Dow AgroSciences to lease Kauai sugar lands


POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dow AgroSciences LLC has signed a multiyear lease for 3,400 acres from Gay & Robinson on the eastern ridge of Makaweli on Kauai for corn seed crops.

Operations will begin immediately, according to Dan Oleson, Dow's North America Operations Leader for Seeds.

Mycogen Seeds, Dow's local seed affiliate on Molokai, expects to hire more employees—mostly from Kauai—to start up its operations, though Oleson had no specific numbers at this time.

Currently, Mycogen, which has been on Molokai since 2000, has about 50 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees on the Friendly Isle.

“;We are committed to the Kauai community and will continue the good land stewardship that Gay & Robinson has demonstrated over the past decades,”; said Adolph Helm, Mycogen Seeds' project leader on Molokai.

Gay & Robinson announced plans to end sugar production on Kauai after 119 years of business in September.

Seed crops, also known as genetically modified crops, have been the fastest-growing sector of the agricultural industry in Hawaii. In the 2007-2008 crop year, there were 10 farms in the state worth an estimated value of $146.3 million compared to just $70 million in the 2005-2006 season.

More sugar and pineapple lands, formerly the staples of agriculture in Hawaii, are being sold or leased to biotech seed companies that find Hawaii an ideal climate for year-round crops. Monsanto in 2007 acquired 2,300 acres of agricultural land from James Campbell Co. after Del Monte Fresh Produce Hawaii pulled out of its pineapple operations.

Biotech seed crops have been opposed, however, by environmental groups that say they are not adequately regulated, and can easily cross-contaminate neighboring conventional and organic farms.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, who opposes genetically modified crops, said the trend is alarming.

“;We continue to have a need for locally grown, sustainable crops to feed our population,”; said Achitoff. “;Instead of doing that, we're filling the acreage with crops that don't feed anybody in Hawaii.”;

Dow AgroSciences' seed brands include Mycogen, Dairyland, Triumph, Brodbeck and Renze Seeds.

Helm said the company would focus mostly on seed corn crops, as well as some soybean and sunflower crops, but no “;pharmacrops,”; or biopharmaceutical crops.