One of the many cattle ranches on Maui that Caires serves

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Agent Kyle Caires is helping the Maui community get fed, and livestock producers who have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic stay in business. Caires along with Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and others, announced Feed My Sheep, a new CARES Act-funded partnership with local ranchers to provide ground beef to people in need.

Caires helped facilitate the county’s commitment of $200,000 to support the ranching community, and the purchase of cattle from independent ranchers. About 1,000 pounds of ground beef, per week, will be processed and distributed to individuals, nonprofits and community feeding programs.

Beginning on Monday, September 14, the program received Maui County approval to expand the ground beef purchase program to the island of Molokaʻi to support their ranchers and local harvest facility.

male and cows
Kyle Caires

Another program that is helping Maui ranchers is the Livestock Producer Assistance Program (LPAP), an initiative of the Maui County Farm Bureau, which has awarded more than $12,000 in funds to 19 livestock producers on Maui and Molokaʻi whose families represent agricultural production on 9,345 acres of land, totaling more than 1,500 cows, 980 hogs, 670 goats, 150 sheep, 70 horses and 330 laying hens.

“The COVID-19 crisis reminded us all of the importance of ensuring our island’s food security,” said Caires, who is chair of the program. “We all know that empty shelves in the grocery store can be frightening, but I assure you that vacant fields and empty pastures would be far more devastating to our island culture and economy as we move into the future.”

Caires added, “Livestock help manage thousands of acres of land in Hawaiʻi and provide overlooked ecosystem services, such as fire suppression during times of drought like we are experiencing now. Our awardees represent roughly 693 years of ranching experience in Maui county, and we’re glad that the LPAP was able to help these ranchers weather the storm and stay in business.”

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