Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu (jonriki) wrote,
Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu
jonriki

Written Remarks on S.B. 2646, S.D.2, H.D. 2, C.D. 1, Important Agricultural Lands: Part 2

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu

Final Reading Written Remarks

Senate Bill 2646, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 2, Conference Draft 1

Relating to Important Agricultural Lands

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Continued...

Designation of Important Agricultural Land and Reclassification to Other Land Use Districts by Declaratory Order of the Land Use Commission

 

            Chapter 205-44, Hawaii Revised Statutes, defines the standards and criteria for the identification of important agricultural lands.  Lands identified as important agricultural lands need not meet every standard and criteria listed below.  Rather, lands meeting any of the criteria below shall be given initial consideration; provided that the designation of important agricultural lands shall be made by weighing the standards and criteria with each other to meet the constitutionally mandated purposes in Article XI, Section 3, of the Hawaii Constitution and the objectives and policies for important agricultural lands in sections 205-42 and 205-43 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

           

            Section 205-44 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes lists that the standards and criteria to designate land as important agricultural lands shall be as follows:

            (1)        Land currently used for agricultural production;

(2)        Land with soil qualities and growing conditions that support agricultural production of food, fiber, or fuel- and energy-producing crops;

(3)        Land identified under agricultural productivity rating systems, such as the agricultural lands of importance to the State of Hawaii (ALISH) system adopted by the board of agriculture on January 28, 1977;

(4)        Land types associated with traditional native Hawaiian agricultural uses, such as taro cultivation, or unique agricultural crops and uses, such as coffee, vineyards, aquaculture, and energy production;

(5)        Land with sufficient quantities of water to support viable agricultural production;

(6)        Land whose designation as important agricultural lands is consistent with general, development, and community plans of the county;

(7)        Land that contributes to maintaining a critical land mass important to agricultural operating productivity; and

(8)        Land with or near support infrastructure conducive to agricultural productivity, such as transportation to markets, water, or power.

 

            Senate Bill 2646 amends Chapter 205-44, Hawaii Revised Statutes to include a petition for a declaratory order submitted under Section 205-45, Hawaii Revised Statutes that seeks to both designate lands as important agricultural lands and reclassify lands in the agricultural district to the rural, conservation, or urban district, the lands shall be deemed qualified for designation as important agricultural land if the commission reasonably finds that the lands meet at least the criteria of "(5) Land with sufficient quantities of water to support viable agricultural production" and (7) Land that contributes to maintaining a critical land mass important to agricultural operating productivity" of this section.  Therefore, when using this declaratory incentive, the criteria for designating important agriculture lands is much stricter than designating important agricultural lands without the declaratory incentive where a petitioner can basically use only one criterion.  The farmers felt that of the eight criteria in Chapter 205-44, Hawaii Revised Statutes, land with sufficient quantities of water and land that contributes to maintaining a critical land mass were the most important for agricultural productivity.

 

            Prior to the Land Use Commission considering a petition for a declaratory order to designate important agricultural land in combination with the reclassification of agricultural land to the rural, urban, or conservation district, the petitioner shall submit to the commission a certification issued by the Department of Agriculture as to the quality of the land for which designation as important agricultural land is being sought.

 

            The Land Use commission may include reasonable conditions in the declaratory order.  The declaratory order is an incentive for landowners to designate their lands as important agricultural lands because under the Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 15, Chapter 15, Subchapter 14, Section 15-15-103, the Land Use Commission may, but shall not be required to, conduct a hearing on a petition for a declaratory order.  However, a contested hearing can be requested.  Any petitioner or party in interest who desires a hearing on a petition for a declaratory order shall set forth in detail in the request the reasons why the matters alleged in the petition, together with supporting affidavits or other written briefs or memoranda or legal authorities, will not permit the fair and expeditious disposition of the petition, and to the extent that the request for a hearing is dependent upon factual assertion, shall accompany the request by affidavit establishing those facts.  Further, under Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 15, Chapter 15, Subchapter 7, Section 15-15-75, parties to proceedings to amend land use district boundaries may obtain judicial reviews thereof in the manner set forth in Section 91-14, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

 

