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Hawaii aims to help farmers get certified organic

Staff writer |
Hawaii has become the first state to pass legislation providing tax breaks to farmers to offset the cost of getting certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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However, according to a spokeswoman, Governor David Ige has not yet decided whether he will sign it into law, westhawaiitoday.com reports.

The organic foods industry in the U.S. has grown to make up about 5 percent of the total food market, reaching $39.1 billion in sales in 2014, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Farmers have long been offered subsidies for crops like corn and soybeans, but the organic industry has not been widely targeted.

A federal program offers organic farmers help covering up to 75 percent of certification costs, for a maximum of $750. A bill in the Minnesota Legislature would provide grants of up to $750 to farmers in financial need for organic certification costs. It will be part of negotiations as lawmakers weigh how to spend a budget surplus.

In Hawaii, the legislation would give farmers up to $50,000 in tax credits for qualifying expenses, which include application fees, inspection costs and equipment or supplies needed to produce organic products. The state would be able to give $2 million in tax breaks per year.

The cost of getting certified varies widely, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, according to the USDA.

The bill got support from the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, which has lobbied against genetically modified crops and pushed for stricter pesticide regulations on the islands.


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