About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ka`u News Briefs Friday, Jan. 24, 2014

Yahoo Travel has named Punalu`u Black Sand Beach, with its "Hawaiian green sea turtles napping," one of its 10 Beaches that Should Be on Your Bucket List. Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
KA`U’S STATE REP. RICHARD ONISHI has introduced a bill that would amend the state’s Right to Farm Act by stating that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances or resolutions that limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices. The amendment reads: “No law, ordinance or resolution of any unit of local government shall be enacted that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices not prohibited by federal or state law, rules or regulations.”
      The legislation comes after Hawai`i County recently enacted a law banning crops containing genetically modified organisms, with some exceptions. Kaua`i also passed legislation relating to GMOs and pesticides.
Ka`u's state Rep. Richard Onishi
      Onishi, vice chair of the House Agriculture Committee, told Hawai`i Tribune-Herald reporter Tom Callis that the same laws should apply to all farmers in the state. “It’s not about pre-empting the counties; it’s not about GMOs,” he said. “It’s about supporting farmers.”
      Callis said Hawai`i Farm Bureau Federation requested the legislation. Ka`u resident and acting Hawai`i Farm Bureau Federation president Chris Manfredi told Callis the bill would render Hawai`i and Kaua`i Counties’ anti-GMO laws “null and void” and that farmers should face a “level playing field” across the state.
      Manfredi also said the bill is not meant to benefit biotech companies. “It’s about all agriculture,” he told Callis. “Big ag, small ag all need to coexist within the community. It’s not about an ‘us versus them.’”
      Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced Hawai`i County’s law restricting GMOs, told Callis she sees Onishi’s bill as an attempt to protect companies that produce GMO crops. “My thoughts are that these biotech corporations don’t like local governments to intervene in their agendas,” she said. “The county has a right to deal with issues that deal with health, well-being and property.”
      Regarding her bill, Wille told Callis, “I was protecting farmers. I was responding to non-GMO farming, and there’s absolutely no debate that all crops that are pollinated by wind and insects are affected.”
      Ka`u’s state Sen. Russell Ruderman, who testified before Hawai`i County Council in support of the anti-GMO bill, told Callis he stands by the county’s ability to regulate the industry. “I think it’s a cynical attempt to take away home rule,” he said. “The situation is not the same on every island. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.”
      The 35 other representatives listed in favor of the bill include Hawai`i Island Reps. Faye Hanohano, Cindy Evans, Clift Tsuji and Mark Nakashima.
      See hawaiitribune-herald.com.
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KA`U’S STATE SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN and Kona’s state Rep. Nicole Lowen have introduced companion bills in the state Legislature to reduce consumer fraud and deception caused by current state coffee labeling laws.
Ka`u's state Sen. Russell Ruderman
      Both bills cite a finding from a 2007 Concurrent Resolution of the Hawai`i Legislature that “existing labeling requirements for Kona coffee causes consumer fraud and confusion and degrades the ‘Kona Coffee’ name.”
      SB2354 states that “amendments to the relevant statutes are therefore necessary to prevent consumer fraud and confusion” and that the purpose of the bill is to “conform state coffee labeling laws to principles of consumer disclosure and fair marketing by requiring express label disclosure of the percent of coffee not grown in Hawai`i that is included in coffee blends that contain Hawai`i-grown coffee.”
      Currently, Honolulu coffee blenders, for example, are only required to state “10 percent Kona Coffee Blend” in small print on coffee blend packages.
      The Ruderman and Lowen bills would require blenders to expressly tell consumers that 90 percent of what is in the blend package is not grown in Hawai`i. Examples are: “Contains: 90 percent Panamanian Coffee; 10 percent Kona Coffee” or “Contains: 90 percent Foreign-Grown Coffee; 10 percent Maui Coffee.” 
      “This is a very modest step in the direction of fair marketing and consumer disclosure,” Kona Coffee Farmers Association president Cecelia B. Smith said. “Visitors from the mainland who don’t read beyond the large print – for example “Royal Kona” or “Hawaiian Gold Kona Coffee” – at the top of packages of 10 percent Kona blends will still be misled into buying what they wrongly believe to be Kona coffee. But for those buyers who carefully read the label, for the first time there will be an express indication that 90 percent of the contents is not from Kona or from any other region of Hawai`i.”
      Ruderman’s bill is SB2354 “Relating to Coffee,” and Lowen’s bill is HB1515 “Relating to Agriculture.”
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HAWAI`I COUNTY’S REAL PROPERTY TAX Division is working to correct its records that show ineligible property owners claiming homeowner’s exemptions, according to a story in West Hawai`i Today.
      Nancy Cook Lauer reported county Real Property Tax administrator Stan Sitko saying that a comparison of the records against vital statistics from the state Department of Health showed 1,200 deceased people benefiting from the exemption, some for as long as 10 years.
      The exemption of $40,000 is deducted from a property’s assessed value, resulting in lower taxes. It increases for seniors, the disabled and veterans. A property owner older than 70 receives a $100,000 exemption, and disabled property owners get an additional $50,000.
      According to the story, about 40,000 property owners in Hawai`i County claim the homeowner’s exemption. To qualify, property must be homeowners’ primary residence. The exemption automatically renews each year.
      Property owners were notified last year and were required to file for exemptions or pay the higher tax bill going forward.
      Sitko, addressing the Real Property Tax Stakeholder’s Task Force yesterday, said his office has been coordinating with state agencies to remove ineligible names from homeowner rolls. He plans to compare the list regularly against vital statistics and is working on a memorandum of agreement with the state Department of Taxation for that agency to check the county list against the state tax rolls.
      Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille told Cook Lauer, “There hasn’t been a lot of accountability and a lot of coordination. I think the key thing is, we need to tighten up the abuses. Someone pays for this, and if it’s not done fairly, then the rest of the people are paying for it.”
      Ending automatic renewal and requiring annual registration for the exemption would entail more work for the Finance Department, according to the story. “That’s 40,000 submittals coming in every year for our staff to review,” director Nancy Crawford told the task force.
      Al Inoue, a Hilo Realtor and task force member, said the homeowner’s exemption needs a thorough review. “Property owners are taking advantage of the homeowner’s exemption,” Inoue said. “We think it’s quite significant.”
      See westhawaiitoday.com.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

