusive, CTAHR said the survey offers a sampling of farm losses and damages resulting from the Kilauea eruption.

Lava flowed over streets and subdivisions of Leilani Estates in lower Puna in May, according to the report, while lava channels began flowing toward Kapoho Bay on June 2. Many farms were covered with lava, losing crops, structures, inventory, equipment and land.

Total farm losses were reported at $27.9 million, according to the CTAHR report. The floriculture and nursery industry was hit the hardest, with an estimated $13.3 million in farm losses, followed by the papaya industry, at $6.5 million, the macadamia nut industry, at $2.5 million and $5.7 million for others.

The greatest impact was on crops, with an estimated $17 million, or 61 percent, lost to the eruption. An estimated $4.2 million of land was lost, while $3.4 million of building structures, and $3 million in inventory and $228,000 in equipment, were lost.

Survey respondents reported about 1,337 acres were affected by the disaster. More than half, or 52 percent, owned their farmlands, while 46 percent leased, and two percent rented the lands they farmed on.

Most said they do not plan to replant on land affected by the eruption, but 87 percent said they were willing to relocate and start over. Part of the challenge is finding new land for these farmers to start over again on.

Those who responded to the survey were affiliated with organizations, including HFNA, the Orchid Growers of Hawaii, the Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, Tropical Fruit Growers Association and Hawaii Farmers Union United.

The HFNA is also part of a nonprofit called the Synergistic Hawaii Agriculture Council (SHAC), which is slated to receive more than $483,000 in federal funding to create a business recovery hub for farmers impacted by the eruption, according to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s office.

Tanouye said his association would be working closely with representatives from federal, state and county governments and growers to help get production and jobs back up as quickly as possible.

“If we can get them [farmers] back into the game as soon as possible, it’s jobs we’re talking about,” he said. “When our numbers go up, everyone wins — businesses, jobs, revenue for the state.”

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