LIHUE, Hawaii — On Monday, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami signed Bill No. 2875, Draft 2 that revitalizes the county’s outdated Agricultural Dedication program and frees farmers from previous administrative burdens. The Kauai County Council passed Bill No. 2875 Draft 2 on Sept. 21, 2022.
As stated in the bill, the previous Agricultural Dedication program deterred small-scale farmers, incentivized recipients with long-term dedications opening the way for abuse, and served as a tax haven for owners of “high-value properties.”
“It’s an honor and pleasure to sign this bill today which will truly help our agriculture industry propel forward and will further support sustainability on our island now and for future generations,” said Mayor Kawakami in a news release.
Council member Bill DeCosta and Council member Luke Evslin — co-introducers of the bill — along with Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Council Vice Chair Mason Chock joined Mayor Kawakami in a virtual bill-signing ceremony on Monday. Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama, Agriculture Land Use and Valuation Specialist Terry Phillips, and Real Property Tax Manager Mike Hubbard also attended.
“The purpose here is to incentivize farming, and to try and reduce the abuse of our agricultural dedication program,” said Councilmember Evslin. “It also reduces the administrative burden both for the farmers and the for the county.”
With the new Agricultural Dedication program, farmers will be free from burdensome requirements. All dedications will be for five years and farmers will not be penalized with rollback taxes if they cancel a dedication. Farmers will also no longer need to record their dedication with the Board of Conveyance, and properties with multiple owners will not be required to have all signatures.
In addition, to incentivize farming on land designated for agricultural use, farms within the Urban State Land Use District must be zoned as agriculture or open to be eligible for the program. The program’s assessment valuation method has also changed to 5% of its fair market value, which means properties dedicated to agriculture use can use a 95% discount on their tax burden.
Existing dedications will remain valid until their dedication period ends or is canceled.
Sarah Yamanaka covers events, environmental and community news for Spectrum News Hawaii.