Hawaii Agriculture Theft a Problem – Hawai’i Law Seeks To Reduce Increasing Problem

The Hawai’i Forest Industry Association (HFIA) encourages farmers, ranchers and the public to know the law regarding ownership and movement of agricultural commodities.

Hawai’i law requires ownership and movement certification on any amount of an agricultural commodity that is to be marketed for commercial purposes or when transporting agricultural commodities weighing more than 200 pounds or with a value of $100 or more.

In testifying for passage of the law, the Hawai’i Farm Bureau Federation wrote, “Everyone knows farming is inherently risky. There are no guarantees of a successful crop. Besides being vulnerable to invasive pests and diseases, erratic weather patterns, and multi-year droughts, high land, labor, fuel, and other farm costs leave us unable to compete with mainland prices. On top of this, farmers are highly susceptible to theft. Our location and relatively large acreage, usually in more remote areas and impossible to guard 24 hours a day, leave us open to thieves that reap the benefit of our hard work or vandals that destroy our crops for kicks.”

The law requires that those convicted of agricultural theft face criminal penalties and pay restitution to their victims in an amount equal to the value of what was stolen as well as the cost of replanting.

A slab was brutally cut from this koa tree, which subsequently killed the tree in Kōke'e State Park, Kauai

A slab was brutally cut from this koa tree, which subsequently killed the tree in Kōke’e State Park, Kauai

In October 2013 Kaua’i’s The Garden Island newspaper reported on koa trees cut down by poachers. In the article Deborah Ward, the information specialist for the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, said “DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is investigating recent cases of theft of koa at Kōke’e State Park, as well as other pending cases. The majority of thefts have been on State Parks lands, most recently last week on park land, and in June 2013 in the Nā Pali-Kona Forest Reserve.”

From the theft of exotic fruit and native Kou trees on Hawai’i Island to pineapple by the truckload on Maui to valuable landscaping plants on O’ahu, agricultural theft costs farmers and ranchers millions of dollars annually. Losses also occur from vandalism and illegal hunting and cattle poaching on private lands. These costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.

Hawai’i Forest Industry Association encourages anyone suspecting agricultural theft to contact their local police department to report the crime.

 

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