To say the least, yesterday was a bit frustrating. For those observing the 12 hour session it is clear there were really two meetings – one between council members discussing amendments and one between council members and the agrochemical industry representatives (and a handful of others).
A summary of the amendment discussion portion of the meeting is below…the discussion with the agrochemical industry representatives will follow…in a day or so.
The Committee on Economic Development (agriculture, sustainability) and Intergovernmental Affairs is composed of 5 council members: Myself as the Chair, CM Yukimura as Vice Chair and CM Kagawa, CM Nakamura and CM Rapozo.
As is always the case with every piece of newly proposed legislation it is a given that the Bill can and should be amended to improve and to clarify.
At yesterdays meeting I presented for discussion three amendments and non-committee member Bynum contributed a fourth. From our perspective, these amendments were sufficient to keep the Bill strong and allow it to move forward to a full council vote.
Technically these could have been presented as a single amendment but to facilitate an easier discussion the amendments were broken into four parts:
1) Clarifying the amount of pounds/gallons of RUP’s used
2) Clarifying and limiting the experimental pesticide provision
3) Strengthening and clarifying the EIS provision
4) Clarifying the buffer zone provision.
CM Nakamura presented an outline of an amendment she has been working on with CM Yukimura that also addressed the EIS portion of the Bill and established a process they feel better accomplishes the end goal of obtaining good data upon which to base future decisions. While I believe the essential elements of their proposal as presented have merit, the details and language of the actual amendment were not ready for final review at yesterdays meeting.
CM Yukimura also presented for discussion two additional amendments: One of which was a minor variation of the experimental pesticide amendment I had suggested and the second of which proposed to remove in its entirety that section of the Bill that would require companies growing GMO crops to obtain a County permit containing permit conditions governing those operations. Needless to say Council member Bynum and I both argued against this proposal.
CM Rapozo while offering no amendments spoke at length about the need for the State to step up to the plate and indicated that he is requesting that the Department of Agriculture agree to cooperate with and allow the County to enforce existing pesticide laws.
CM Kagawa indicated that he was prepared to vote on Bill 2491 immediately. From past statements it seems clear that he is not in support of the measure. To be clear, as the Bill moves forward, any and all council members may shift positions.
Non committee member CM Furfaro who is the Chair of the full Council submitted a large stack of letters he has written to State and Federal authorities requesting assistance. He also indicated his desire that all amendments to Bill 2491 be done in the committee and not at the full council which would ultimately hear the measure.
While at first glance the progress or lack thereof at yesterdays committee meeting is a bit disheartening, at the end of the day the glass still appears a little more than half full.
Remember 4 votes are needed and CM Bynum and I are two. CM Yukimura has said publicly that she supports disclosure, buffer zones and some sort of study. CM Nakamura has said she supports some sort of study and she asked industry representatives very good and pointed questions yesterday such as “Would you offer the public the same notification as you now offer your employees?” Near the end of last nights meeting CM Rapozo also seemed to say that he would support the Bill if the State does not come through as he is hoping.
I remain hopeful that all of my colleagues recognize the importance of passing a strong and meaningful Bill 2491.
The bottom line: All members of the committee have pledged to have all of their amendments ready and they will be prepared to vote on September 27.
The real bottom line: This issue will not go away and in fact will only grow and fester unless and until our County deals with it in a meaningful manner. While we can and should press the State and Federal agencies to do more and yes we can and should facilitate a community process to explore the issues – at the end of the day our citizens deserve the right to know.
I and many others – doctors, nurses, teachers, workers, farmers, students, mothers, and fathers from all parts of our island – believe that the industrial agricultural activities being conducted by these corporations are causing real and tangible harm to our communities’ health and to our natural environment. We deserve the right to know, we deserve the right to say stop spraying your chemicals near schools, hospitals and homes and we deserve the right to stop the expansion of these operations until the impacts have been independently evaluated.