East Hawaii News

DOA Releases State Agricultural Land Use Study

February 17, 2016, 5:05 PM HST
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Hawai’i Department of Agriculture graphic.

Hawai’i Department of Agriculture graphic.

An update to a 1980 state agricultural study was recently completed.

The Hawai’i Department of Agriculture has released the updated study on agricultural land use, providing information on the location of commercial agricultural activities throughout the state.

The Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline Study provides current information and maps on the locations of farms and ranches in the state. The study is intended to assist industry, government, and the community in making decisions that affect agriculture land use in Hawai’i.

“This baseline study is one of several projects we are working on to lay a foundation for measuring our progress toward increasing agricultural production statewide,” said Scott Enright, Chairperson of the Hawai’i Board of Agriculture. “We look forward to using this tool in making informed decisions about current agricultural enterprises and in the planning and promoting of new agricultural investment to increase our food security.”

Maps and graphics throughout the 100-page report depict the locations of 15 crop categories with island-by-island numbers and regional descriptions of some of the factors that drive ongoing agricultural activity around the state.

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Since the initial study 35 years ago, Hawai’i has seen changes in agricultural use with the passing of the plantation era in sugar and pineapple production.

Hawai’i Department of Agriculture graphic.

Hawai’i Department of Agriculture graphic.

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In 1980 there were 350, 830 acres in crop production, 85 percent of which was tied to sugar and pineapple.  In 2015, total crop acres have dropped to just 151,830 acres with just 28 percent of that being sugar and pineapple.

Each region that experienced the shutdown of plantations has responded differently. Some have seen the emergence of new crops, while others have not. Understanding the pattern of this recovery process will help to better predict the trajectory of future crop production statewide, according to the study.

In 2015, sugar remained the largest crop in the state with 38,800 acres and those acres will be fallowed in 2017 following the planned closing of the HC&S plantation on Maui. The seed companies were the second largest land users with 23,720 acres on four islands.

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Commercial forestry, primarily on the Big Island, was close behind with 22,860 acres.  Macadamia nuts, also primarily on the Big Island, was the fourth largest crop at 21,545 acres.

Diversified crops are grown on 16,900 acres statewide. This category includes a wide variety of leaf, root, and melon crops, most of which is consumed locally. More than half of all diversified crops in the state are grown on Oahu, mostly between Ewa and Haleiwa.

In 1980, just 7,490 acres of diversified crops were grown statewide, indicating a substantial increase in local food production and a shift in the center of that production to Oahu, where the market is the largest and transportation costs are the lowest.

The 2015 study also mapped more than 760,000 acres in active pasture use. This number is down from 1.1 million acres in 1980. This decrease is due in large part to the removal of remote lands from pasture use by land owners like Kamehameha Schools and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on the Big Island and by the acquisition of pasture properties by the National Park System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the U.S. Army.

Pasture use accounts for 83 percent of all productive agricultural land use in the state, and 73 percent of that use is on the Big Island.

The project, completed under a contract with the University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab, used Geographic Information Systems technology and aerial imagery from several sources to digitally document the footprint of lands engaged in commercial scale agriculture statewide.

To review the full report, visit the DOA website.

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