Organic Farming Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands:A New Hope!
Northern Marianas Islands
On August 23, 2017 Russ Schow contacted me about the possibility of establishing Organic Farming in the CNMI. As a method of Economic Development with an eye towards exports.
After my initial research I realized that this was not a viable idea.
No Commercial Farming exists. Most of the existing farmers excluding Cattle on Tinian where subsistence at farmers at best.
With no commercial farming no infrastructure exists.
So, without a base of Farmers Certification is not feasible. Also, the costs to bring an Inspector would be expensive.
Now there are several significant data points.
The USDA 2007 Agricultural Census shows that there are approxiametly 117,000 acres of suitable farmland. I would like to see that raw data to understand where they saw this land. It has been documented that before World War 2 over 40,000 acres where being farmed.
Today only 4,100 acres are being farmed.
The Citizens of the CNMI
Now during this initial research, I also discovered that the CNMI imports at least 90% of its Foodstuffs.
The citizens of the CNMI pay at least twice the national average to basic food stuffs.
The high cost of Food must be related to a Poor diet. Which causes a range of medical condition putting a further financial on the Local and US governments to provide medical treatment.
General Business Conditions
The Local Water system cannot supply the residents with consistent potable water 24 hours per day. Yet they want to attract business that would put an additional strain on capacity. Why has no developed a strategy to harness the rainfall. Which contributes to the
The same with the Local Power Authority, many potential farms would not be on the power grid. Or face very high utility bills crushing any new startups. Again, no vision for harnessing alternative forms of energy generation. So, the Citizens pay a higher than average for utilities. (More Financial Distress)
Department of Public Lands
They are the Stewards of the Land and whom you would have to apply to lease any land.
Despite their Mission Statement it is a bureaucracy without a real desire to help the residents of the CNMI.
Now I contacted them about leasing farmland.
No one responded to 3 emails. When I did get a response. It was from a bureaucrat who would not answer specific questions but only referred to their Regulations.
Now they have hired 3 consulting firms to develop a Strategic Land Use plan. This explains the lack of a database of available lands and what they are zoned for.
You would think that anyone that may contact them about leasing farmland should be forwarded to some senior level manager. (No Strategic Vision)
This indifference continues the financial, health and environmental stress on its citizens.
A major issue for moving product within the Islands and to even consider Export as a viable outlet.
It is more expensive per unit to ship a product to Saipan from Guam, than from California to Guam.
So, if there was more direct trade that could lower costs.
Also, they have additional costs on Guam adding to the cost of the product.
There seems to be a major issue using the docks on Rota, what could be a major farming hub. Thus, limiting trade within the CNMI and Guam.
The Potential Labor Force
For Organic Farming in the
Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands
Are there actual unemployment or work force participation rates available? According to an June 2016 it looks like the Islands have a 14.0% Unemployment rate. The major point in this report that the unemployment rate amongst the between 16 and 30 is well over 20%. This lack of economic opportunity has led many to leave the Islands for the United States. (A Brain Drain)
The Compacts of Free Association
Would this allow the citizens the CNMI, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, the Republics of the Marshall Islands and Palau.
To move freely within the Island states and the United States. Providing a domestic work force.
In 2012, Anthony Pelligrino wrote an article in the Saipan Tribune where he discussed 3 alternative. I do not know how feasible.
Maybe High School Students could learn about agriculture as a science project. Or could be part of there community service requirement.
Maybe, Non- Violent Criminals could volunteer for Day Labor positions.
Are Recipients of Social Services have work requirements.
We could recruit certain type of labor via agricultural colleges needing farm internships.
Another idea would be to establish an apprentice program as another option.
Rather than thinking of Economic Development in a traditional sense we should consider another idea.
Developing Food, Economic, Health and Environmental Security. Finally, to improve the long-term security of the Citizens of the CNMI.
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