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  • Writer's pictureHawai'i House Democrats

LEGISLATURE PASSES BIOSECURITY BILL TO SUPPORT MITIGATION OF INVASIVE SPECIES

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – In an historic response to increased awareness and concern about the invasive species crisis in our state, and the need to eradicate the widespread damage they cause statewide, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2619 HD1 SD1 CD1 in a final reading in both the Senate and House last Wednesday.

 

The bill explicitly requires the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to lead and coordinate the State's invasive pest control and biosecurity efforts. It also requires the HDOA to post on its website real-time updates on pest infestations, including date, location, actions performed, and names of staff and organizations involved, so that the public knows exactly who to contact at the HDOA, if the problem isn’t being addressed. The bill also provides funding to each county as a grant-in-aid, subject to a county match, for the implementation of feral chicken control programs.

 

The bill commits nearly $20 million to the HDOA to assist in the administration and implementation of their Biosecurity Program, including forty-four new positions. The bill also adds twenty-two new Plant Quarantine Branch inspectors to oversee plant materials, which is critical in order to mitigate the transportation of these invasive pests.

 

In his eighth year as the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee Chair, Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the companion bill (SB2419) in the Senate, said, “I’m excited to see this biosecurity bill on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. I applaud WAM Chair, Senator Dela Cruz and his staff, and his counterpart, House FIN Chair Yamashita, the Legislature, HDOA, and all the farming/ranching/agriculture stakeholders who collaborated to craft this comprehensive Biosecurity package that reflects the extreme urgency of this critical issue. After many years of demanding our state do more to support agriculture and help the people of Hawai‘i regarding invasive species, we’re finally putting our money where our mouth is. In my humble opinion, this bill is a masterpiece… indeed, it’s been a long time coming.”

 

Under current law, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, the HDOA is required to implement a comprehensive biosecurity program to control and prevent increasing threats of pests and prohibited or restricted organisms without a permit from spreading throughout the State. While inspections are critical, increasing the State’s ability to prevent the entry of high-risk products would enhance its ability to mitigate and manage invasive pests. This is vitally important not only to protect the State’s fragile environment, but also to grow Hawaiʻi’s local agricultural industries and to increase levels of self-sufficiency and sustainability.  

 

“This year, the Legislature has made significant investments in biosecurity to protect our land and natural resources, which reinforces the urgency of safeguarding our environment against invasive pests that endanger Hawaiʻi's native species and communities. Designating a centralized agency to bolster the defense of our lands and shores will protect our natural habitat and preserve the well-being of our state,” said House Committee on Finance Chair Kyle T. Yamashita (D-12, Upcountry Maui).

 

“This bill honors the work of former State Representative Clift Tsuji, who fought tirelessly for biosecurity during his tenure as the House Agriculture Committee Chair,” said Representative Kirstin Kahaloa (D-6, Hōnaunau, Nāpō‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa, Kailua-Kona). “It recommits Hawaiʻi to protecting its environment, food security, and way of life against invasive species by placing the leadership of all biosecurity efforts on the Department of Agriculture. It funds nearly $20 million in staffing and programming to manage and eradicate invasive species like coconut rhinoceros beetles, little fire ants, two-lined spittle bugs, and more. This legislation will let our keiki play free without the fear of being bitten by little fire ants. It will keep our picturesque Hawaiian scenes with coconut trees proudly displayed across Hawaiʻi.  This effort helps our state make biosecurity a priority.”

 

HB 2619 will advance to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

 

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