HONOLULU, Hawaii – Hilo State Representative Clift Tsuji is facing criticism for his decision to defer a house bill on pesticides.
As chair of the House Ag Committee, Tsuji heard lengthy testimony on HB1514, establishing disclosure requirements and buffer zones for pesticide applications done near sensitive areas like schools. The hearing was held on Oahu last week.
“I think this bill is divisive,” Tsuji said after rushing through the hearing due to time constraints. “I hoped that the results wouldn’t split people but bring the thoughts together. So I think that’s what it is. I think cooler heads are prevailing. So I thank you very much. Members, the decision is to defer.”
Those against the bill were large agricultural operations, chemical companies and the biotech industry.
“Perception is not the method to set public policy,” stated Lorie Farrell, representing the Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United. “I’m aware of more than 1,000 individuals opposed to this bill that have submitted testimony. Our farmers are land stewards and we understand first hand the need for crop protection and pesticides. We use them responsibly. We live in our communities. Our keiki go to these local schools. Our ohana touches every part of Hawaii. And we do no harm.”
Those in favor of the bill already suspected the committee would kill the bill, and some had trouble containing their frustration, like Puna resident Derek Brewer.
“We will battle this to the end of our lives,” Brewer declared. “This is absolutely out of my mind how we can have this going on. I don’t need to stand here for the fifth time – in whatever country I’m in – talking about these people. We don’t even need to beg you anymore. If you do not take care of this, we will.”
Brewer said he would “bring the Islamic nation here to battle this ourselves” and that these are “international companies committing international crimes”, a statement that didn’t sit well with legislators like Rep. Gene Ward who criticized the statement afterwards.
“If you do not stand up for us,” Brewer raised his voice, “we will do it ourselves. We’ll sue the state, the county, anyone we have to.”
After the deferral of the bill, social media sites heavily criticized Ag chair Tsuji. “Shame on Rep. Clift Tsuji from Hawaii island for killing the bill for pesticide buffer zones around schools, HB1514,” wrote Big Island activist Jim Albertini. “What kind of person won’t protect kids from pesticide poisoning? And it’s reported that as House Ag committee chair, he even cut off testimony from people who flew from neighbor islands to testify. How low can a politician go? Tsuji unfortunately has become a mascot for corporate special interests, even given the dubious distinction of Biotech legislator of the year. He should now be given the “poison award” by school children throughout Hawaii. As a former banker, now politician, Tsuji deserves to be publicly shamed and exposed as a legislator that acts against the common good, including children’s health and safety.”
A similar senate bill, SB793, is still alive at the legislature.
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