Maui County Initiative Would Be “Devastating” to Local Economy, Chamber of Commerce Finds in New Report

Paul Brewbaker presents his report, Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry during a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct 9th

Paul Brewbaker presents his report, Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry during a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Oct 9th

The Maui County Voter Initiative would be crippling for the county and have a disastrous impact on the state’s agricultural sector, according to an economic report released today by the Maui Chamber of Commerce. 

The report, Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry, was prepared by noted Hawaii economist Paul Brewbaker, principal at TZ Economics.

“The Maui Chamber of Commerce has long supported the triple bottom line approach to policy-making,” said Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.  “We have seen many social, cultural and environmental assessments of this ballot initiative, but this is the first analysis on the economic impacts. We have learned that passage of the initiative and loss of the seed crop industry would be devastating to our local economy. The effects would ripple throughout our business community, affecting many small and medium sized enterprises.”

According to Brewbaker’s report, the Maui County Voter Initiative will put at risk the following contributions to the local economy and community made by the seed farms:

–  $55.8 million in direct and indirect seed industry annual impacts on Maui County’s economic output

–  $84.2 million in total Maui County economic output including household consumption from incomes originating from seed farm

–  770 jobs directly and indirectly associated with the seed farms

–  At least $4 million in state taxes

–  More than 3,500 volunteer hours annually

–  $20,000 in scholarships in life sciences and more than $35,000 in donations for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in local schools

“Nearly a thousand Maui County families’ livelihoods depend on employment with the seed farms or as suppliers and providers of services to those families,” Brewbaker states in the report. “This seed industry community is as extensive and deeply-rooted in the community as those of the plantations that preceded them.” 

Citing the “temporary shutdowns” that permanently closed Aloha Airlines, Maui Land & Pine, and Del Monte Plantation on Molokai, Brewbaker said, “Seed farming is Maui’s second largest agricultural activity after sugarcane cultivation, and the largest on Molokai. It is too important to Maui County’s economy to be placed on a so-called ‘hiatus.’”

The presence of maize (corn) crops in Hawaii date back to the 19th century. Today’s seed industry began as winter nurseries on Molokai in the 1960s, and over 50 years it has been the fastest growing agricultural activity in the state.

“About 95 percent of our membership at the Maui Chamber of Commerce is comprised by small businesses that employ 25 or less people,” noted Tumpap. “These are restaurants, retailers and vital services that shape our community. Many depend on their neighbors for business. If their neighbor is put out of work by this initiative, they lose a customer and vital revenues.”

Brewbaker’s report was peer-reviewed by economists Thomas Loudat and Prahlad Kasturi to validate the research presented. The Maui Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, purchased the rights to publish the research. 


About the Maui Chamber of Commerce

The Maui Chamber of Commerce is a business organization comprised of businesses from all sectors, all sizes, and all areas of the island, where business leaders work together to create a strong economic climate to sustain business growth and prosperity, build relationships, support each other, and improve the quality of life for all Maui residents.