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A&B Map Shows Possible Uses for Fallow Sugar Fields
by Lee Imada (Maui News) A general map showing possible uses of now fallow sugar fields — including areas for possible biodiesel-producing tree orchards, coffee and cacao crops and livestock-irrigated pastures — was projected on a screen as the former general manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. gave a presentation at the Maui Energy Conference last week.
Rick Volner, who has transitioned to general manager of diversified agriculture for Alexander & Baldwin, told the audience March 22 that agricultural land use is decreasing statewide. Some of the land has given way to development and other areas have sat fallow for so long it is difficult to reutilize.
However, for old HC&S lands, “We feel we have the significant opportunity to alter that landscape,”
said Volner, the last general manager of the last sugar plantation in the state, which shut down in December. “Our lands are uniquely positioned to succeed in diversified agriculture.”
A&B also is facing a challenge from taro farmers and Native Hawaiian practitioners over its long-held diversions of water from East Maui. The state Board of Land and Natural Resources currently is considering a 30-year lease for the continuation of the more than 100-year-old diversions through tunnels, siphons and ditches to fields in Upcountry and Central Maui. The Commission on Water Resource Management currently is establishing stream-flow standards for diverted streams.
A&B is seeking 115 million gallons a day for its diversified agriculture plans in its lease request.
An area in north Kihei/Maalaea has been designated for pongamia orchards. According to the BioEnergy Plantations Australia website, the plant, also known as millettia pinnata, is a leguminous tree, native to northern Australia. The oils extracted from the tree can be used as biodiesel.
Volner told conference attendees that diversified agriculture will help the state reach its goals of food and fuel self-sufficiency. Gov. David Ige pledged to the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September that Hawaii would double its food production from 10 to 20 percent by 2030. READ MORE