Designation Processes

There are two distinct processes to designate privately-owned land and county-owned land within the State Agricultural District as IAL.  The first allows farmers or landowners to voluntarily petition the LUC for a declaratory ruling; the second is a mandatory county designation process.

A third process involving the State is specific to the designation of public lands.

Designation of Public Lands

The law identifies a separate process for the designation of public lands within the State Agricultural District.  The State Department of Agriculture (DOA) and Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) are to collaborate and delineate public lands for IAL designation before December 31, 2009, followed by the LUC’s approval and adoption of the IAL maps and the transfer of management responsibility for those lands to DOA.[1]

Landowner Voluntary Designation

Voluntary designation enables landowners or farmers to petition the LUC for IAL designation.  The LUC reviews the petition and evaluates the qualifications of the land for designation as IAL, and would issue a declaratory order to designate the lands as IAL, with a two-thirds majority vote of the Commission.

This process offers specific incentives to encourage private landowners to voluntarily dedicate their lands as IAL, including the ability to choose which lands may be considered for IAL and an exemption from additional lands being designated via the county’s process if a majority of their landholdings has been designated as IAL.[2]  Other incentives for private landowners to seek voluntary designation include: an expedited land use reclassification process to either the State Urban, Rural or Conservation District for up to 15 percent of the petition area, if the remaining portion of the landholding (minimum 85 percent) is designated as IAL (commonly referred to as the “85/15 incentive”); and tax credits on investments in agricultural infrastructure.

County Mandatory Designation

Each county is required, through its planning departments, to identify lands within its jurisdiction that have potential for IAL and prepare draft maps of the county’s recommendations for potential IAL.

The graphic below outlines the general sequence of steps and the roles of the state agencies/parties involved in the county designation process.  In completing the draft IAL maps (and an accompanying written report), the county is required to notify landowners that their lands are being considered for IAL designation.  Once the county planning department submits the draft IAL package to the county council, the county council is required to review and adopt the maps as a resolution.  The adopted maps and recommendations are then transmitted to the LUC for further action (with or without changes from the City Council), and transmitted to the State Department of Agriculture and State Office of Planning for comment.  A two-thirds majority vote of the LUC is required for designation as IAL.



HRS, Chapter 205-44.5 and Chapter 141-1

[2] Per HRS, Section 205-49, “if the majority of landowners’ landholdings is already designated as important agricultural lands, [. . .] the commission shall not designate any additional lands of that landowner as important agricultural lands, except by a petition pursuant to section 205-45.”