The Day Sugar Died, A Sad Day For The Islands

The Day Sugar Died in the Islands

Sugar is officially dead in Hawaii.  That once beautiful swaying crop across the plains of central Maui will not see another Christmas, and at least half of the men and women who lovingly tended those fields will be jobless by 2017.  With a workforce of 675 people, around 337 individuals will be added to the masses of people looking for work on Maui.

While activists online are celebrating the end of sugar, I find myself sad that this era is over.  I’m also thankful that my children had the opportunity in their small-kid days to know what this beautiful island looked like with graceful sugar stalks covering the fields around our home.  The press release cites, “the roughly $30 million Agribusiness operating loss we expect to incur in 2015, and the forecast for continued significant losses” as the reason for the transition, but I can’t imagine that the thumping fists of the local activists didn’t have a little something to do with the decision.

State Senate candidate Terez Amato posted this classy bit on Facebook this afternoon:Terez Amato OMFG

It’s EXACTLY how I want to see my prospective Senator respond to the loss of over 300 jobs on our island.  With cheering and chicken skin.  (Heavy sarcasm font).  Plus, the activists commenting on Terez’s post are already planning their next round of protests: the cattle industry.  Up next, take down of the cattle industry

I’m thankful to see Alexander & Baldwin committing themselves to keeping these lands in agricultural endeavors, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store.  Perhaps a new HC&S will emerge as Hawaiian Cattle & Soy.  I suspect central Maui will begin to look far more like a Midwest landscape over the next few years.  Iowa really will Meet Maui.  I will spend 2016 relishing the last of the sugar as this great company with over 150 years of service to our island is reinvented.  Twenty-sixteen will be the year that sugar died in the state of Hawaii.  May she rest in peace and may the employees find good jobs as the inevitable layoffs begin.

Click here for more information on the transition of HC&S to diversified ag.

Read about the activists protesting sugar here.

48 thoughts on “The Day Sugar Died, A Sad Day For The Islands

  1. What a sad day, I know we’re all hoping for positive long term outcomes but I can’t help feel only sadness at this loss. Well said!

    Wasn’t that Terez Amato Lindsey the chick who tried for Roz Bakers Senate seat and lost? With that response it’s clear why she wasn’t elected, how sad considering hundreds of people will shortly lose their jobs and all she thinks about is herself.

    1. I don’t know who Terez is, but I agree with her attitude of “opportunity “. Our island now has the opportunity to create more than the 600+ jobs that will soon be lost. It will take insightful, courageous and creative leadership to keep the balance among the residents, both old and new. I’m old, but not so old that I can’t understand why the transition that will be happening will mean changes for me. I’m young enough to respect the ways of the ancestors. Life is a balance. We have to adapt no matter what.

  2. It’s a sad day for Hawaii agriculture for sure between HC&S and Hamakua Springs transitioning. I find it interesting how activists think they should have any say in the direction A&B moves forward with their land.

    1. Only been there one time. They were burning cane fields. Stupid I remembered I couldn’t breathe.
      Build a couple golf courses grow macadamia nuts. Leave the sugar to the Cubans

    1. Seems clear enough to me. I’m a little of both (sad and angry). Mostly sad. We faced this last year, and the very thought of a ‘transition’ made me sick to my stomach. To have it a reality for almost 700 employees on Maui- unimaginable.

    2. Divisive statements like this don’t help. Just because I want to breathe clean air doesn’t make me anti-local, my family has been here for 40 years. This was a business decision by HCS, why aren’t you blaming them for the loss of jobs? Stop equating clean air advocates with anti local, that is simplistic and wrong. We are all local.

      1. Let’s face it, the clean air advocates as you call them, are more than eager to chase out the locals who have spent over hundred years here. If you wanted clean air, why choose Maui for 40 years? You could go somewhere else but you chose to live there.

        Be careful what you wish for because I suspect that your neighbor may be increasing by the thousands or you’ll get millions of transient ones in the near future.

  3. I can’t imagine a landscape on Maui that doesn’t include the waving fields of sugar cane. This breaks my heart.

    1. I agree. The first sight of Maui for tourists arriving to visit for the first time is an airline approach over the green cane fields of the Central Valley. Then the plane flies over the smoke stacks of the sugar mill, noting how the plumes trail into the sky shows which way the trade winds are blowing, or not, that day. I always knew I was almost home from a long trip when I saw those endless fields of green, a constant reminder how special is our island of Maui. I’m sad for the entire situation, but I guess that’s “progress”.

