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Sugarcane Harvesting: We Must Work Together on a Solution

It will take time and aloha to move in another direction.

May 6, 2014
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez - Executive Consultant • Go Maui Inc. , Maui Weekly

Go Maui Inc. is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization focusing on housing, jobs, water, agriculture, economic opportunity and the infrastructure needed to sustain a strong economy, better paying jobs and a vibrant housing market. As such, we were pleased to participate in the recent community meeting hosted by HC&S to answer questions about cane burning and the methods of growing sugarcane on Maui and around the world, including countries and states that use limited and targeted cane burning in their harvesting process.

The panel presentation was balanced and all views were given the opportunity to be expressed, even though a vocal minority of the audience unfortunately delivered their remarks in an aggressive manner that did not reflect the civil behavior expressed by almost all of those who attended the meeting.

As a result of the meeting, it has become clear that the larger question Maui must address is the conflict between agriculture and a growing urban environment. It must also be addressed with the recognition that the challenges we face did not occur in a vacuum.

Since the 1960s, Maui has been a magnet for people seeking what was not present in their lives on the Mainland. Housing prices have shot up, and as a result, we are living closer and closer to what were previously noncontroversial agricultural lands and farming practices.

Maui's population no longer needs migration from the Mainland to grow. Our population is being driven by local birthrates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture no longer considers Kihei to be a rural area.

If we have concerns--and if we must make adjustments--then we must also agree that all of us are responsible for where we are and that it will take time and aloha to move in another direction.

I am glad to hear that opponents of current HC&S harvesting practices say they do not want HC&S to fail and to see the loss of over 800 well-paying union jobs that have provided a path to the middle class for many workers. That is a good starting point. Now, lets put down our swords and shields, calm the drama and get to work on a reasonable solution that moves us forward together.



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