Maui News

Abercrombie Restores 10 Agricultural Inspector Positions

July 13, 2011, 2:42 PM HST
* Updated July 13, 4:25 PM
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By Wendy Osher

With the restored inspector positions, the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Plant Quarantine Branch will increase inspection coverage at the Honolulu International Airport--identified as the highest-risk entry point for invasive species. Honolulu International Airport, photo by Wendy Osher.

Ten of the 32 agricultural inspector positions that were eliminated in 2009, will be restored under a hiring announcement made by Governor Neil Abercrombie today.  All of the restored positions are on O’ahu, which suffered the largest cut of 24 inspectors two years ago.

Maui had four positions cut in 2009, with staffing reduced to its current level of 13 inspectors.  Although Maui and the other neighbor islands were not included in today’s job restoration announcement, the reinstated jobs on O’ahu are expected to provide increased inspection of cargo moving between the islands.

“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 Gov. Abercrombie.

With the restored inspector positions, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Plant Quarantine Branch will increase inspection coverage at the Honolulu International Airport–identified as the highest-risk entry point for invasive species.  The state expects that the reinstated posts will help to decrease the amount of overtime that importers are paying for after-hours cargo inspection.

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According to the Governor’s office, the job restoration could potentially lead to the re-establishment of the department’s detector dog program.

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“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.

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 following table depicts the number of inspectors prior to the layoff and the current number statewide:

PORT
2009 Staff
(prior to layoffs)
Current Staff
Current Vacancies
(incl. 10 positions announced)
O’ahu
61
26
24 (10 to be filled)
Maui
17
13
4
Kaua’i
3
2
0
Kona
4
2
1
Hilo
10
7
3
TOTAL
95
50
32 (10 to be filled)
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HDOA will be using a “recall list” to bring back former agricultural inspectors. The positions will be funded by the Pest Inspection Quarantine and Eradication Special Fund, which cargo importers pay into based on cargo weight. The branch hopes to complete the rehiring procedures as soon as possible and have the inspectors back on the inspection teams.

“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 other ways to boost our inspection services.”

*** Supporting information courtesy State of Hawai’i, Office of the Governor.

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