  4. I sure seems to me transitioning the lands to other uses should create at the very least 300 jobs and I bet they pay better that the jobs in suger cane. Also HC&S is going to have to spend money to make this happen too. That money will go into our island economy. My car also won’t be covered with ash in the morning and though the smoke never bothered me I know that many people are much more sensitive to smoke than I am. I see a future with more Maui grass fed beef, more solar and wind farms,more Mac nuts and coffee maybe even hemp fields! Cheers 😃

    1. Hi Joe, thanks for commenting. I’d agree that new farming operations should provide at least 300 jobs, but there are 675 jobs currently held at HC&S. That’s where the rub comes in. Switching to field crops (for biofuel or cattle finishing) or pasture, which is the stated plan of HC&S, will eliminate the factory jobs. The end product of most of those crops doesn’t need further processing the way sugar currently does. The growing pains will be huge, but I agree, the shift will increase some sectors of our economy, while decreasing others. The ash/burning never bothered me either. We live in North Kihei and it only hit us about 10 days of the year. A minor inconvenience to keep those fields green. Hoping the mac nut, coffee, and cattle you envision become a reality. Aloha!

      1. Farmers should not feel obligated to find jobs for anyone. Let the “advocates” who shut the farms down find jobs for the unemployed!!!

    2. Pollution caused by confined livestock operations throughout the state continue to pollute Hawaii’s aquifers, streams, and coastal areas in critical watersheds and water quality limited segments identified by the Department of Health. Despite the initiation of the USDA Environmental Quality Incentive Program, many livestock operators located upstream of water quality limited segments and in critical aquifer recharge areas have not signed up or inquired about the program, or actually applied pollution prevention measures. This situation is largely due to a gross lack of available technical assistance, proactive educational programs targeting livestock producers, and a basic fear and mistrust of government programs.

      1. Jorge, that link is 16 years old. In the following years, we’ve unfortunately lost almost all of our livestock operations due to the high cost of operation. We are left with one or two dairy farms on the Big Island that exclusively graze on large open pastures. To my knowledge, there isn’t a single CAFO in the state of Hawaii. Please point me in the direction of evidence to the contrary.

      2. I was merely commenting on the statement “Perhaps a new HC&S will emerge as Hawaiian Cattle & Soy.” I live in NE Florida and the cattle industry takes a toll on our aquifer yet sure in this state is king and it’s environmental impact is negligible. I lived in Puerto Rico for a long time and it is depressing to see what happens to a post-agricultural economy island now dependent on manufacturing and the tourist industry.

  5. because food is not expensive enough in Hawaii, attack the local agriculture industry… Sugar might not be cost effective to grow in a high cost region but I dare say considering shipping costs perhaps chickens for eggs and meat.

  6. Think Positively! You are not losing sugar (which is not very good for ya in the first place), but gaining an alternative crop that is more in the money. An Over priced spice company can cut some overhead & turn to organic standards to justify higher pricing & the more competitive market place? There are many nuts, seeds & healthy vegetables that can grow in Hawaii if you think about it, but now you have to think about it!

    1. Where will the water be coming from for these crops? The same activists protesting sugar are also protesting water being used by HC&S. If they continue getting their way, there will be no water for crops of any kind in central Maui.

  7. We need to legalize hemp… replace sugar cane fields with a large percent of hemp and open factories for turning it into all of the things it can be used for… Medicine, food, clothing, building materials… Then the existing factories can just be repurposed, jobs would explode, and the economy would be hugely stimulated.

  8. What is it with you all? Don’t you know any Hawaiian history? How could you all be so shamelessly offensive. Sugar has done nothing but terrorize the islands for the past 200+ years. It was responsible for massive environmental degradation, the illegal occupation of the Hawaiian islands, and exploitation of foreign labor! All in the name of making the Caucasian American owners fatter! Filthy missionary scum! Take your sugar and shove it I say! Good riddens!

    1. Truth be told, mahalo brah! Now is the time for the island to grow healthy food and become self reliant and sufficient.

  9. Flying into Maui will never be the same once the transition to other Ag lands take over.. I always knew i was “home” when u look out the window & saw all the green Maui had to offer.. The biggest loss to this story is the workers..

    1. It is my thought when I go off island to vist where I grew up , oahu. Look what happened to some replaced cane fields. The flight back home from the mainland and seeing the sugar cane quilt that blankets Maui always so welcoming about being home. so sad.

  10. Hi Rhonda. You are more than welcome to call me and speak to me directly. I’d be happy to have a conversation with you. 276-1650. My personal cellphone number that I’ve had since I was 18. Feel free… give me a ring.

    And you know, you’ll have to forgive me, but when, as a mother, you hold your dying child in your arms (while your husband is going to work for the very company responsible, mind you) it changes things. You gain a greater awareness and understanding that you never imagined possible.

    My son’s life has been directed by the cane burning schedule. EVERYTHING in his life has been driven by that. Until that is experienced, there is no way to really know a life changing moment; and he’s not the only one!

    Just try to understand the horrible struggle of supporting the very company literally killing your children.

    Today, I saw a future where our children are healthy. Where their education is not ruined by sickness. I cried. I cried and I cried. I will not, as a mother, be made to feel guilty for the desire to see our children healthy. Ever!

