SAND ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii’s largest shipment of Christmas trees from the mainland is here.
On Sunday morning, inspectors combed through them and they found some creatures who came along for the joy ride.
A salamander, some tree frogs, and a cricket are among the hitchhikers in this season’s shipment of Christmas trees.
But after all the shaking, and searching for invasive species at Matson’s Sand island terminal, it was a slimy guy who triggered a red flag.
“We found several slugs and we’re concerned about it being a problem here to our agriculture industry, environment and also public health and safety,” said Glenn Sakamoto, Plant Quarantine Inspector with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
The state says the slug was found in 11 of the 62 containers.
The vendor has a choice. It can either treat the trees or send them back to the mainland.
This is the third shipment in three weeks.
In all, there are roughly 200 containers filled with more than 80,000 Christmas trees.
The state says that’s more than last year.
That’s because there was a shortage of trees, and people started air freighting them.
The state anticipates a bigger supply this year.
As for the little buggers, inspectors say if they have kamaaina family members, they get to stay in Hawaii.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii has a lot of beautiful flowers that are available year-round. But we still think of evergreens and holly when it comes to Christmas decorations.
“I guess we’re kind of conditioned,” said Eric Tanouye, Vice President and General Manager of Green Point Nurseries of Hilo. “We’re all to blame for that. We’re looking for that certain look that maybe we grew up with.
But Hawaii’s agriculture community wants us to consider buying local plants and flowers. “Our locally produced flowers and plants make beautiful arrangements that could be used for holidays. Home settings, entertaining, at the office,” Tanouye said.
Tanouye was among those at the first annual “Buy Local for the Holidays” event Sunday at the Department of Agriculture’s plant quarantine branch facility near Sand Island. Floral designers from around the state were on hand, putting together flower arrangements. The public was also invited to create their own small floral arrangements to take home.
Organizers said there were two big reasons to buy local. First, export orders for Hawaii’s cut flower industry have fallen during the current economic downturn, and buying local would create a homegrown economic stimulus. Second, it would prevent invasive species from entering the state.
by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
An immediate suspension of green coffee imports into Hawaii to prevent further damage by the coffee berry borer is being sought by the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.
Hawaii Department of Agriculture officials also are preparing a quarantine on green coffee bean transportation from Kona, where the pest was confirmed at 21 sites between Kaloko and Manuka State Park, said Neil Reimer, Hawaii Plant Pest Control Branch chief.
The Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals may consider the quarantine request at a meeting later this month. However, the seven-member committee was struggling to establish a quorum and Lyle Wong, Plant Industry Division administrator, is in China, Reimer said.
If the pest is deemed an “immediate emergency” and the committee passes the recommendation, it will go before the Board of Agriculture for approval and implementation. The 10-member board usually meets the last Tuesday of the month in Honolulu, Reimer said.
A search Wednesday of the Department of Agriculture’s online calendars showed no meetings scheduled in November and December for the Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals or the Board of Agriculture.
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.
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.
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.
CTAHR dean details impacts of ag. inspectors layoffs
Updated at 3:27 am, Thursday, August 20, 2009.
Andrew Hashimoto, dean and director of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, gave the following testimony to the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee about the potential impacts of laying off Department of Agriculture staff.
I am pleased to provide personal testimony relating to the potential impacts on the community and agricultural industry on the Big Island, arising from the anticipated reduction and possible elimination of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch. This testimony does not represent the position of the University of Hawaii or CTAHR.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has 329 “permanent” employees, of which 118 (approximately 36 percent) have received notices for layoff.
The Plant Quarantine (PQ) Branch will be especially hard hit. It has a total of 78 inspectors and 16 technicians (aides).
Of that, 50 inspectors and two technicians (all general funded) have been given notices. The remainder (11 inspectors and 14 technicians) are paid from special funds.
Most of the inspectors to be laid off will be from the neighbor islands. Information on the number of layoffs for each of the other HDOA branches is not known. The impact of the layoff in the PQ branch is discussed.
Should the layoffs go forward in November as planned by Gov. Linda Lingle, not all Maui-based inspectors will disappear, according to Carol Okada, manager of the Plant Quarantine Bureau in the state Department of Agriculture.
There are inspectors in 10 positions covered by special funds who will not be affected, including six funded by the state Department of Transportation. But the six positions paid out of the state’s general fund are on the budget-cutting hit list.
Anna Mae Shishido, Maui County supervisor of the Maui Plant Quarantine Branch, wrote a letter expressing her concern about the impact of the layoffs to two Maui lawmakers – state Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Joe Souki.
She said the Transportation Department’s special fund specifies that the six inspectors it pays for would work at the Kahului Airport – which means they wouldn’t do maritime inspections.
As a result, Matson and other containers carrying produce, animal feed and other agricultural material would need to go to Honolulu first for inspection, Shishido said. Diverting that cargo to Oahu would mean extra handling of Maui-bound containers, adding delays and costs for consumers.
The layoffs would also mean that more than two dozen certified nurseries on Maui would no longer be able to self-certify their plant shipments to other states because state inspectors would not be available to conduct semi-annual nursery re-certification inspections, she said.
Shishido said she was alarmed about the potential for infestations of alien species without maritime inspections on Maui.
"We anticipate increased infestations of stinging nettle caterpillars and coqui frogs on Maui and new infestations of little fire ants and the varroa mite, which have not been found here so far," she said. "The safeguards we have worked so hard to put in place will be drastically decreased or completely gone. Maui will be exposed."