Governor Neil Abercrombie approved the hiring of 10 agricultural inspectors, restoring some positions that were eliminated in 2009. The 10 positions will increase the level of inspections of produce and agricultural material and decrease inspection delays at Honolulu International Airport.
"Reinstating our agricultural inspectors was a key element of the New Day Plan and its promise to protect the environment, grow more of our own food, and restore a strong economy in Hawai'i," said Governor Abercrombie.
With the restored inspector positions, the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture's (HDOA) Plant Quarantine Branch will:
* Increase inspection coverage at Honolulu International Airport, which is the highest-risk entry point for invasive species
* Increase inspection of cargo moving interisland
* Decrease the amount of overtime that importers are paying for after-hours cargo inspection
* Allow for time to concentrate on processing import permits for vital bioenergy and research projects
* Potentially re-establish the detector dog program
Governor Abercrombie also signed into law House Bill 1568, now Act 202, which directs the Department of Transportation and HDOA to begin the design and construction of biosecurity inspection facilities at airports and harbors. These inspection facilities will allow HDOA and federal inspection authorities to perform their inspection tasks more efficiently and safely.
"Investing in our agricultural inspection activities to prevent the introduction of invasive species will save the state money in the long run," said Russell S. Kokubun, Chairperson of the Hawai'i Board of Agriculture. "Restoring agricultural inspection positions and the construction of new biosecurity inspection facilities will greatly improve our ability to protect our environment from the irreparable harm of outside threats."
Prior to layoffs in 2009, there were 95 plant quarantine inspectors statewide, covering all domestic maritime and air cargo inspections and handling import permits for regulated plants, animals and microorganisms. Currently, there are only 50 agricultural inspectors statewide.
"The more eyes you have looking, the more invasive species you're going to find and prevent from entering our environment," said Carol Okada, Manager of the Plant Quarantine Branch. "One of our main priorities is to get our inspectors back on the job while we continue to search for others ways to boost our inspection services."