HDOA Restores 22 Agriculture Inspector Positions

The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture has announced the temporary restoration of 22 plant quarantine inspector positions that were slated to be eliminated as part of the state’s effort to close a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.  In August, 50 of the state’s 83 agricultural inspectors were issued Reduction-In-Force notices.  The revision will allow the department to further support core inspection services at all ports statewide; however, state officials say inspection capacity will still be significantly decreased from current levels.  Here on Maui, three positions will be cut under the revision for a total staffing of 11.

File Photo by Wendy Osher.

File Photo by Wendy Osher.

To restore the 22 positions, a total of about $1.8 million from alternate sources of funding will be transferred to the General Fund. On August 18th, the Hawai`i Invasive Species Council approved $600,000 earmarked for invasive species prevention to be used to fund some of the positions.  In addition, $1.2 million will be transferred from fees collected in the Pest Inspection, Quarantine and Eradication Special Fund.  Maritime and airline companies that bring in cargo to Hawai`i are required to pay 50 cents per 1,000 lbs. of cargo into this special fund for inspection, quarantine and eradication of invasive species that may be transported into the state.  These actions will fund the 22 positions for a single year.

“The department continues to look for alternative sources of funding,” said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture.  “In addition, we are working on increasing coordination of inspection services to make the most efficient use of our work force and minimize the disruption to our important agricultural, food and shipping industries,” said Kunimoto.

The changes will result in the following adjustment in inspection coverage:

Port Pre-RIF Post-RIF

Hilo                    10                                  6

Kona                   4                                   3

Kaua‘i                 3                                   2

Maui                  14                                  11

O‘ahu                52                                  33

Total                 83                                  55

With reduced staffing, priorities for inspectors will be focused on all incoming cargo from Guam to prevent the introduction of the brown treesnake, and to inspect food for human consumption and animal feed. The department is also working closely with Federal partners and the agriculture industry to share responsibilities and develop alternate inspection arrangements. 

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Information provided by the State Department of Agriculture)

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