Monday, January 28, 2013

Senate to look at several ag bills

LIHU‘E — The state Senate Agriculture Committee will hear public opinions on at least six bills related to incentives to local farmers Tuesday. The bills’ scope range from tax exemptions to planning for food security.
Senate Bill 326 creates and appropriates funds for a “good agricultural practices” task force to develop food-safety guidelines for locally farmed products.
The proposed task force would be composed of the state’s Director of Health, the dean of the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, the Senate Agriculture Committee chair, the House Agriculture Committee chair, the president of the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation, the president of the Hawai‘i Farmers Union United and four representatives from ag producers statewide hand-picked by the governor.
The proposed bill allows for the stakeholders to appoint a designee rather than serving on the task force,
SB 363 creates an income tax exemption on the first $50,000 of income for family farms, family farm communities and family farm cooperatives.
Under the bill, “family farm” means a farm owned or leased by an individual or family receiving more than 75 percent of its annual gross income from food production sold for consumption within Hawai‘i, whether the food is sold directly to consumers or indirectly through a family farm co-op.
“Family farm community” means land between 500 and 5,000 acres that is subdivided into individual family farms.
“Family farm cooperative” means an association of family farms within a family farm community created to process or market agricultural produce.
The bill would apply to taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012.
SB 524 establishes an ag development and food security program, plus establishes a plan to increase production, demand and access to locally grown foods.
Some of the initiatives to increase demand and access would be to expand marketing, improve branding and labeling, partner with local institutions and address food safety issues.
Some of the initiatives to increase production would be to improve ag infrastructure, support ag park programs, support repair and maintenance projects, encourage diversifying distribution, support multi-functional food hub and food incubator facilities and build the ag workforce.
SB 593 expands livestock feed subsidies to include goats, sheep, fish and crustaceans.
The law already allows livestock feed subsidies to farmers who produce cow milk, eggs, poultry and pork. The subsidies also apply for producers of beef that is for local processing and consumption.
According to the bill, livestock feed accounts for about 75 percent of the total production costs in Hawai‘i, while on the Mainland, livestock feeding accounts for 50 percent of the production costs.
If passed, the proposed would go into effect July 1, 2013.
SB 594 exempts from the General Excise Tax amounts received for the slaughter and processing of poultry and livestock to be consumed in the state, provided such meats have been here.
The bill would go into effect as early as July 1.
SB 595 adds to the definition of agricultural commodities exempt from the GET, milk, poultry eggs, poultry carcass, poultry meat, and aquaculture and aquaponic products to be consumed in the state, whether processed here or imported.
All those bills are scheduled to go through a public hearing at the Agriculture Committee Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. at the Honolulu Capitol in the conference room 229.
Senate Vice President Ron Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, is also the committee’s vice chair.
Visit for more information or to submit testimony through email.

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