By Denise Key
Kihei — On Wednesday the final two committees of the Hawaii Senate approved a new agricultural bill that provides qualified farmers and ranches funds to offset the high cost of feed for livestock. HB 508 SD1—contains added language that allows farmers to grow industrial hemp for animal feed research. Next week it goes to the senate floor for a vote.
But Hawai‘i farmers may have to wait until 2016 before they can try growing industrial hemp to feed cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, fish and crustaceans. The bill still has to pass through a House and Senate joint committee. If both House and Senate do not pass agreed upon versions of this bill in the next few weeks, it won’t come up again until the 2016 legislative session.
The high cost of feed in Hawaiʻi constrains cattle ranchers, who used to grow beef, but now just breed and ship calves to ranches and feed lots on the mainland. Industrial hemp feed has the potential to revive Hawaiʻi’s beef cattle industry. As a cash crop, it will boost all livestock production and other agricultural sectors too. Hemp seed is also a good food for humans. Oil extracted from the seed is rich in Omega 3 and 6 and has hundreds of commercial and nutritional applications. Biofuel is just one. Hemp fiber becomes thread and fabric; pulverized stalks mixed with water and binders, turns into a semi-structural insulation for building Hawaiʻi homes. Commercial hemp grows as dense green fields of 12-foot plants that will mitigate run-off, dust and brush fire problems in old cane and pineapple fields.
Recent industrial hemp legislation, signed into law April 2014, allowed UH to research varieties of industrial hemp seeds that might grow well in Hawai‘i. However, the small study will not address animal feed. Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont have already begun growing industrial hemp; a total of 22 state legislatures have passed some hemp legislation loosening restrictions on growing industrial hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that contains less than 1% THC, but produces lots of nutritious seeds.
In Europe, steer fed on hemp thrive and dairy cows give more milk. Eggs from chickens fed on hemp are rich in Omega 3. Industrial hemp roots actually improve topsoil by a process called “phytoremediation.” The roots remove toxins and petrochemical residues from topsoil that might otherwise take generations to dissipate. Rotating hemp with nitrogen-fixing plants like alfalfa restores topsoil to safe agricultural use.
The ranchers’ and farmers’ bill came to the legislature in February, ten months after the UH research project was approved in April 2014. It allows broader feedstock studies, undertaken in different climate zones on all islands. Economically, industrial hemp is Hawaiʻi agriculture’s newest cash crop—and perhaps a way to regain the economic strength of ranches on Maui, Hawaiʻi and Molokaʻi. For residents and visitors, it is an opportunity to restore the lush green flat lands of recent memory—and say goodbye to dusty abandoned fields that invite brush fires in the dry season.
If you were hiding Easter eggs – but found the ground jiggling a bit early this morning, yes, it was an earthquake. A magnitude 4.1 earthquake rumbled near the Big Island Hawaii island this morning, but no tsunami was generated and there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or damage. The initial report was a magnitude 4.5, but further review by replay officials downgraded it to 4.1
The earthquake struck at 3:23 a.m. about seven miles west of Kalaloa and 10 miles northwest of Kailua-Kona at a depth of 6.2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The earthquake was widely felt on the Big Island and the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website reported that three people feeling it on Oahu at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and in Aiea.
Another earthquake, estimated at magnitude 3.3, struck at 12:16 a.m. It was centered 11 miles south of Kapaau and 36 miles north-northeast of Kailua-Kona at a depth of about 16 miles.
HONOLULU – www.ALTRES.com – ALTRES Office/Professional and ALTRES Technical, divisions of ALTRES Staffing, Hawaii’s largest and most trusted human resources organization, announced today a significant spike in demand for office and technical professionals across all islands. While the state continues to experience unemployment rates at record lows, Hawaii’s available workforce is thinning out. ALTRES is looking to fill nearly 140 positions on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.
HONOLULU — The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), in cooperation with Hawaii County Civil Defense, is canceling all camping permits for Waimanu and closing the Waimanu trail in north Kohala on the Big Island today. This closure continues at least through the weekend. A forecasted storm could bring high winds, rising waters and flash flooding to the Big Island. With long sustained rains, stream levels are likely to rise, which is a safety hazard for hikers crossing streams. Do not attempt to cross a flooded stream. Remain on higher ground and wait for the water to subside.
” We are cancelling all camping permits and the remote Waimanu trail until after the storm has passed and the trail can be inspected and made safe again,” explained Hans Sin, DOFAW wildlife biologist and manager for Hawaii Island.
In addition, the DLNR Division of State Parks has closed the Kalalau Trail in Kauai’s Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park until further notice. State Parks staff will re-evaluate trail conditions Saturday morning before deciding when to reopen this popular trail.
No closures have been announced for parks in Maui County yet – although Poli Poli Ridge and Waianapanapa will likely be the first considered. We’ll update this story as further closures are announced.
HONOLULU – Hawaii Energy, the ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program for Hawaii, Honolulu and Maui counties, is re-launching its “Solar Water Heating Tune-Up” (Tune-Up) rebate of $150 due to high demand.
Last year, Hawaii Energy provided 826 Tune-Up rebates to residents totaling $123,900 during the four-month limited-time offer.
The Tune-Up rebate is valid from January 5 through May 31, 2015, or while funding lasts. Residential electric ratepayers on Hawaii Island, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu are eligible. However, those that received a Tune-Up rebate last year are not able to participate.
In order to qualify for the rebate, systems must be at least three years old and the tune-up must be performed by a Hawaii Energy Participating Contractor. The cost of a tune-up typically ranges between $300 and $500 (not including the rebate). Hawaii Energy also offers a $1,000 instant rebate when purchasing a solar water heating system. To find a participating contractor and schedule a tune-up, visit www.hawaiienergy.com/tune-up or call Hawaii Energy at (808) 537-5577 or toll-free (877) 231-8222.
Solar water heaters require maintenance every three to five years to check and repair normal wear and tear that may include leaks, corrosion or pump failure. A properly maintained solar water heater can last 15 years or more.
“We received numerous requests for Hawaii Energy to bring this rebate back since it really helps offset the cost of maintenance,” explained Caroline Carl, Residential & Transformational Program Director, Hawaii Energy. “A solar water heater is a major energy-saving investment that should be maintained to ensure it’ll last for years to come.”
Households that replace their traditional electric water heater with a solar water heater typically save between 25 and 40 percent on their electric bill. However, without regular maintenance these savings can gradually diminish.
HONOLULU – Three months after President Barack Obama approved supplemental federal aid to help local government agencies and eligible non-profit organizations recover from Tropical Storm Iselle, state and federal disaster recovery employees have:
•Conducted a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment;
•Held four Applicant Briefings on Hawaii Island, Maui, and Oahu;
•Received requests for FEMA public assistance from 16 applicants who were impacted during Tropical Storm Iselle, which affected the Hawaiian Islands Aug. 7-9, 2014;
•Processed and gained approval for 42 projects ranging from repair and replacement of damaged public facilities, debris removal, and actions taken for emergency protective measures prior to Iselle’s landfall;
•Conducted four meetings with state and local government and nonprofit organizations eligible to apply for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). The purpose of the HMGP is to eliminate or reduce long-term risk to life and property from future hazards.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), formerly State Civil Defense, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continue to work together on recovery from Tropical Storm Iselle.
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