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January 25, 2016

Lanai Now Has a Leader in Organics

Professional headshot of A-dae Romero-Briones.

Chances are that you’ve interacted with A-dae Romero-Briones at a community event or through a health- or education-based program on Lanai. As director of community development for Pulama Lanai, Romero-Briones works with her department and a number of organizations to enhance community programs for the island.

In addition to her work on Lanai, Romero-Briones took on a new role this past December. Last month, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Romero-Briones as one of six board members to the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is a federal advisory board made up of 15 dedicated volunteers from across the agricultural community. The NOSB makes recommendations on issues involving the production, handling and processing of organic products.

The Role of NOSB

The NOSB is an advisory body that provides the secretary with an extended list of recommendations for allowed and prohibited substances, a list of research priorities and preventative measures to exclude the presence of GMOs in organic products. The board members were selected for their unique background and insight on agriculture and politics, and their biannual gatherings represent a meeting of the minds. Twice a year Romero-Briones will meet with other board members to discuss organic crop and livestock production, as well as the substances that may or may not be used to process these foods.

As a member of the board, Romero-Briones will evaluate proposals, discuss documents and reports of organics-related materials and listen to oral testimony at the biannual public meetings. She considers her five-year appointment to the board a call to service, admitting it demands a lot of work but she is ready for the challenge.

Advocating for Hawaii

“In previous positions I’ve worked on national policy in Washington D.C.,” says Romero-Briones, who served as a consultant for the First Nations Development Institute.

“My previous work with rural communities and indigenous people informs my outlook on how I see national organic policy.”

Ideally, Romero-Briones would like to introduce issues important to those in Hawaii and indigenous people into organic policy. “The Hawaii agriculture community is so much different than the mainland agriculture community,” says Romero-Briones. “Often rural communities and indigenous people get left out of this sort of policy making.”

One such issue Romero-Briones points out is transportation. “Transportation issues in Hawaii are extremely different from the mainland,” she says. “If you live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, your farm communities are difficult to access. Hawaii’s geography also changes the definition of ‘local,’ and what it means to source local food.”

As Lanai becomes a more sustainable and healthy community, Romero-Briones will serve as an advocate and educator for organic foods on the island.

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