            A farmer or landowner with lands qualifying under Section 205-44, Hawaii revised Statutes may file with the commission a petition for declaratory order to designate the lands as important agricultural lands.  The petition may be filed at any time in the designation process.  Within this same petition for declaratory order, the petitioner may seek a reclassification of land in the agricultural district to the rural, urban, or conservation district, or a combination thereof; provided that:

(1)        The land sought to be reclassified to the rural, urban, or conservation district is within the same county as the land sought to be designated as important agricultural lands;

(2)        If the reclassification of the land is proposed to the  urban district, that reclassification to urban is consistent with the relevant county general and community, development, or community development plans; and

(3)        The total acreage of the land sought to be designated or reclassified in the petition complies with the following proportions:

(A)       At least eighty-five per cent of the total acreage is sought to be designated as important agricultural land; and

(B)       The remainder of the acreage is sought to be reclassified to the rural, urban, or conservation district.

 

            The Land Use Commission may grant declaratory orders pursuant to this section before the commission receives from any county a map delineating recommended important agricultural lands.

 

            A petitioner granted a declaratory order that designates important agricultural land, whether or not combined with the reclassification of land to the rural, urban, or conservation district, shall earn credits if the amount of land reclassified to the rural, urban, or conservation district is less than fifteen per cent of the total acreage of land subject to the order.  The credits shall equal the difference between the following, rounded to the nearer tenth of an acre: (1) The number that is fifteen per cent of the total acreage of land subject to the order; less (2) The amount of the petitioner's land that is reclassified from the agricultural district to the rural, urban, or conservation district by the declaratory order.

 

            A petitioner with credits earned within a county may petition the Land Use Commission for a declaratory order to reclassify any of the petitioner's other land in the same county from the agricultural district to the rural, urban, or conservation district until the credits are exhausted or expired.  The "petitioner's other land in the same county" means land owned by the petitioner that is in the same county as the land designated or reclassified under the petition.  The commission may issue the declaratory order if it finds that the land is suitable for reclassification in accordance with Section 205-2, Hawaii Revised Statutes and that the reclassification is consistent with the relevant county general and community, development, or community development plans.  The petitioner may petition for such reclassification until all of the petitioner's credits are exhausted.  Any unexhausted credits shall expire and become unusable ten years after the granting of the declaratory order that designated the important agricultural land and, if applicable, reclassified land to the rural, urban, or conservation district.  A petitioner with unused and unexhausted credits shall not transfer the credits to another person.

 

            The Land Use Commission may grant declaratory orders pursuant to this section before the commission receives from any county a map delineating recommended important agricultural lands.

 

            Land designated as important agricultural land pursuant to a declaratory order that both designates land as important agricultural land and reclassifies land in the agricultural district to the rural, urban, or conservation district, or a combination thereof pursuant to this section shall be re-designated only with the prior authorization of the legislature.  The authorization shall be expressed by the adoption of a concurrent resolution approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature voting separately.  When making its decision, the legislature shall consider the standards and criteria in Section 205-50, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

 

            A farmer or landowner with qualifying lands may also petition the Land Use Commission to remove the "important agricultural lands" designation from lands if a sufficient supply of water is no longer available to allow profitable farming of the land due to government actions, acts of God, or other causes beyond the farmer's or landowner's reasonable control.  If the "important agricultural lands" were designated by a declaratory order in combination with the reclassification of land in the agricultural district to the rural, urban, or conservation district pursuant to Section 205-45 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the commission shall not remove the designation unless the legislature provides prior authorization by adoption of a concurrent resolution in accordance with Section 205-45, Hawaii Revised Statutes."

 

            In conclusion, Senate Bill 2646 is a historical bill that provides incentives for landowners to designate lands into important agricultural lands and incentives for farmers to have productive and profitable farm operations.  In addition, it requires the Department of Agriculture and Department of Land and Natural Resources to jointly identify the state-owned lands that should be designated as "important agricultural lands."

 

            This legislation will begin the process of identifying and protecting our most important agricultural land.  It is my hope that thousands of years from now, agricultural lands in Hawaii will be an important part of our economy, culture, and way of life.

 

Thank you.

 

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