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.
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.
Positions targeted to balance state budget
By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
POSTED: August 30, 2009
PUKALANI – Plant quarantine officials said last week that laying off more than half the state’s agricultural inspectors would create such a logjam at Hawaii ports that it could cause shortages similar to those seen during shipping strikes.
Carol Okada, manager of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch, said she has not been able to develop a plan for how her department will continue its core functions after it loses 52 employees, 50 of them inspectors, to layoffs planned for November.
She said food shipments to Maui and the other Neighbor Islands, which because of staff shortages would now have to be routed through Honolulu for inspection, would have to sit on the docks until the state’s remaining inspectors could look at them, with the risk that some food could spoil in the unchilled containers.
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.
BY NEIL JEROME C. MORALES, Reporter
Banana exports to US seen by next year
LOCAL [Philippine RP] BANANA producers will likely be able to export fresh bananas to the United States starting next year, an Agriculture official said yesterday.
"I am optimistic that the process in exporting [bananas] would be fast because the banana industry is organized," Joel S. Rudinas, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), told reporters.
"Right now we are in the comment period [proposing procedures to the US Department of Agriculture, or USDA]…until maybe end of August or September," he said, adding that the US banana market is worth over $100 million.
Manila asked Washington in December 2005 to allow fresh banana exports to the US mainland, and followed this request with another in September 2007 to export the same commodity to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.
The USDA gave Manila preliminary approval last July to export fresh bananas to the US mainland, with final approval pending proof by the Philippine government that it has sufficiently quarantined banana pests.
Speaking of animal quarantine policies, they exist not only in many foreign destinations, but also in the state of Hawaii. Further information is available at hawaii.gov/hdoa/ai/aqs/info.
ADVISORY (August 17, 2009) –
The State of Hawai’i is currently faced with a significant budgetary shortfall. While it is still uncertain how budget cuts may affectservices by the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture, you should be aware that if you are qualifying your pet for direct release at Honolulu International Airport and are currently making travel arrangements, it may be prudent to arrange to arrive in Honolulu during between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. This is especially important if you are planning to take a connecting flight to another island with your pet the same day.
Currently, some employees have received layoff notices. In addition, the possibility of furloughs exists. In the event layoffs or furloughs or both are implemented, it can result in a reduction of the current hours of inspection for airport release. Animals that arrive at the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility after hours of inspection will be held overnight and processed the following morning.
We are providing this advisory as a precaution, because we realize that flight arrangements are usually made far in advance of travel. If the situation changes, we will update this webpage accordingly.
The airport office will continue to accept pets arriving from the airlines at Honolulu International Airport; however, we anticipate that inspection hours may be affected, which will result in delays in processing the inspection and release of pets at the airport.