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US: Leaders in Hawaii want to double food production by 2020

In the remote island state of Hawaii, despite a year-round growing season, just 15 percent of the food supply is grown locally. The rest will arrive on huge container ships, putting the state in peril every time there's a hurricane or shipping strike. As recent as 2012, a California port strike led to bare store shelves in Hawaii. University studies have estimated there's only an 11-day supply of food in the state at any given time. recalls how Democratic governor David Ige, in a 2014 campaign promise, pledged to double food production by 2020.

Hawaii is going through a transition right now, says Scott Enright, director of Hawaii's Department of Agriculture. Gone are the days of the "Big Five," when interconnected corporations ran massive sugar and pineapple plantations. The last sugar plantation closed in late 2016, leaving behind fallow land and empty backyard plots where workers had grown their own kitchen gardens. Also lost were the regular investments plantation owners made in infrastructure, such as access to a water supply that benefited entire communities.

The state has bought land on all of Hawaii's islands to lease out to farmers, is building and enhancing slaughterhouses and is working to attract large producers, Ige says. Among the incentives: a low-interest revolving loan fund, a feed subsidy for livestock farmers and state grants to help livestock producers reestablish and expand their herds, he says. Ige says he plans to ask for more money for those programs when the Legislature meets in January.

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