UHERO BRIEFS ARE CIRCULATED TO STIMULATE DISCUSSION AND CRITICAL COMMENT. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS. WHILE BRIEFS BENEFIT FROM ACTIVE UHERO DISCUSSION, THEY HAVE NOT UNDERGONE FORMAL ACADEMIC PEER REVIEW.
By Sarah Rehkamp, Michael J. Roberts, and James M. MacDonald
In a recent UHERO policy brief, Reviving Agriculture to Diversify Hawai‘i’s Economy, authors pointed to trends in Hawai‘i agriculture and state policies surrounding agricultural land management (La Croix & Mak, 2021). Hawai‘i’s agricultural history has centered around the pineapple and sugar plantations and these are largely gone; the closing of Puna Sugar in 1982 was the inception of the decline and the last sugar producer shuttered on Maui in 2016 (Lyte, 2017; Melrose, Perroy, & Cares, 2016). Many small farms remain in Hawai‘i, but the vast majority have annual sales below $10,000 while the households that manage them derive income mainly from other sources (USDA-NASS, 2017; USTR, 2021). Much of the state’s former agricultural land now sits fallow or unused.
This policy brief aims to expand on La Croix and Mak (2021) by presenting data that may help increase understanding about the agricultural economic landscape in Hawai‘i and inform its future economic viability. We find that while farmland and the real value of agriculture sales are trending downwards, there are potential opportunities and examples of success. We also find that data are lacking to tell a comprehensive story about Hawai‘i’s agricultural economy; an increased emphasis on data collection and analysis in the state would be valuable.