The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation is seeking farmer tenants to lease farm lots in Kunia. The land was formerly owned by Campbell Estate, but the Army and a private developer formed a partnership to buy the land and develop a portion of it for military housing. Since the Army’s housing needs changed, much of the land is now being leased to Monsanto to grow GMO corn. And a small portion is being offered by the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation for small farmers.
This whole story raises a number of red flags. Why is the Army engaging in private real estate investment and development? Although the Army changed its plans for housing, the original plans to acquire the land or undergo development was not announced to the public. Environmental review for the acquisition and development of the land was not conducted.
The growing partnership between GMO agribusiness and the military in Hawai’i is also disturbing. In Kaua’i, biotech firms have a special relationship with the Pacific Missile Range Facility to be able to farm within the special exclusion easement surrounding the base. Did Monsanto or the Army conduct an environmental review for the establishment of GMO crops in this area? What is the risk of genetic contamination from these crops? If the crops are engineered to produce intrinsic pesticides, what effects will it have on the environment, such as native insects or fish downstream?
The Ag park is a fine idea, but in the larger scheme of things, it is a fig leaf to cover the other deals being made.
Nonprofit plans agricultural park for local farmers
The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation aims to have tenants on a Kunia site by year’s end
A nonprofit established three years ago to support farming in Hawaii plans to set up an agricultural park for small farmers in Kunia on land owned by the Army and a private development partner.
The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation hopes to interest 10 or more local farmers in leasing the roughly 200-acre property formerly planted in pineapple and sugar cane.
Lease terms — including rents and the length of leases — have yet to be set, though the foundation aims to have initial tenants on the land by the end of the year, according to Dean Okimoto, a Waimanalo farmer serving as the foundation’s president.
A groundbreaking ceremony at the site is scheduled for today.
The land is part of 2,400 acres the Army and development partner Lend Lease bought in 2008 from Campbell Estate for $32 million, according to property records.
Ann M. Choo Wharton, a spokeswoman for the Army-Lend Lease venture known as Island Palm Communities, said the Army initially planned to expand housing for nearby Schofield Barracks on a small piece of the property. But the Army’s housing needs changed, which prompted the landowners to seek tenants for the whole property.
Monsanto in 2009 leased 1,675 acres for 40 years to grow seed corn. The Army and Lend Lease have 680 acres available for lease and are considering possible renewable-energy uses on another piece of the land, Wharton said.
The roughly 200 acres for the ag park is part of what Monsanto leases. As part of the Monsanto lease, the Army and Lend Lease required that 10 percent of the land be made available to local farmers.
“When Monsanto first came to Kunia, we made a commitment to participating in community initiatives that would promote local agriculture,” said Fred Perlak, vice president of research and business operations for Monsanto in Hawaii.
Okimoto said Monsanto committed to help prepare the land for farming again, including providing assistance with clearing the site and neutralizing herbicide residue in the soil left over from past use.
Okimoto, who owns Nalo Farms, said the Kunia site is suitable for a wide variety of crops from tomatoes to pineapples.
“Almost anything will grow up there,” he said.