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July 25, 2014

Hawaii Dairy Farms Plans for Phased Approach

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Download the draft Waste Management Plan in PDF format

Koloa, Hawaii – July 25, 2014 – After listening to community feedback, Hawaii Dairy Farms has modified its application to the Hawaii Department of Health to phase its proposed grass-fed dairy operation on Kauai.  The phased approach will demonstrate how the pastoral dairy model is both protective of the environment and more productive than traditional dairy farming.

“We want the community to know that we’ve heard its concerns and we’re planning a dairy that goes beyond compliance to ensure the operation is environmentally protective, adaptable to operating conditions and allows for future growth,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative, which provides the funding for Hawaii Dairy Farms.  “We respect the regulatory process and the ability of our regulators to make good decisions.  We continue to work with them to ensure we are meeting and exceeding all requirements under federal and state law.”

“Our commitment is to develop a sustainable farming operation in cooperation with the regulators to produce fresh, local milk for families across the state at prices everyone can afford.  This dairy strengthens the ability of the agricultural sector to continue to provide meaningful jobs and valuable economic support for Kauai,” said Datta.

The first phase starts with 650-699 cows and allows the pasture system to fully establish.  The size of the herd in phase one equates to roughly 1.5 cows per acre of the farm’s 578 acres and is comparable to former cow-calf and sheep grazing operations within Mahaulepu valley.  The stocking ratio of cattle for the first phase is consistent with temperate zone dairies and Hawaii’s more productive pasture-based ranches. Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plan for an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) is currently being reviewed by the Hawaii Department of Health.

The submitted plan includes facilities designed for the original proposed scale of up to 2,000 milking cows to accommodate for phase two, which will be part of a future application for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit.

The proposed farm design is a zero-discharge approach that includes extensive environmental protection controls and safety margins.  These improvements include:

  • The effluent ponds, which contain the manure captured at the milking barn, have been expanded to exceed regulatory compliance.  The regulatory requirement is based on a 25-year, 24-hour storm event plus the average rainfall in the valley for the longest continuous rain event.  During phase one, effluent pond capacity goes far beyond this regulatory requirement with an additional 100 days of storage capacity.  There has been no storm event that would exceed the phase one capacity of the effluent ponds since rainfall has been recorded in Mahaulepu valley.
  • An additional emergency containment berm and spillway has been added beyond regulatory compliance with capacity for roughly 30 days in the event of a catastrophic disaster that exceeds the expanded capacity of the effluent ponds’ design and operation.
  • Keeping the ponds aerated on a consistent schedule will control effluent pond odor.  In addition, a windbreak/shelterbelt, which utilizes rows of trees, will be planted along the prevailing wind pattern of the effluent ponds to help mitigate any odor from traveling off the farm.
  • Periodic water quality monitoring will be employed to assess and maintain the effectiveness of irrigation, nutrient management and conservation practices.
  • Setbacks have been expanded to 50-feet to ensure ample protection from runoff into water resources, including the neighboring taro farm.
  • The effluent irrigation and fertilizer protocols are matched to the individual soil types of each paddock, along with the active management of the rotation schedule.

The farm manager will closely monitor the operations and performance of the farm using computerized technology to ensure the health of the cows, quality of the milk and environmental protection.

“We know some members of the community are concerned about the cow manure and there have been many issues raised based on fears.  In fact, in pastoral systems, cow manure from dairies and ranches is broken down by biological organisms and turns into nutrients that feed the grass and create rich organic soil. In phase one, the amount of manure produced will only fulfill about 20 percent of the required nutrients for pasture growth.  As a result, we will need additional fertilizer to sustain pasture development and regeneration.  Our approach to dairy farming, like organic farming, restores the health of the soil from the damage done by years of sugar cane production.  We want to assure the Kauai community that we are practicing responsible agriculture,” said Datta. 

“Ulupono Initiative believes the implication of the lawsuit from Kawailoa Development will impact all animal agriculture within the state,” said Datta.  “Nearly all of the locally owned and operated, family-run animal operations that have fed the people of Hawaii for generations are considered Animal Feeding Operations and could be put out of business.  Further, the misguided legal concept that the owners of reclassified agricultural land can sue to have their agricultural neighbors declared a nuisance would impact every single farmer in the state, large or small, and is a direct assault on the rights of farmers under the laws of the State of Hawaii.”

“Our due diligence indicates that an AFO application does not require an Environmental Assessment (EA) as claimed by the recent lawsuit filed by Kawailoa Development,” said Datta. “To require an EA of all small-scale animal operations across the state would be financially devastating and is a horrible precedent that would set Hawaii back as the only state who imposes this restriction on small farms using effluent impoundment ponds.  We don’t believe that family farms with animals should be ‘collateral damage’ in this resort’s attempt to establish an unnecessary buffer zone around reclassified agricultural lands.  We care about all agriculture, and the right of the people who live in Hawaii to have fresh, affordable and nutritious local food.”

Upon issuance of a positive review from the Hawaii Department of Health, Hawaii Dairy Farms will be authorized to build the first phase of the dairy.

Hawaii Dairy Farms is Hawaii’s first zero-discharge grass-fed dairy, located on 578 acres in Mahaulepu, Kauai.  At full-scale, it will double statewide local milk production in an effort to restore Hawaii’s dairy industry and produce a fresh, local product Hawaii’s families can afford.  The operating budget is projected to be between $6 - $9 million annually to support Kauai’s economy.  To learn more, please visit www.HawaiiDairyFarms.com.

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