HB2703 – Closing Thoughts

by  on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 3:52pm ·

Today, Representative Tsuji requested to “indefinitely defer” HB2703, as he and Senator Nishihara were unable to reach a “compromise” on the final language of the bill. To be totally clear, Senator Nishihara has been an ally in this process – but he was unable to wield power in the House of Representatives, and it was told to me on several occasions, that Tsuji’s decision to insert new language into the bill came to him “from the top.”

There are many ways to kill a bill. You can do so simply by not scheduling it. You can choose not to appropriate funds. You can also insert language so hideous and appalling that the very communities who organized for the bill suddenly stand up against it.

Representative Tsuji chose option 3, which fortunately for us, clearly exposes the forces who have challenged the passage of this bill all along. In the final hours of HB2703, Big Land, Big Ag, and GMO Seed Companies reared their ugly heads in the context of a bill aimed at committing the state to supporting local food production. Rather than kill it quietly, these forces killed HB2703 with an arrogance I never would have expected.

I think it is safe to say, however, that it was our people power that provoked their galling final act. If we had not been effective at moving the bill along, against all odds, then they might have found it sufficient simply to let it die a “more peaceful death” if you will. Instead they sent a message to all of us. A community derived bill supporting food self-sufficiency is not the kind of food self sufficiency those in power want to see.

Many of you have expressed deep concern about the practicalities of this bill. Our DOA, already under funded, would never be able to take on a task like monitoring farm gate sales and assessing the productive capacity of our islands. A goal like “doubling the production of local food” was too vague, too arbitrary. Many of you wanted data. Many wanted a budget. All of this was extremely helpful feedback which I hope will result in a better Food Self-Sufficiency Bill next session.

In the meantime, it is absolutely vital that the community of individuals and organizations who are concerned about food and agriculture in Hawaii think about the political system within which our possibilities for legislative action are ensnared. If we cannot pass the light and fluffy kind of policy like HB2703, then when it comes to passing policies that have a real impact, we have hardly a chance in the world.

There are some key elections coming up which could tip the balance of power in the House of Representatives for the first time in 30 years. The possibilities that could open up if we had a NON-GMO rep chairing the Ag Committee Meetings are endless… so, please stay tuned and if you’re interested, I can help you get involved. Food policy is not only about organizing in our communities, doing great programming, and thinking about policy possibilities that could extend and strengthen our work. It is also about making sure we have advocates in the places of power where crucial decisions get made.

As Van Jones so cogently emphasized in his interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/3/two_sources_of_power_van_jones) we need people power in the streets and people power in government. Both are necessary for effective progressive action to happen.

I look forward to working with everyone again next year, and possibly this summer during the election season. We have so much work ahead of us – but so much great work has already been done. Thanks everyone for your support and thank you for taking action.

The future of our islands depends upon all of us.