Maui County Farm Bureau announces new tv show, “Kokua Ag: Growing Our Future Together”

 Mary Lee Chin, M.S., R.D., a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutrition expert, shares information on various food-related topics with Kokua Show’s host Chivo Ching-Johnson.

Mary Lee Chin, M.S., R.D., a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutrition expert, shares information on various food-related topics with Kokua Show’s host Chivo Ching-Johnson.

A new TV show entitled “Kokua Ag: Growing Our Future Together” will air on Akaku’s Channel 55 on Thursday, September 10th at 9 pm. The show will re-air on Friday, September 11th at 9 am and 9 pm; Saturday, September 12th at 1 pm; and on Sunday, September 13th at 1 pm on the same channel.

Kokua Ag is a positive initiative of the Maui County Farm Bureau that seeks to educate the community about important agricultural issues and, most importantly, what we can all do to support a vibrant future for Maui ag.

The inaugural show, hosted by Chivo Ching-Johnson features guests Mary Lee Chin, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert who specializes in food-related educational initiatives; David Stoltzfus, Maui Lead for Monsanto Hawaii; and Rhonda Stoltzfus, a master bee keeper, mom and blogger who writes about agriculture.

The Kokua Ag show explores how we can build a stronger bridge between farmers – the people who produce our food and consumers – those of us who depend on the farmers for our daily meals.  Guests discuss provocative food topics of today, including genetically modified foods, environmental and sustainability issues, and solutions for producing food for a growing population.

Mary Lee Chin, M.S., R.D., specializes in significant food issues and nutrition trends, working with commodity food groups and food industry on nutrition education initiatives. She has served as an expert witness on food related issues in federal and legislative hearings; and serves on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “R.D. Farmer & Agriculture Committee of Experts” to advise on their “Future of Food” and “Healthy Food, Healthy Planet” initiatives; Advisory Boards of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; and the Community Health & Nutrition Program at University of Northern Colorado. She was named Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by the Colorado Dietetic Association in both 2012 and 1985, and is a recipient of Denver’s “2007 Women of Distinction” Award from Girl Scouts of America-Mile High Chapter. Mary Lee formerly held a six-year term as one of the original national spokespersons for the 75,000 member Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Maui residents David & Rhonda Stoltzfus have an extensive background in farming, and love to share their knowledge and passion for agriculture and food with others. Raised on a family farm in Iowa, David has earned degrees in agronomy, plant breeding and business management. David currently serves as the Maui Lead for Monsanto Hawaii. His wife Rhonda is originally from northern California and earned her degree in horticulture from Iowa State University. She is a master bee keeper and owned a fruit farm before moving to Hawaii seven years ago. Rhonda has a personal blog called Iowa Meets Maui, where she writes extensively about agriculture, their family, and life on Maui.

Support Agriculture with Your Vote on the November 4 Ballot

Hawaii voters will be faced with three important decisions relating to agriculture. They include:

- TWO STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS (also referred to as CON AMEND) to improve the safety and usefulness of dams and reservoirs and support agricultural enterprises via the use of Special Purpose

Revenue Bonds

- MAUI COUNTY INITIATIVE that seeks to impose a moratorium on genetically modified plants.

CON AMEND: Relating to Dams & Reservoirs – Vote YES

Dams and reservoirs are a critical part of our State’s infrastructure, providing numerous benefits that our community depends upon. In addition to storing and delivering a reliable source of water for agriculture during dry periods, they assist with flood control during large storms, help to mitigate erosion and reduce sediment run off to near shore ocean reefs and play an important role in providing drinking water for Hawaii’s residents. By capturing storm water that otherwise would rush to the ocean, reservoirs help to recharge our groundwater aquifers, which are a primary source for much of Hawaii’s drinking water. Providing renewable energy through the use of hydropower is another significant community benefit derived from our dams and reservoirs.

The number of active dams and reservoirs in Hawaii is decreasing, partly because of increasing repair & operational costs. This special purpose revenue bond authorization will provide a much needed means of low-interest financing to upgrade, improve, and to enhance the safety of Hawaii’s dams and reservoirs. These bonds will be fully paid for by private investors and will not use State funds or impact State finances.

The continued operation of dams and reservoirs is extremely important in sustaining our water resources and enhancing public safety. This Constitutional amendment will greatly assist in ensuring the long term viability of dams and reservoirs and enable them to continue to serve as an important resource providing significant benefits throughout the State of Hawaii. Vote YES.

CON AMEND: Relating to Agricultural Enterprises – Vote YES

The Constitutional amendment to assist agricultural enterprises will expand critically needed revenue options to maintain the continued viability of farms and ranches. Major capital requirements that may be funded through the use of these special purpose revenue bonds include irrigation system improvements, agricultural processing facilities, agricultural equipment upgrades, and other essential operational needs. This Constitutional amendment will also enable farmers and ranchers to implement innovative agricultural concepts, ideas, and technology. Vote YES.

