State Definition and Policies

In 1978, Hawai‘i was shifting from a plantation-dominated economy to one of tourism and Federal spending, and public concerns about the need to promote the viability of agriculture and protect Hawai‘i’s agricultural lands were growing. In response, the State Constitutional Convention proposed the identification and designation of Important Agricultural Lands (IAL), and Hawai‘i’s voters approved constitutional amendments to ensure the long-term protection of important agricultural lands.

Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS), Chapter 205, Part III fulfills the intent and purpose of the constitutional mandate and establishes the standards, criteria and mechanisms for the identification and designation of IAL, including:

  • a formal definition of IAL
  • policy guidance to assure the long-term agricultural use of IAL
  • standards and criteria to be used in mapping IAL
  • processes which both landowners and the counties are to follow when identifying lands with potential for IAL
  • the roles and responsibilities of various state and county agencies, and
  • the requirement for the establishment of State and county-level incentives.

IAL Definition

As defined under State law, important agricultural lands are defined as the lands…that:

  1. “are capable of producing sustained high agricultural yields when treated and managed according to accepted farming methods and technology
  2. contribute to the State’s economic base and produce agricultural commodities for export or local consumption, or
  3. are needed to promote the expansion of agricultural activities and income for the future, even if currently not in production” (HRS Chapter 205-42).

Policies for Important Agricultural Lands

HRS Chapter 205-42. “The objective for the identification of important agricultural lands is to identify and plan for the maintenance of a strategic agricultural land resource base that can support a diversity of agricultural activities and opportunities that expand agricultural income and job opportunities and increase agricultural self-sufficiency for current and future generations, the State shall:

  1. Promote agricultural development and land use planning that delineates blocks of productive agricultural land and areas of agricultural activity for protection from the encroachment of non-agricultural uses; and
  2. Establish incentives that promote:
    • agricultural viability;
    • sustained growth of the agricultural industry; and
    • the long-term agricultural use and protection of these productive agricultural lands.”

State law provides policy guidance to promote the long-term agricultural use of lands designated IAL.