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Hawaii’s landmark organic farming tax credit bill becomes law

By Staff | Jul 14, 2016

“Government has a critical role to play in building a local sustainable food system,” said Ashley Lukens, Hawaii Center for Food Safety director.

HONOLULU – Hawaii Gov. David Ige did not move to veto recently passed state legislation that would allocate $2 million in state-funded tax credits for certified organic food production (House Bill 1689 CD 1).

The state-funded tax credit – the first of its kind in the United States – is designed to complement existing federal programs that help organic farmers overcome the financial barriers of certification.

The landmark legislation passed the House in May and is now state law.

“Hawaii cannot meet the goal of doubling local food production without support. By providing financial incentives for organic certification, the state is putting its money where its mouth is,” said Ashley Lukens, Hawaii Center for Food Safety director.

“If we want a new generation of farmers to start growing food and jobs for us, we need to give them the tools and support to do it,” said State Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced the bill.

Organic foods and products are a strong emerging market in Hawaii, and the sector is valued at over $6 million.

The growing demand for locally grown, certified-organic produce and products in Hawaii greatly exceeds supply, the Hawaii Center for Food Safety reported, but Hawaii farmers face numerous barriers that deter them from entering the organic sector.

These include the financial and paperwork requirements associated with obtaining and maintaining organic certification and higher costs for organic materials, such as fertilizer, which can be double that of conventional farming.

The tax credit will help offset those costs and encourage growth of the organic sector.

“Responsible organic farming builds fertile soil, conserves water and energy, protects biological diversity, and helps mitigate climate change,” said Sean Anderson of Green Rows Farm in Waimanalo, who plans to take advantage of the credit.

“A vibrant organic farming system is a vital component to promoting a healthy, sustainable food future for Hawaii.”