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
Subject: Do not cut Dept. of Ag Inspectors.
The Lingle administration, is attempting to balance the State budget, by authorizing the layoff of 118 employees of the Department of Agriculture – half of its staff. DOA, with one of the smallest budgets, is getting the biggest cut.
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. Almost daily, these highly trained inspectors find insects and diseases 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.
The drastic cut in DOA inspectors means that most imported produce will be inspected in Honolulu before being shipped to Maui. O’ahu inspectors, cut from 51 to 24, are expected to 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 Hawai’i un-inspected.
Critical programs like Biological Control, Noxious Weed Control, Enforcement, Rapid Response and Commodity Grading will diminish or end. Hawaii’s 300 export nurseries will no longer be certified causing the collapse of our export agriculture industry, the closing of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of an untold number of jobs. Delays of imports and exports will threaten the livestock industry.
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.
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.
This assault on the Dept of Agriculture is unacceptable.
We want all Department of Agriculture Inspectors to remain at their jobs.