Since the demise of pineapple and sugarcane, the seed industry has helped diversify Hawaii’s economy and kept important ag lands in agricultural production by investing millions of dollars into failing infrastructure such as roads, buildings and irrigation.
Not only does this ensure that those farmlands remain productive for future generations, but the investment has saved small farmers and the state from having to pay for those improvements.
While we applaud the Sierra Club for turning its attention to food security (Name in the News, Star-Advertiser, Oct. 22), the comment by Robert Harris that farmers are having difficulty finding land to farm "because it’s all being used for seed corn" is a gross misstatement.
The agricultural biotech industry, which includes seed corn research companies, operates on only 5 percent of the available prime agricultural lands in the state. Of those acres, approximately 8,000 are actively used for crop production, which conserves water and results in a smaller environmental footprint.
Recognizing the difficulty of farmers to secure land, many seed companies now collaborate with farmers to put new and displaced farmers back on agricultural land at affordable prices. Farmers large and small are growing a variety of crops side by side, and many now even supplement their income by growing seed crops. In addition, seed companies lease land to cattle ranchers, who are another important part of Hawaii’s food security picture.
To encourage the next generation of farmers, the seed industry provides grants to the University of Hawaii for plant science degree programs, offers internships at their companies, and partners with community colleges to develop associate degree programs in science and agriculture.
There’s no question that agriculture is essential to Hawaii. The ag biotech industry has demonstrated its support for farmers and understands well the challenges that all ag producers face — climate change, pests and invasive species, and feeding an increasing global population with diminishing resources.
By working together, we have been able to overcome some of the obstacles that stand in the way of food production. With further collaboration from agriculture supporters, we can help ensure that this important industry prospers in Hawaii.