Question: When we fly to the mainland, USDA agents scan luggage and remove fruits, vegetables and other plant material to prevent damage to mainland farms. When we fly into Hawaii, there is a voluntary disclosure system and “Amnesty Bins”--and no involvement on the part of the USDA. What are your ideas on how to bring the same type of USDA protections to Hawaii farmers as provided to mainland farmers?
Joe Akana: US House Hawaii District 2
To increase protections of Hawaii’s farmers and crops, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the USDA regulations should be reciprocal. Currently when traveling from the US Mainland to Hawaii agriculture screening is self-declared on a form, unlike traveling form Hawaii to the US Mainland where all agricultural items must be screened. There should be the same care taken to protect Hawaii as we do to protect the US Mainland.
Patrick P. Branco: US House Hawaii District 2
In Congress, I will work with the Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security, and the USDA to ensure there is equity for Hawaiʻi’s farmers when it comes to visitors from the continent threatening Hawaiʻi’s biosecurity. An idea to study could involve moving direct flights to Hawaiʻi from the continent to international terminals at the airports of origin, which are already equipped for extra screening that some foreign governments require of international passengers. In these terminals there could be USDA agents stationed to scan luggage for travelers to Hawaiʻi. If the burden for further agricultural screening would ultimately fall to Hawaiʻi’s airports, I would work with the Department of Transportation and USDA to secure the funding necessary to have USDA agents scan luggage for passengers from the continent upon their arrival in Hawaiʻi.
Brendan Schultz: US House Hawaii District 2
If proven effective, I would support inbound agricultural screening funded fully by the federal government and conducted either by the USDA or the State of Hawai’i. It appears that the best solution that protects Hawai’i’s agricultural industry is to do the same for Hawai’i as we do for the mainland. I am also open to other ideas for federally funded programs to protect Hawai’i’s agricultural industry.
Steven Sparks: US House Hawaii District 2
I have always questioned that. Are we not apart of the United States? I think the USDA has put the inspection process on to the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture and they have dropped the ball. I would need to research this more to give you a better answer.