Ulupono stands behind key bills on local food and fresh water

Feb 28, 2024

As the 2024 legislative session nears the important First Crossover deadline, we’d like to highlight several measures that hold immense potential for the future of local food production and fresh water in Hawaii.

Agriculture and Local Food

HB 2771, SNAP DA BUX Double Up Food Bucks Program

This measure appropriates funds for the continued administration of the Hawaiʻi healthy food incentive program and to provide matching funds to beneficiaries who participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

Why we support this bill:

We support this bill because current funding of the program — which provides SNAP participants with a way to double their purchasing power when buying locally grown fruits and vegetables — runs out in August 2024. It is crucial that the program continues with the $2 million of recurring State funding requested because that amount can be matched with $2 million in federal GUSNIP grant funds. That $4 million in state and federal grant funding would leverage $4 million of SNAP benefits, resulting in $8 million going toward local food purchases and supporting local farmers while also keeping this money in the local economy. Hawaii has the 16th highest poverty rate and we have 91% higher food costs. Imported food accounts for 90% of our state’s food; and, with a 26% increase in food prices since January 2020, this funding request provides an opportunity for SNAP recipients to purchase more healthy food for their families while supporting local farmers and keeping more money here in the local economy. Making this  funding recurring in the state budget would help ensure equal or more matching dollars from the federal government and philanthropic funders for years to come.

HB 2134, Hawaii Department of Agriculture Grant Writers

This bill  appropriates funding for grant writer positions in the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Notably, the measure was introduced by the chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food Systems.

Why we support these bills:

We support the State’s effort in pursing permanent, full-time grant writer positions and appropriating the money to fund them because this will help local farmers and ranchers while also positioning the State to secure funding that has been made available by the federal government. The potential return on investment is significant. For example, from 2014 to 2023, Ulupono provided funding for grant writers with nonprofit organizations such as The Kohala Center, the Oahu Agriculture and Conservation Association, and the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau. These efforts brought in a total of approximately $140 million, which was 100 times the full grant writing investment. We believe the State will see a similar return on its investment in full-time grant writer positions.

Fresh Water

HB 2453 and SB 3142, Hawaii Department of Health Revolving Fund Flexibility

Two companion bills that authorize the Hawaii Department of Health to transfer federal capitalization grant funds between the Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water Treatment Revolving Fund (DWSRF). 

Why we support these bills:

We support these bills because the DOH currently administers the two low-interest loan programs, which are funded principally by capitalization grants provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve public drinking water systems and wastewater treatment and distribution systems in the state. The measure requires no state funding but rather gives the DOH the authority to transfer up to 33% of any year’s capitalization grants between the two funds, which allows the agency to direct money to drinking water or wastewater infrastructure based on the needs of the community. This would provide the agency with another tool to respond in crisis, such as the Red Hill fuel spill or the Maui wildfires.

HB 1900, Commission on Water Resource Management Hydrologic Data Collection

This measure appropriates funds to improve the State's water resource management and hydrologic data collection.

Why we support this bill:

Data-driven management decisions about our fresh water resources cannot occur without the data on the health of those resources. Since the closing of Hawai‘i’s last sugar plantation, there has been a steady decline in the number of stream, aquifer, and rainfall data collection stations. These stations provided critical information on the impact that seasonal weather changes and water management decisions had on our streams and aquifers.

How to submit testimony in support of any of these bills:

  • Log-in /make an account on the Hawaii State Legislature website.
  • Navigate to a bill’s measure status page and click the “Submit Testimony” button at the top (To find the page, click on the bill links provided above, or use the website’s search field by ending the bill number, e.g., “HB 1525”).
  • Write your testimony on why you SUPPORT that individual bill. Note: A brief statement of support is completely fine.
  • Submit your testimony 24 hours before the next hearing to be considered on time. “Late” testimony is accepted up until the time of the hearing.