The elimination of six plant quarantine inspectors, also within the Department of Agriculture, will limit nursery certification statewide and force cargo headed for Kauai to instead be routed to Honolulu for inspection.
Documents turned over to the Hawaii Government Employees Association last month by the Lingle administration detail the criteria used to eliminate more than 1,100 state jobs by mid November.
Khon2 obtained a copy of all 462 pages provided to the union as ordered by the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
Department directors and supervisors were told to keep the following criteria in mind when eliminating jobs
- Minimize health and safety impacts.
- Minimize adverse impacts on service to the public and agencies involved.
- Prohibit the reduction of staffing levels below the minimum required to support critical program functions.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The House Agriculture Committee will hold a second informational briefing on the impact of potential layoffs for agricultural inspectors. Tomorrow, Ag Chair Rep. Clift Tsuji will focus on Hawaii’s wide range of exports. You can see it live on Olelo, Ch. 49.
WHAT: The House Agriculture Committee will hold a meeting to gather information on the negative impact of potential agriculture inspector layoffs on Hawaii’s export industry, including plants, tropical flowers, tropical fruits/papaya, macadamia nuts, coffee, and more.
WHEN: Thursday, September 10, 2009
WHERE: State Capitol, Conference Room 325
Posted by Georgette at 11:12 AM
Agricultural groups fear state layoffs will backlog shipments
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 08, 2009
Agricultural industry executives worry that Hawaii businesses will wither on the vine and incoming food will rot on the docks if the state goes through with massive layoffs of agriculture inspectors.
Plans call for laying off 50 of the state’s 78 agriculture inspectors, 64 percent of that specialized work force.
Diminished inspection capacity could also cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year if additional invasive species get established, industry officials say.
State inspectors both certify products to be exported out of Hawaii and inspect food and plants being imported into the state.
KAHULUI – Environmentalists and farmers lashed out Thursday night at the announced layoffs of state agricultural inspectors, arguing that the move planned by the Lingle administration would uproot efforts to preserve the island’s agricultural industry and pristine environment.
Close to 100 people turned out at a Senate Ad Hoc Committee meeting held in the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria. The crowd applauded those who spoke against the layoffs, some even attacking Gov. Linda Lingle.
From Jeffrey Parker and Masako Cordray Westcott of the Hawaii Agriculture & Conservation Coalition
Emergency Senate Hearing on the Dept of Agriculture layoffs – please testimony today!
Thursday, Sept 3rd, 5-9pm, Maui Waena School, 795 Onehee Ave, Kahului
KAHULUI – The Hawaii State Senate Ad Hoc Committee will hold an informational briefing today on how the layoffs of agricultural inspectors will impact Maui.
Coordinated by Maui Sens. Roz Baker, J. Kalani English and Shan Tsutsui, the meeting will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Maui Waena Intermediate School.
The Maui office of the state Department of Agriculture Plant Quarantine Branch would lose six of 17 positions in layoffs planned for November. Statewide, more than half the department’s agricultural inspectors would be cut.
The head of the Plant Quarantine Branch said last week that the layoffs could mean long delays for imports into the state and could make Hawaii vulnerable to invasive pests.
Similar briefings were held in Kona, Hilo and Honolulu.
HONLULU — The head of the state agriculture department said Wednesday she’s located funds to cut in half the number of agriculture inspectors who may be laid off because of the state’s budget crisis.
The Lingle administration plans to use money from a new user fee that the governor tried to veto two years ago.
In August, the state notified 50 agriculture inspectors they could be laid off — that’s two-thirds of the staff who check Christmas Trees and incoming produce for invasive pests like snakes and insects.
The farming industry is upset, because a lack of inspectors will slow down outgoing shipments of everything from corn seed to fish grown in aquaculture operations.
The Chairperson of the State Agriculture Department said she plans to use money from two funds to cut the amount of layoffs in half to 25 inspectors.
"That would give us some breathing room as we continue to look for more funds and at least to stave off the initial layoffs during this period," said state agriculture chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto.
This is a terrible time to start importing foreign bananas due to the proposed layoffs of agricultural inspectors. The domestic crop could easily be devastated by invasive pests including banana rasp snail, red palm mite, two-spotted mite, banana root borer, banana aphid and the mealybug.
Manila may agree to Washington’s proposal to allow the entry of cold climate vegetables in exchange for the export of Philippine bananas in the US.
Agriculture officials said this may be the only way to secure the approval of the US Department of Agriculture for the Philippines’ formal request to penetrate the lucrative US market for fresh bananas.
“They are asking us if they can export temperate vegetables to the Philippines. We haven’t responded yet, but the arguments will always lead to a counter-trade arrangement," said Bureau of Plant Industry director Joel Rudinas.
The US government, Rudinas said, has expressed its interest to export temperate vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus.
He said the Philippines must submit its position on the findings of the import risk assessment (IRA) conducted by the US government on Philippine bananas as a protocol in the processing of requests for fruit exports.
In its IRA last month, the USDA said Philippine bananas may be allowed entry into the US market if mitigating measures be undertaken to address the issue of the danger of potential pests.
An IRA reviews existing quarantine policy on the import of animals, plants and their products, identifies and classifies potential quarantine risks and develop policies to manage them.
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
Budget cuts have left California with fewer inspectors and made that state more prone to slap sanctions on importers when pests are discovered. Hawai’i may also lose inspectors if the state lays off workers in November as planned to balance its budget.
Five key agricultural officials sent a warning letter this month to hundreds of Hawai’i growers and shippers who sell flowers, foliage, herbs, vegetables, potted nursery products and fruit, alerting them to the potential risk of not cleaning up their shipments.
"Anyone that currently ships to California can be the ‘last straw’ that triggers the decision by California to impose severe restrictions on the movement of all products from Hawai’i into the California market," the letter states.