Letters to the Editor

Simple Way to Create More Farms

We share Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s desire to preserve agricultural land outside the urban-growth boundary and applaud his enthusiasm for increasing Hawaii’s food security (“Talk Story,” April 2014).

A major barrier to increasing food security is the lack of long-term leases for affordable land. Without such leases, farmers and ranchers cannot invest in the land, install expensive infrastructure or qualify for business loans. The mayor may be correct that over 30,000 acres of agricultural land are currently fallow outside of Oahu’s urban-growth boundary. However, most of that land is available only for short-term, month-to-month leases, or for sale at very high speculative prices for potential housing and hotel development. Either way, farmers and ranchers cannot afford it.

Farmers and ranchers will not invest in new or expanded ranches or farms if their leases can be pulled at any time. As long as landowners believe they can fetch the high prices that developed land can command, they will not offer long-term leases to farmers.

One effective and voluntary tool to incentivize affordable long-term land tenure is the agricultural conservation easement – used for many decades to preserve agricultural land nationwide and in England. Agricultural conservation easements permanently restrict uses of the land to agricultural or ranching and prohibit subdivision, residential development and upzoning. Federal tax incentives encourage landowners to voluntarily donate agricultural conservation easements, and federal, state and county programs (like Honolulu’s Clean Water & Natural Lands Program) can fairly compensate landowners for giving up future development rights.

Landowners with agricultural conservation easements have an incentive to offer affordable, long-term leases to attract good tenants. When the land is sold or transferred, the restrictions still apply, and the price of the land will be more affordable since it is now stripped of any future development value. It is important to understand that agricultural easements are legally enforceable contracts, which means land with such an easement is permanently protected from development. No on-going fight is needed to protect it, and its use is not subject to shifting political or regulatory whims.

—Murray ClayManaging Partner
Ulupono Initiative

 

Even Small Investors Can Make an Impact

I applaud Hawaii Business for raising awareness about impact investing – a trend that is gaining momentum in Hawaii and is no longer limited to deep-pocket investors. The feature entitled, “Impact Investing Is the New Philanthropy” (April 2014), introduced the many models, participants and processes behind this socially responsible form of investing.

One example not mentioned in the story is the Feed the Hunger Foundation, which uses impact investing to build a local community interested in the triple bottom line. We focus on small investors and entrepreneurs who nevertheless drive meaningful initiatives in our state. We believe change starts from the bottom up at a community or an individual level.

Feed the Hunger Foundation has provided over 3,000 microloans worldwide, 38 of those to business owners and entrepreneurs working in Hawaii’s sustainable food system. We have distributed over $340,000 in loans to local recipients, such as Hawaiian Hydroponics, Hawaii.

Rainbow Cookies and the Waimea Homestead Association in partnership with WOW Farm.

A three-year CD in America yields an average annual return of 0.45 percent, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., while a comparable commitment to our foundation has a return of about 2 percent, plus grows a local business and builds Hawaii’s food production. So an investment with us makes both social and financial sense.

While we closely watch our portfolio’s financial returns, we know measuring our work’s impact requires thinking outside the box. Often, traditional measurements do not favor investments in small-scale productions. For example, investing in small-scale immigrant farmers in Kunia, who sell produce to a farmers market that accepts food stamps at a senior housing complex, may not provide the metrics for large-scale outcomes. Our foundation, however, values the investment’s impact on the farmers, the distributors and the seniors.

No investment is too small. We will even assist in helping investors aggregate funds through a hui with similar interests. Look beyond traditional financial products and ask for more than monetary returns on your investments.

—Denise Albano
President, Feed the Hunger Foundation

 

Sad About Changes in Waikiki

I have been coming to Hawaii every year since 1979. I am very sad to see the International Market Place gone (“13 Great Things About Waikiki Plus 13 Awful Things,” January 2014). I brought my kids and my grandkids. It was a highlight of visiting Waikiki. In the evening after the beach and dinner, we would go find little treasures and meet wonderful fun vendors. It’s not the same at the swap meet. I would hope the city would find some place for these people to gather instead of another corporate mall.

—Posted online by Lee4luck 

I was pushed today by a homeless man on the crossing in front of McDonald’s restaurant on Kalakaua Avenue. He pushed his backpack into my face; I was lucky I didn’t fall. He cursed and walked away. I was shaken, made a complaint at the police station, but know nothing will be done. I am now rethinking if I’ll come back next year. I know I won’t feel safe anymore here. City needs to do something, not just talk.

—Posted online by Garden

 

Correction

Hawaii’s official travel site, gohawaii.com, got over 12 million visits during 2013. Of those, 1.2 million visits or 10 percent came from within the state, from either residents or visitors. Hawaii Business reported incorrect numbers in a story in the May 2014 issue.

 


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