Agriculture is a very complex science and art of cultivating the soil, producing crops, raising livestock, and, in varying degrees, the preparation and marketing of these products.
In 1985, Hawaii's agricultural activities involved some 14,000 people and 1.9 million acres of land and produced 527.88 million dollars worth of products. Gross state product was 16.68 billion dollars.
The first major agricultural crops to be developed in Hawaii during the nineteenth century were sugar and pineapple. The dominance of these industries began to decline after World War II. Diversified agriculture, all crops and livestock products produced other than sugar and pineapples, has shown steady increase in production.
Crops with sales in excess of $500,000 are as follows: Vegetables and Melons - snap beans, burdock, Chinese cabbage, celery, cucumbers, daikon, eggplant, ginger root, lettuce, dry onions, green onions, watercress, green peppers, romaine, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons; Fruits - bananas, guavas, papayas, macadamia nuts, coffee, taro.
Current federal agricultural programs evolved from legislation enacted in the 1930's and 1940's and are directed at certain supported commodities: wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, sorghum, soybeans, cotton, rice, sugar, milk, tobacco, honey, wool, mohair, and peanuts. Hawaii is involved only in the sugar program.
However, Hawaii faces many serious problems that must be carefully studied if its agriculture is to remain a dominant factor. Hawaii should be self-sufficient in products that could be produced competitively. Since Hawaii is more than 2,000 miles from the nearest port, Hawaii is vulnerable to factors that may delay or stop shipment of goods to and from Hawaii. The state and federal governments must look at the problems and take appropriate actions.
The problems faced by Hawaiian agriculture include:
- The availability of lowcost land with high-quality soil is the foundation of the industry. If quality of the land reserved for agriculture is compromised, the efficiency of production decreases and the industry is placed in jeopardy.
- The availability of lowcost irrigation water is very important. Water is necessary for all life. As our population increases, more demands are being made on our water resources. The effective use, recycling, and conservation of water on farms, homes, and industry will become increasingly important, and conflicts over water use will have to be resolved.
- Transportation problems affect Hawaii's farmers significantly because Hawaii is not a contiguous state of the nation and its counties are not contiguous. Therefore tremendous sums are spent on transporting agricultural products for local consumption and export. On the Mainland, federal and state governments spend a tremendous amount of money to improve transportation. The quality of the products suffer because of the time required to deliver them to the market. Produce
must be specially prepared for shipping. Hawaii needs economically feasible ocean transportation services and facilities to reduce the disadvantages of locallyproduced products.
- The potential for ground water contamination exists because of the use of fertilizers to supply plant nutrients; the use of inorganic and organic amendments to improve soil quality; and the use of pesticides to control weeds, insects, and other pests. Irrigation water is used in many areas where water is deficient. While these practices are very important in agricultural production, one of their possible side effects is the seepage of chemicals into groundwater.
- The very serious problems caused by fruit flies must be challenged. The solution involves total eradication of fruit flies in Hawaii' and finding economical and effective methods of controlling fruit flies in papayas and other fruits such as mangos, bananas, and lychees for export. Potential methods include hot water treatments and the use of ionizing energy (irradiation).
Certainly there are many other problems that should be examined. All interested individuals should express opinions so that they will be taken into consideration.