And so, it seems, is the reality of the state’s budget crisis, with The Advertiser reporting today that proposed layoffs in the Department of Agriculture could imperil food imports and exports.
On the import side, [Big Island Rep. Clifton] Tsuji said, he’s already heard from a major produce importer who warned that a dramatic slowdown in the time it takes to have items inspected could spell the end of the import of certain types of lettuce or other food products that perish easily. "If they don’t have the inspectors, they might have to cease importing these items," Tsuji said.
It’s a double-edged sword. If some stuff’s not coming in, it could increase demand for locally-grown veggies and so spur production. But if we don’t have enough inspectors, it harms exporters, who are a major force in Hawaii’s diversified ag sector. It also increases the risk of more pest species being introduced, which is a major concern for the native environment, farmers and our overall quality of life.
It raises, once again, the question of whether Hawaii is serious about ensuring that agriculture is part of its future.
That question will be front and center as Kauai goes through the process of identifying its Important Ag Lands. We’re the first county to do such a study, which is mandated by Act 233. Dr. Karl Kim of UH has been awarded the county contract, and he’ll be talking about the process at a meeting set for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24 at the Kapaa Library.
I was talking to Farmer Jerry the other day, and he said the most important message that needs to be conveyed about the IAL process is “it’s not gonna be the third Mahele for the developers.”