SB 3197, SD2 (SSCR3104) RELATING TO AGRICULTURE – Establishes a farmer apprentice mentoring program. Makes an appropriation to the Department of Agriculture to establish and implement the program. Effective 1/1/2050. (SD2)
Aloha Chair Gabbard, Vice Chair Nishihara, and Members of the Committee on Agriculture and Environment,
The Hawaii Farmers Union United (HFUU) is a 501(c)(5) agricultural advocacy nonprofit representing a network of over 2,500 family farmers and their supporters across the Hawaiʻian islands. HFUU strongly supports SB3197 to fund a Farmer Apprentice Mentoring Program to teach and train farmers to utilize a whole farm system approach to agriculture.
The Farm Apprentice Mentoring (FAM) program to train beginning farmers was first piloted 2015-2016 in Maui and responds to three major priorities for the State’s food security needs including growing more farmers, increasing the supply of Hawaii’s skilled agricultural workforce and contributing to increased local food production on small family farms through a hands-on farm immersion component.
SB3197 would expand on the FAM program success on Maui and provide beginning farmer training across the islands. As explained in SB3197, the Beginning Farmer Training program immerses beginning farmers in a “whole farm system” approach to agriculture under the guidance of experienced farmer mentors.
As a division of the National Farmers Union (NFU), HFUU supported, at a national level in 2019, a more
focused approach to educating interns and apprentices on locally-oriented farms as these educational
opportunities results in improved farm viability, a larger pool of skilled agricultural labor, and more
beginning farmers. In 2019, NFU established an on-farm labor priority urging Congress to take action
to attract U.S. citizens to jobs as agricultural workers and acknowledge the importance of educating
interns and apprentices on farms as a pathway to increased availability of skilled agricultural labor.
SB3197 notes that the future of the State’s farming industry, food supply, and agriculture is reliant upon
increasing and diversifying the number of new farmers in the state and introducing regenerative
farming methods, statewide.
Increasing the number of farmers who grow food is a key facet of the HFUU statewide strategic plan, and a critical component of meeting State goals for increasing food security and agricultural self-sufficiency. For these reasons we ask you to support SB3197.
Mahalo for the opportunity to testify.
SB 2218, SD1 (SSCR3023) – RELATING TO A FOOD HUB PILOT PROGRAM – Requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a five-year food hub pilot program to increase access to local food. Provides for the award of grant funding to qualified applicants wishing to establish or expand a food hub. Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds for the Honalo Marshalling Yard. Requires reports to the Legislature. Appropriates funds. Effective 7/1/2050. (SD1)
The Hawaii Farmers Union United (HFUU) is a 501(c)(5) agricultural advocacy nonprofit representing a network of over 2,500 family farmers and their supporters across the Hawaiian Islands. This bill will provide support for the network of food hubs across the state to expand their work, and in doing so increase farmer incomes and consumer food access. For these reasons we strongly support SB2218.
In 2017, the Legislature awarded the Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation a Grant in Aid project to Strengthen Regional Food Hubs in Hawai’i. As part of that project, the coordinator, Dr. Saleh Azizi facilitated a focus group, composed of the majority of Hawaiʻi’s food hubs, to understand the resources needed for food hubs to respond to statewide local food purchasing goals. The focus group findings resulted in a 2020 Food Hub Pilot program bill to support existing and new food hubs in all of Hawaii’s counties.
Food hubs play a critical role in our food system by connecting small farmers with diverse markets. In decades past, farmer cooperatives were a strong tool for smallholders to get to market. Food hubs are a modern approach to revitalize farmer cooperation and expand market access. Support of this bill will expand the critical work of food hubs and build a stronger local food economy.
Mahalo for the opportunity to testify.