PUNALU`U BLACK SAND BEACH is one of Yahoo Travel’s 10 Beaches that Should Be on Your Bucket List. The description states:
      “This famous beach on the Big Island’s southeastern Ka`u coast is one of the rare places in the world where you can squish black sand between your toes. The jet-black shoreline is unforgettable. Every inky basalt grain at Punalu`u is the result of lava from nearby Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park exploding as it hits the ocean and cools. Admittedly, this rocky beach isn’t the best place for swimming. But the tradeoffs are the unique sights of coconut palms rising up from black sand and Hawaiian green sea turtles napping on the beach.”
Punalu`u Black Sand Beach will be busy tomorrow for `O Ka`u Kakou's annual
Keiki Fishing Tournament. Photo by Julia Neal
      Punalu`u is the only beach in Hawai`i on the list. Yahoo says the beaches chosen are “so impossibly picture-perfect that you have to see them in person to believe they’re not photoshopped.”  
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.  

`O KA`U KAKOU HOSTS ITS ANNUAL Keiki Fishing Tournament tomorrow. Check-in is from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and fishing begins at 10 a.m.
      For more information, call Wayne Kawachi at 937-4773.

KA`U HOSPITAL URGES RESIDENTS to complete its Community Health Needs Assessment at surveymonkey.com/s/93HQ5MX. The deadline is Jan. 31, one week from today.

SEE THE DIRECTORY from the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce at http://snack.to/fzpfg59c.