Friday, February 23, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, January 8, 2016
Lawsuits Have Consequences: Aloha To Hawaii Sugar
By Robert Thomas @ 5:43 PM :: 7748 Views :: Environment, Agriculture, Land Use

Lawsuits Have Consequences: Aloha To Hawaii Sugar

by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, January 8, 2016

When people think of "Hawaii," many of them, me included, think of sugar. Those of us of a certain vintage who were raised in the islands, and whose families were tied to the sugar plantations once so ubiquitous (my mother's family was from the Halawa Plantation and lived on what is now the site of Aloha Stadium), share a certain nostalgia for those days.

But things inevitably change, and most of the sugar and pineapple plantations (ask me about my pre-law days working at "the cannery," a now-defunct summertime ritual for many local kids) are long-gone, save one, Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar's Puunene plantation on Maui.

Earlier this week the other shoe dropped, and HC&S' parent company, Alexander and Baldwin, announced that at the end of the year, Hawaii's sole remaining sugar plantation will be closed. There are a lot of reasons -- labor costs, a dwindling number of second-and-third generation kids who moved up and out, foreign competition, among them -- but factored in somewhere has got to be the law, and lawsuits.

Since about the 1970's, sugar plantations have been legal pariahs, as the law migrated away from being captured by big business, to favoring environmental and other interests. Water law is likely the primary culprit, with Hawaii's public trust doctrine at the epicenter. This transformed all private water rights into public property, and the Hawaii Supreme Court, the ultimate authority on all things water, ranked "commercial" uses of water -- and the big transport systems created to bring the water from the wet sides of the islands to the tillable dry sides -- as the lowest priority among the competing uses. You don't need to be a farmer to know that a reliable source of water is most important when you are in the business of growing things.

Add in a seemingly never-ending stream of lawsuits and the other factors mentioned above, and you've got a recipe for long term decline. So it wasn't really a surprise when A & B made its announcement, which touched off some figurative dancing on the grave by the usual suspects, and this reaction ("Musings: Sugar Blues"), a piece both sad and angry, but which is well worth reading, because it accurately captures the conflicting emotions of those of us who remember a different time. Those times may not have been all that great for those who actually had to live in a single-wall plantation-owned house with a corrugated tin roof and a dirt floor, and they, and those of us who came later, understand that things do change. But please forgive us if we have a moment of nostalgia nonetheless, as we process the unmistakable sign that those days are finally, and irretrievably, gone.

As for those who say that the 660 or so plantation workers who will lose their livelihoods because of this are the necessary eggs broken to make the new sustainable omelet, and that the promised land of small (organic!) farming is now before us, read this and check your privilege: "Big Island farm closing due to rising costs, threat to fruit crop," about a long time family farm that also announced its impending closure.




TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Moms for Liberty

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii