On the island of Oahu, there is a total of 15,205 acres of land that has been designated as Important Agricultural Land (IAL) by the State Land Use Commission. Joining the IAL is voluntary; any landowner can submit an application to the Land Use Commission. Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) is the first and only landowner so far to dedicate land to the IAL category through the Land Use Commission process. A&B has dedicated 27,104 acres in Maui, which extend from Maalaea, Kahului, Paia, Haliimaile to Kihei, and are mainly used for sugar cane production.
Some of this land is also used for planting corn and pasture. On Kauai, its 3,773 acres designated as IAL are located in Lawai and Hanapepe and are currently used for coffee, corn seeds, rice, taro, and pasture. The State of Hawaii is obligated to conserve and protect farmland, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency, and ensure the availability of farmland suitable for agriculture. This is done through the Important Agricultural Land program, a voluntary program that provides tax credits to farmland owners who meet certain criteria.
Kurashima and colleagues conducted a study to determine how three traditional Native Hawaiian farming systems (dryland, agroforestry, and lo'i) could contribute to meeting Hawaii's food sufficiency needs in the face of climate change problems. Not all land that is labeled agricultural is arable; Matthew Loke, administrator of the state Department of Agriculture, noted that both requested areas met all eight IAL criteria. These criteria include use in agricultural production, soils that support agricultural production, sufficient water to irrigate crops, and consistency with the county's land use plans. The State of Hawaii has taken great strides in protecting its agricultural lands through the Important Agricultural Land program.
This program provides tax credits to landowners who meet certain criteria and helps ensure that Hawaii's agricultural lands remain available for production. It also helps promote diversified agriculture and increase agricultural self-sufficiency on the islands. By studying traditional Native Hawaiian farming systems and understanding the criteria for IAL designation, we can better understand how much of Oahu's land is dedicated to agriculture.