Budget cuts enacted by the Hawaii state government have led to significant reductions in the number of cargo inspectors, leading many farmers to worry about potential pests and the future of their farms.
Thanks to its tropical climate, lack of natural predators, and location as a major shipping hub, Hawaii is under constant threat from invasive pest species. The state has a long history of invasive, non-native species wreaking havoc on the native flora and fauna. The introduction of the mongoose, a native of India, helped drive several native bird species to the brink of extinction. Likewise, the accidental importation of the coffee borer beetle has severely damaged coffee farms across the state.
With this history in mind, many farmers are worried that reductions to the number of state cargo inspectors will lead to increased importation of invasive species. The number of inspectors has already fallen from 95 in 2009 to 50 last year. According to state Department of Agriculture statistics, the number of species intercepted dropped from 663 in 2009 to 87 in 2010.
Farmers are worried that more pests could hurt their ability to compete. Given that Hawaiian agriculture is already at a disadvantage due to high shipping costs, any additional production costs could be ruinous for many farmers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer