Native ranchers say they want extra land out there for agricultural use to remain in enterprise


Hawaiʻi’s ranchers say they need help to stay in business. They cannot continue to watch pasture land reduced year after year under state land leases that are not managed by the Department of Agriculture.

A priority is to have some 100,000 acres transferred from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to the Ag Department.

Two decades ago, lawmakers passed Act 90 in an effort to help ranchers and farmers, but there has been little progress.

The Conversation talked to three women who know about local ranching: Nicole Galase, the director of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council; Jeri Moniz with K.K. Ranch in Pa’auilo on Hawaiʻi Island; and Lani Petrie with the 163-year-old Kapāpala Ranch in Ka’ū.

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From left to right: Jeri Moniz, The Conversation’s Catherine Cruz, Lani Petrie and Nicole Galase at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

“We have public hunting for three months out of the year. We’ve had lands withdrawn for forestry projects. Every time land or lands use gets amended or changed, everybody overlooks the economic impact to the ranch itself and remaining viable,” Petrie said.

Raising Hawaiʻi beef is hard work, but they want the public to understand their value in our economy and our ʻāina.

Cattle producers say they do far more than just put local beef on the table.

“Cattle ranching can be a really great way to ensure that the land is being stewarded as well as food is being produced. Ranchers are on the ground, doing invasive species removal, keeping open spaces open, keeping water infrastructure going, these are all really important ecosystem services that ranchers provide to the community at no cost to them, but the benefit does go to them,” Galase said.

At the state Legislature, a bill to help facilitate the transfer of lands between DLNR to the Agriculture Department has passed the Senate and is on its way to the House.

The women are hopeful the community understands their struggles to stay viable to produce food for our community.

“If every single rancher could keep every single cow, or every single animal in this state to utilize in the state, we would if it was economically viable. But we just cannot, we don’t have enough land to raise them up,” Moniz told The Conversation.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 10, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.


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