A Big Island state senator has started an email campaign seeking to stop colleagues from reappointing Richard Ha to the state Board of Agriculture.
“If any of you share my revulsion at Richard Ha being appointed to the State Ag Board, it’s not too late to do something,” Sen. Russell Ruderman said in the email sent March 13 on his personal account.
Ha, owner of Hamakua Springs Country Farms, has been at odds with Ruderman over issues of genetically modified crops and geothermal energy. Ha also criticized Ruderman in Hawaii media for supporting legislation against transgenic food, known commonly as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, while owning natural food stores on the Big Island.
In the email, Ruderman, D-Puna, touched on those issues.
“Mr. Ha is pro-GMO, pro-geothermal and tried to accuse me of conflict of interest for speaking out,” he said.
“Please spread the word. If each senator gets 100 emails in opposition this will not fly.”
Ruderman, who owns Island Naturals, told the Tribune-Herald the email was intended for those with “concerns about his appointment.” He said he did not expect the email to be seen by the general public and was not ready to make a statement on the issue.
“I think I’m shooting myself in the foot by saying anything at this point and time,” he said.
But Ruderman added the email was not about a “personal vendetta or the way he attacked me publicly.”
Ha, who has been the Big Island’s representative on the board for one term, said he was surprised to hear about the email.
“Sen. Ruderman is so determined, he’s so anti-GMO that he’s losing all sense of perspective to me,” he said.
Ha characterized his stance on genetically altered crops as “pro-science” and said his views on the issue should not disqualify him for the position.
“I’ll go where the science takes me,” said Ha. “If GMO is not supported by science, I’d change.”
While a supporter of genetically modified agriculture, Ha does not grow transgenic crops.
Ha, who addresses issues of food security and energy on his blog, is a founding member of the pro-GMO Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie nominated Ha for reappointment to the board.
Ha said his term ends in June. If reappointed, his term would last until June 30, 2018.
The Senate must approve the nomination, which the Senate Committee on Agriculture will first consider.
A staff member for Sen. Clarence Nishihara, the committee’s chairman, said the office has received emails opposing Ha’s nomination but they cannot be considered as testimony since the matter has not been scheduled for a hearing.
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