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Hawaii Forest Industry Fighting Ag Theft

December 18, 2013, 12:20 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 4:25 PM
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Farmers, ranchers and the public should know the law regarding ownership and movement of agricultural commodities to help stem the continuing problem of agricultural theft in Hawaii, the Hawai’i Forest Industry Association said today in a press release.

Hawai’i law requires ownership and movement certification on any amount of an agricultural commodity that is to be marketed for commercial purposes or when transporting agricultural commodities weighing more than 200 pounds or with a value of $100 or more, the HFIA said.

From the theft of exotic fruit and native kou trees on Hawai’i Island to pineapple by the truckload on Maui to valuable landscaping plants on O’ahu, agricultural theft costs farmers and ranchers millions of dollars annually. Losses also occur from vandalism and illegal hunting and cattle poaching on private lands, and these costs are ultimately passed on to consumers, the HFIA said.

“Everyone knows farming is inherently risky,” said the Hawai’i Farm Bureau Federation, testifying in favor of the law. “Besides being vulnerable to invasive pests and diseases, erratic weather patterns and multi-year droughts, high land (costs), labor, fuel and other farm costs leave us unable to compete with mainland prices.

“On top of this, farmers are highly susceptible to theft. Our location and relatively large acreage, usually in more remote areas and impossible to guard 24 hours a day, leave us open to thieves that reap the benefit of our hard work, or vandals that destroy our crops for kicks.”

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HFIA encourages anyone suspecting agricultural theft to contact police. The law requires anyone convicted of agricultural theft to face criminal penalties and pay restitution to their victims in an amount equal to the value of what was stolen as well as the cost of replanting, HFIA said.

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