HONOLULU – Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Monday that he plans to veto a bill that would remove mandatory certification for Hawaii-grown coffee, a measure Kona coffee farmers said would be disastrous for the industry’s integrity and reputation.
Abercrombie listed the bill as one of 19 he is considering vetoing from the 2012 legislative session. Some of the bills are still under consideration, he said.
Kona coffee farmers who were against the certification repeal from the start welcomed the veto. The certification helps them fight against lesser-quality products, they said.
“The implications of this measure are problematic,” Abercrombie said. “Further discussion is needed to ensure that the Hawaii brand will not be undermined.”
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.
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."