    And if people want to blame me for that, so be it. I am a mother. Watch me defend and protect our children. Our children, ALL of them, come FIRST! And I WILL do everything I can in this effort to help the workers of this financially failing corporation find the resources they need to start fresh. PEOPLE before profits. Not the other way around.

    No one wanted to see anyone lose their jobs. It is unfortunate that A&B could not have better prepared and anticipated this necessary transition. It is my hope that they will offer each of their employees very generous severance packages complete with beneficial training and placement opportunities, and that our legislature finally opens the door for hemp cultivation thereby giving those who wish to continue in agriculture the opportunity to farm a truly beneficial and financially rewarding crop.

    1. Terez forgive me as your statement is convoluted; are you trying to say your child died from cane burning?

      One mother’s feeling do not trump another’s. As your full aware the author is a mother who lives in Kihei. Your son’s asthma is not going to magically disappear and everything be happily ever after; the Vog and volcano emissions have not ceased in 30+ years so unless you petition and protest Pele the only other solution would be to move. Wasn’t Maui a choice you made to move into with the current conditions present?

      Your comments of celebration and hosting a champagne party when people’s lives are affected are not okay; I suspect you’re now trying to justify statements because they show how insensitive you are to others. As a mother, I’m sorry your child has asthma that is not synonymous with Hawaii or sugarcane. An end of an era is synonymous with Hawaii and any mother should show sensitivity to the parents of the keiki who will be unemployed and their futures forever changed.

    2. Terez, since this conversation started publicly, I will continue it here. First, let me say, I’m sorry for the loss of your child. That is heartbreaking, and something I can’t even imagine. Having a child die would be devastating. I’m surprised you didn’t join Karen Chun’s lawsuit as it seems to me you have the best case for proving harm from cane smoke. I doubt anyone will miss the actual smoke, but many will miss what that smoke represents. We moved out of the midwest in part because those in our family with severe asthma had trouble breathing during hay harvest. I understand sitting with a child that can’t breathe. As a mom, air quality factored into where we moved, and I’m thankful to say my children have very few problems with getting enough oxygen in Maui. For us, the air here was a godsend. I fully understand that it isn’t that way for everyone.

      The reason I chose to include your very public comment in my article is because you, as one running for a Senate seat, are to represent ALL of your constituents, not just some of them. You are not supposed to pursue an issue for your own personal gain, and even when your personal gain is met, it’s not OK, as an elected official, to celebrate publicly in the face of your opponents pain. While I understand you have not been elected yet, it concerns me that you would govern our state in this manner.

  11. This ignorance of this blog post is beyond words. I am not going to even try to educate you on how wrong you are. Please, just stay in Iowa!

  12. Elise Travis says:
    January 8, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    You obviously need to get your facts straight. I have lived in Maui for 37yrs. now and you are so wrong about a lot of things. I am disgusted by people like you that think they can write about Maui and say things that aren’t true. Since your husband works for Monsanto you have no idea of what the cane smoke was doing to people’s health here nor do you care. You are only concerned about your bottom line , and that is to save your own job. This is a historical day for Maui to create a beautiful place that’s healthy for all to live and visit here and for future generations.. You want to destroy this for your selfish reasons.The cane burning was archaic and the chemicals they were using were stronger than ever before. Such as your own Round-up concoctions. There are many activists who have come out of the wood work to protest Monsanto and the cane burning, including Hawaiians, and many successful people that live here not just hippies that have been educated to these harmful and deadly practices.You need to move elsewhere, because you are not only poisoning people’s minds with your your poisonous remarks but you want to continue with the destruction of this island. Re: the jobs for the people that will lose them. They will be provided for, so don’t worry. This island takes care of those in need and also pushes people off that aren’t worthy of being here. So, don’t push this fear tactic that you are known for. Fear does not work here . Our consciousness is more highly evolved than this. We cannot be controlled.We have no hidden agenda but to make sure that Maui stays clean and healthy for all including the ocean animals ,the food we eat and the land and water that is our precious commodity that you want to destroy. We don’t need to be heavily inundated with chemicals. We have an opportunity now to do incredible things on this island and to be self sustainable. There will be jobs for everyone. You don’t deserve to come and live on Maui. Maui is a special place where not only is their beauty everywhere but it’s the people that make it so special. You will never understand this and I’m sorry for this but times are a changing and people can make a difference .It’s people like you that are the problem.

  13. It is my thought when I go off island to vist where I grew up , oahu. Look what happened to some replaced cane fields. The flight back home from the mainland and seeing the sugar cane quilt that blankets Maui always so welcoming about being home again. so sad. It is,so hurtful about what people are saying who really don’t know what Aloha really means and the Ohana that worked so hard. Whatever agenda you have the main thing is that it is sad. It is like someone came into your home and cleared out your furniture because they were unhappy.

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