8 bills introduced to develop a robust agricultural industry on Guam

Agricultural products. (PNC photo)

Senator Clynt Ridgell has introduced eight bills dubbed the “Guåloʹ Acts” aimed at the development of a robust agricultural industry on Guam.

The word Guåloʹ has a dual meaning in the CHamoru language. It means farm and it also happens to be the finoʹ håya or pre-Spanish indigenous word for the number eight.

Below are the 8 Gualoʹ Acts along with their descriptions:

  1. Slaughterhouse Bill

Bill No. 188-36 (COR) is aimed at the development of a USDA-certified slaughterhouse on Guam. Meat from local livestock cannot currently be sold in Guam stores or restaurants because there is no USDA-certified slaughterhouse. Instead, local ranchers can only sell live animals or slaughter animals for personal consumption. The bill identifies $3M in funding to be used for the construction of this slaughterhouse and it directs the Department of Agriculture and the Guam Economic Development Authority to work together to develop an RFP for some form of public-private partnership for the construction and operation of the slaughterhouse. An existing law that was passed years ago already identified a parcel of GovGuam land for a slaughterhouse. This lot has sat idle since then. The lot is still available and Bill No. 188-36 (COR) will transfer administrative jurisdiction of this piece of land to the Department of Agriculture for the purpose of establishing a slaughterhouse.

“A slaughterhouse will enable local livestock producers to finally be able to bring their meat products to market. My hope is that one day we will be able to buy locally grown meat products in our stores and our restaurants rather than relying on imported meat,” said Senator Ridgell.

  1. Water System Development Charge Bill

Bill No. 189-36 (COR) will make it easier for farmers to get water onto their property and it will help residents who are looking to build homes to get water into their property as well. Currently there are many costs associated with putting new water lines onto private property and one of these costs is the system development charge which can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the size of the water line. This bill appropriates $5 million, annually, to assist residents with a single-family residential dwelling with the required system development charge for first time connections or any system development charge for new or expanded subsistence farming, subsistence aquaculture, commercial aquaculture or agriculture.

“If we want to develop agriculture, we’ve got to subsidize it. This bill will subsidize the system development charge not only for farmers but also for the average resident who is looking to build a home on their property,” said Senator Ridgell.

  1. Irrigation Bill

Bill No. 190-36 (COR) is aimed at making water more affordable for farmers. Currently water rates charged for irrigation are more expensive than the rates for agriculture. Since farmers use irrigation, this seems contradictory to the intent of the agricultural rate. This bill requires that the Guam Waterworks Authority create a new rate schedule for Agricultural Irrigation that utilizes water conservation methods. The cost of water is often cited as a burdensome expense for those in the agricultural sector. This new rate will incentivize the use of water conservation methods which will decrease water waste and encourage increases in efficiency. This new rate will also allow for greater annual savings on water expenses which in turn will encourage the development of agriculture.

“Many farmers have spoken to me about the cost of water, and while it is the Guam Waterworks Authority, the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the Public Utilities Commission that controls the cost of water, this bill’s aim is to correct the contradictory rate schedules that are meant to make water used for agricultural purposes more affordable.”

  1. Deer Livestock Bill

Bill No. 191-36 (COR) allows wild deer to be taken and harbored as livestock. At the moment, wild deer calves may not be removed from the jungle while at the same time it is legal under Guam law to raise deer calves as livestock. This bill will close this ambiguous gray area and definitively allow hunters and farmers to harbor wild deer calves. This will create a new option to explore in providing food and stimulating our economy.

“This bill will work well together with the slaughterhouse bill. Imagine locally-raised deer meat being sold in Guam stores or sold to restaurants who will be able to serve local dishes like kadun binadu or even kelaguen binadu,” said Senator Ridgell

  1. Agricultural Apprenticeship Bill

Bill No. 192-36 (COR) would help to develop the labor-force needed for a robust agricultural industry. The agriculture and aquaculture industries on Guam are still in their developmental stages. They are short on manpower and lack the ability to provide widespread training. This bill provides incentives for agriculture and aquaculture occupations to engage in cost-sharing arrangements with businesses as part of the Guam Registered Apprenticeship Program (GRAP). GRAP has successfully trained highly skilled workers in various trades in Guam where there were previously shortages. With GRAP assistance they could engage in recruitment of new employees and provide training in technical skills. This bill will authorize cost-sharing arrangements between agriculture/aquaculture businesses and other local businesses so that they may avail of the assistance provided in GRAP.

“To build a local industry that provides local jobs we will also need to build a local workforce. This bill helps to build that local workforce by making it more financially feasible for agricultural businesses to provide apprenticeship training,” said Senator Ridgell.

  1. Local Beekeepers Bill

Bill No. 193-36 (COR) would make it easier for local honey producers to meet local regulatory requirements. Under current Guam law, establishments that exclusively sell unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, live poultry, and other products are exempt from mandated sanitary permit requirements as long as the establishment is run by the original producer of said products on his or her own property. This bill will extend the same exemptions to those who engage in the practice of cultivating and maintaining bee colonies for the commercial production of honey as well as not-for-profit businesses that provide assistance to agricultural producers.

“This bill supports our local beekeepers and makes it easier for them to produce and sell local honey. Honey is naturally anti-microbial. It keeps for a very long time and local beekeepers really aren’t doing much in terms of manufacturing or processing. They simply collect the natural honey from the bees and put the honey in jars which to me means the honey should be treated similar to unprocessed fruits vegetables nuts and eggs,” said Senator Ridgell.

  1. Invasive Species Bill

Bill No. 194-36 (COR) aims to simplify the process for the collection of the Invasive Species Inspection Fee. The bill will also update current law to include materials that may be carriers of invasive species that were previously exempt. When the Invasive Species Inspection Fee was established under Public Law 31-43 it was intended to collect over $2 million dollars to fund much-needed services for the Department of Agriculture’s Biosecurity Division. However, since the fee has begun being collected it has only accumulated an average of $600,000 dollars in revenue. With the support of the Port Authority of Guam Users Group and the Invasive Species Council, this bill will simplify the collection of the Invasive Species Inspection Fee by charging flat rates on imported goods. This will allow for easier accountability for the fees and allow the Department to collect the revenues necessary for its operations. This will aid the Department in collecting the funds that were intended to be collected.

“Invasive species threaten our local crops and are a threat to agriculture. Improving collections of invasive species funds will improve our prevention and defense against these pests that threaten our food supply,” said Senator Ridgell.

  1. Poultry, Aquaculture and Aquaponics Bill

Bill No. 195-36 (COR) will allow residents to raise their own poultry and develop their own aquaculture or aquaponic systems. The bill simply lifts restrictions and sets rules related to keeping poultry and permitting aquaculture or aquaponic systems in residential areas so as to allow residents greater access to subsistence farming. This will promote food security and allow residents the ability to not only produce their own food but also bring some of that food to farmers markets

“These 8 Gualoʹ Acts help to lay the foundation for the development of a robust agricultural industry. We currently import at least 90 percent of our food. I fully believe that Guam can one day grow 90 percent of our food. This will create new business opportunities, new jobs and new revenues. Every dollar spent on locally-produced food is a dollar that we keep on island circulating in our economy instead of sending that dollar off-island into other economies. Guam used to be completely self-sufficient, using sustainable fishing and farming methods. This is when Guam was truly “Green.” These bills are another step towards making Guam self-sustainable and self-sufficient again. These bills are another step towards Making Guam Green Again!” said Senator Ridgell.