Statewide Campaign to Save Ag Inspectors

Media Release:

The Lingle administration, attempting to balance the State budget, has authorized the layoff of 118 employees of the Department of Agriculture – including 50 of the 78 inspectors. The DOA, with one of the state’s smallest budgets, is getting the biggest cut.

Agriculture Inspection Area at the Honolulu Airport.

Agriculture Inspection Area at the Honolulu Airport.

The drastic layoff of DOA inspectors means that most imported produce will be inspected in Honolulu before being shipped to the outer islands. Oahu inspectors, cut from 51 to 24, must carry this increased load. Delays, higher costs and lower quality are all expected as a result. This chaotic situation may even allow some produce and other goods to enter Hawaii un-inspected.

With too few inspectors to certify them, Hawaii’s 320 export nurseries will be forced to shut down, resulting in the loss of more than 1000 established full time jobs. And Hawaii’s economy could lose $250 million in agricultural exports.

Produce exporters may also go out of business. Many supporting small  businesses like fertilizer or equipment suppliers will suffer. The slowdown in commodity grading will be disastrous for the coffee and papaya exporters. Delays of imports and exports threaten the livestock industry. Critical programs including Biological Control, Noxious Weed Control, Enforcement, Rapid Response and Commodity Grading will diminish or end. Even inspection of farms, which grow and process food for school lunches, may end, jeopardizing the health of our children. Interisland inspections will be abandoned; leaving Maui vulnerable to the little Fire Ant, Varroa Mite, Coqui frog and the slug that carries the rat lung worm. Clearly, even home gardening will be more and more difficult.

Improvements to our inspection regime, hard won over the past twenty years will be lost with the dismantling of the DOA wall of protection. The Ag inspectors targeted for layoff have intercepted the Brown Tree Snake on eight occasions, the dangerous Red Imported Fire Ant on two occasions and the Little Fire Ant once. A parcel of 16 piranhas was recently intercepted on Maui. Every week, at the Kahului Airport, these highly trained inspectors fill a 40-foot trailer– freezer with produce infested with insects and diseases, including some pests not previously known in Hawaii. Abandoning this essential infrastructure leaves us vulnerable to a flood of invasive species that threaten our economy, health and way of life.

Cutting Ag Inspectors will save only $3.8 million annually, but the negative impacts will likely be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, should the Red Imported Fire Ant become established in Hawaii, control will cost $211 million a year.

The Pest Inspection, Quarantine and Eradication Fund, a fee-for-services law, was enacted to fund the Inspection Branch of the DOA. The Senate should pass an amendment establishing a penalty for non-compliance with this law, thus assuring adequate funds for the Inspectors.

This assault on the Dept of Agriculture is unacceptable.

Let the senators and the governor know we want to protect Maui and all of Hawaii. In addition, a 200 words or less Letter to the Editor to the Honolulu Advertiser and the Maui News would be very helpful.

Hawaii Agriculture & Conservation Coalition

P.O. Box 170

Haiku, HI.

96708

letters@honoluluadvertiser.com

Fax: 808 535-2415

The Honolulu Advertiser

P.O. Box 3110

Honolulu, HI 96802

letters@mauinews.com

The Maui News

100 Mahalani St.

Wailuku, HI 96793

governor.lingle@hawaii.gov

Tel: 800 586-0034 (Be respectful when addressing the Governor)

Fax: 808 586-0006

reps@capitol.hawaii.gov

sens@capitol.hawaii.gov

Hawaii Agriculture and Conservation Coalition Petition

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