Maui: Voter Initiative: Genetically Engineered Organisms – Vote NO

Maui County, voters will be asked to vote on an initiative imposing a moratorium on the growing of genetically modified plants. Many have stated that this moratorium is temporary but no businesses can remain viable if asked to shutdown with no definite end in sight. Farm Bureau strongly supports all types of agriculture, organic, conventional and biotech and believes that all options need to be available for agriculture to be viable for Hawaii’s future. We believe adequate health and safety studies have been conducted on the seed industry’s farming practices and GMO crops. The County is not equipped with the expertise nor resources to address this measure. Over 600 jobs are at risk that will result in irreparable harm to our local economy. Vote NO.

Please VOTE in support of agriculture on the November 4 ballot:

Vote “YES” on STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS relating to dams & reservoirs and agricultural enterprises


Vote “NO” on the MAUI COUNTY VOTER INITIATIVE relating to genetically engineered organisms

Everyone’s vote is critical to the future
of farms and ranches!

Filipino translation available here.

Pest Alert: Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Found on Oahu

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture announced that a coconut rhinoceros beetle has been found near Diamond Head on Oahu. Over the past year, this destructive beetle was also found near Pearl Harbor and Campbell Industrial Park.

Insects and other invasive species that damage or destroy agricultural crops are a constant threat to our local farms. The coconut rhinoceros beetle is a major pest of palms, such as coconut and oil palms, causing damage when they bore into the center of the palm crown, injuring young, growing tissue and feeding on the sap. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture plays an important role in protecting our local agricultural industry from such threats. Read more about their discovery of the beetle and what they are doing to combat it.

We thank everyone in our community for doing their part by learning more about agriculture and what you can do to support it.

Documentary about proposed Maui County farming ban airs this week

A half-hour documentary about the Maui County initiative to prohibit GMO plants is being aired this week. Please take the time to learn more about how this initiative would affect local agriculture on Maui.

The program will air daily from Monday, October 13, through Sunday, October 19, 2014. Show times are as follows:

Channel        Station              Air Day / Time

7                     KGMB               Monday - Friday 1:00 am - 1:30 am
7                     KGMB               Tuesday - Friday 11:00 am - 11:30 am
7                     KGMB               Sunday 12:30 pm - 1:00 pm
8                     KHNL               Tuesday - Friday 12:00 pm - 12:30 pm
8                     KHNL               Saturday 12:00 pm - 12:30 pm
8                     KHNL               Sunday 8:00 am - 8:30 am
4                     KITV                 Monday - Friday 12:30 am - 1:00 am
4                     KITV                 Saturday 1:30 pm - 2:00 pm
5                     KFVE                Tuesday - Friday 7:30 pm - 8:00 pm
5                     KFVE                Saturday 6:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Akaku Maui Community Televisions’ “The Maui View”

Maui County Farm Bureau’s Warren Watanabe recently appeared on Akaku Maui Community Television’s The Maui View show, together with other guests Peter Carlisle and Dr. Sally Irwin, for an informative and fascinating discussion about the initiative that would prohibit GMO plants on Maui and Molokai. A third generation family farmer, Warren talks about the challenges that farmers on Maui face – including some of his personal experiences – and why he thinks the ban is bad for agriculture. Tune in to the show here:

Maui County Initiative Would Be “Devastating” to Local Economy, Chamber of Commerce Finds in New Report

  Paul Brewbaker   presents his report,  Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry  during a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct 9th

Paul Brewbaker presents his report, Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry during a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct 9th

The Maui County Voter Initiative would be crippling for the county and have a disastrous impact on the state’s agricultural sector, according to an economic report released today by the Maui Chamber of Commerce. 

The report, Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry, was prepared by noted Hawaii economist Paul Brewbaker, principal at TZ Economics.

“The Maui Chamber of Commerce has long supported the triple bottom line approach to policy-making,” said Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.  “We have seen many social, cultural and environmental assessments of this ballot initiative, but this is the first analysis on the economic impacts. We have learned that passage of the initiative and loss of the seed crop industry would be devastating to our local economy. The effects would ripple throughout our business community, affecting many small and medium sized enterprises.”

According to Brewbaker’s report, the Maui County Voter Initiative will put at risk the following contributions to the local economy and community made by the seed farms:

–  $55.8 million in direct and indirect seed industry annual impacts on Maui County’s economic output

–  $84.2 million in total Maui County economic output including household consumption from incomes originating from seed farm

–  770 jobs directly and indirectly associated with the seed farms

–  At least $4 million in state taxes

–  More than 3,500 volunteer hours annually

–  $20,000 in scholarships in life sciences and more than $35,000 in donations for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in local schools

“Nearly a thousand Maui County families’ livelihoods depend on employment with the seed farms or as suppliers and providers of services to those families,” Brewbaker states in the report. “This seed industry community is as extensive and deeply-rooted in the community as those of the plantations that preceded them.” 

Citing the “temporary shutdowns” that permanently closed Aloha Airlines, Maui Land & Pine, and Del Monte Plantation on Molokai, Brewbaker said, “Seed farming is Maui’s second largest agricultural activity after sugarcane cultivation, and the largest on Molokai. It is too important to Maui County’s economy to be placed on a so-called ‘hiatus.’”

