Farm bill seen helping local agriculture
Members of Hawaii's congressional delegation say the national farm bill passed this week will strengthen agriculture in the islands.
The bill adds macadamia nuts to a program requiring labels showing the country where products were grown.
It authorizes $15 million to reimburse farmers and ranchers in Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. territories for additional transport costs because of their isolation.
The University of Hawaii is designated a center for the study of bio-based energy development in the Pacific islands.
Hawaii was also added to the list of states eligible for grants that help improve irrigation systems, plant trees, halt soil erosion, control pests and practice organic farming.
President Bush has threatened to veto the $290 billion bill, saying it is fiscally irresponsible and too generous to wealthy corporate farmers in a time of record crop prices.
But both congressional chambers passed the measure by well more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The Senate on Thursday voted 81-15, a day after the House approved it with 318 "yes" votes.
Sen. Daniel Inouye said the addition of macadamia nuts to the country-of-origin labeling program means consumers will get the product they expect when they buy Hawaiian nuts. "That quality assurance will help to sustain our state's agriculture industry," he said in a statement.
Sen. Daniel Akaka said the bill would enable continued investment in alternative energy to reduce the state's dependence on fossil fuels.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie echoed those remarks, saying, "Our agricultural lands can grow crops to produce biodiesel fuel and ethanol or provide ideal locations to tap the sun, wind and ocean for energy production."