The presence of maize (corn) crops in Hawaii date back to the 19th century. Today’s seed industry began as winter nurseries on Molokai in the 1960s, and over 50 years it has been the fastest growing agricultural activity in the state.

“About 95 percent of our membership at the Maui Chamber of Commerce is comprised by small businesses that employ 25 or less people,” noted Tumpap. “These are restaurants, retailers and vital services that shape our community. Many depend on their neighbors for business. If their neighbor is put out of work by this initiative, they lose a customer and vital revenues.”

Brewbaker’s report was peer-reviewed by economists Thomas Loudat and Prahlad Kasturi to validate the research presented. The Maui Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, purchased the rights to publish the research. 


About the Maui Chamber of Commerce

The Maui Chamber of Commerce is a business organization comprised of businesses from all sectors, all sizes, and all areas of the island, where business leaders work together to create a strong economic climate to sustain business growth and prosperity, build relationships, support each other, and improve the quality of life for all Maui residents.

A great kick-off for KOKUA AG!

A big mahalo to the hundreds of attendees who came out to our KOKUA AG event on May 18, 2014 at the Baldwin High School gym.  It was a great time to reconnect to our ag roots and to come together as one extended `ohana. 

Those who attended enjoyed a variety of educational displays, music by Kevin Kanemoto, performances by Maui Taiko and line dancers, a cabbage packing game, a Kendama dance moves contest, prize drawings and ono local foods including Lilia Ross’ pork adobo, Buddy Nobriga’s stew and rice, and Tommy Lau Hee’s chicken hekka. Mary and Manuel Tunta also did a terrific job as our emcees!

 Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to our event presenter GO MAUI and to our generous sponsors and supporters.

 For information on future KOKUA AG events and activities, please sign up on our mailing list below.  Let's continue to grow our future together!

KOKUA AG benefits Maui farmers and ranchers – “Growing our Future Together” theme of family-friendly event

GO Maui and the Maui County Farm Bureau will hold a family-friendly event promoting Maui agriculture on Sunday, May 18, 2014, from 11 am to 1 pm, at the Baldwin High School Gym. KOKUA AG “Growing Our Future Together” will feature local food, entertainment, games and educational displays about Maui’s farmers and ranchers.


Organized by community volunteers as a benefit for the Maui County Farm Bureau, KOKUA AG dovetails the farm bureau’s mission to educate and connect Maui’s ag community with the general public.

“Maui’s agricultural roots are so deeply entwined with our community, from our family connections to agriculture, to our daily connections to the foods we eat and enjoy every single day,” said Alice Lee, event chair and president of GO Maui. “KOKUA AG is a great way for the community to come together and celebrate all that Maui ag is today and all that it will be in the future.”

Event highlights will include taiko drummers, line dancers, games, prize drawings, a fun kendama dance contest, and great local foods by well-known families including Lilia Ross’ pork adobo, Buddy Nobriga’s stew and rice, and Tommy Lau Hee’s chicken hekka. Mary and Manuel Tunta will serve as emcees.

Admission tickets are $5 suggested donation each; children up to 12 years old are free. To obtain tickets, please contact Alice Lee at 808-244-2119. For more information, visit

GO Maui is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicating to empowering local residents to obtain housing, educational opportunities and employment in a healthy environment and vibrant economy while respecting our diverse cultures. GO Maui engages and represents local residents on key initiatives and issues that affect Maui’s quality of life and champions for a cohesive community on Maui.

Thousands oppose anti-agriculture bill at Maui County Council


Nearly 2,500 Maui County residents signed petition cards expressing their opposition to an anti-GMO, anti-pesticide bill being considered by the Maui County Council’s Policy Committee.

The cards were presented by Maui County Farm Bureau Executive Director Warren Watanabe at the Council’s Policy Committee hearing on Tuesday, January 27, 2014. Concerned farmers and ranchers have dubbed the measure as an anti-agriculture bill, and many are worried that if it passes, it will force many struggling local farms to shut down.

“When this bill was introduced, the farm bureau received numerous calls from the agricultural community worried that this bill will be the end of their small businesses,” Watanabe said.  “Farmers already face numerous challenges and work very hard to comply with stringent state and federal laws. Adding a ridiculous new layer of regulations at the county level will kill off some of our farms.”

Watanabe noted that the bill ignores state and federal regulations governing GMOs and pesticide use, and if passed, would require significant taxpayer dollars to enforce. “If you took the time to understand how the EPA and USDA and other government agencies rigorously regulate agriculture including pesticide use, the scientific standards they use, and the mandatory training and certification process farmers undergo in order to use various pesticides, you’d understand why it doesn’t make sense for the County to add a whole new set of arbitrary rules.”

Watanabe also said farmers were flabbergasted that the farming community was never consulted prior to the bill being written and introduced. “This bill is all about agriculture, but it completely ignored and shut out the voices of the farmers.”

“Our farmers should be able to express their fears and concerns in an environment that encourages honest discussion,” Watanabe said. “Maui County’s farmers have yet to receive a fair shake at having their concerns heard.”