March 22, 2018

Hirono Announces $3.7 Million in Federal Funding to Fight Invasive Species, Support Hawaii Agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) announced $3.7 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for eight Hawaii projects that fight invasive species and protect Hawaii’s agriculture industry.

“Invasive pests continue to threaten the livelihood of Hawaii farmers and future of our agriculture industry,” Senator Hirono said. “This funding will advance research focused on the eradication of several invasive pests and pathogens, as well as provide additional resources to protect our environment and agriculture crops from invasive species that are not currently found in Hawaii.”

“Biosecurity is one of Hawaii’s top priorities for our agricultural industry,” Nicholas Comerford, PhD, Dean and Director of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources said. “This funding will assist the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in providing prevention, detection, and mitigation of unwanted invasive species and therefore protect agriculture, along with Hawaii’s fragile island ecosystem and community.”

The eight projects are funded through Section 10007 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Farm Bill, and will address threats such as the coconut rhinoceros beetle, coffee berry borer, and invasive ants. Last year, Senator Hirono led a letter to the USDA in support of strong federal support for these projects.

The $3.7 million in USDA funding will be allocated to the following projects:

·         $1.3 million to support coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) eradication activities in Hawaii;

·         $980,000 to identify and use predatory insects for biological control and to develop other tools to address the CRB, as well as to mitigate the impact of other harmful plant pests such as tephritid species and the coffee berry borer;

·         $643,000 to develop or enhance plant pest and disease diagnostic and identification technologies for exotic fruit flies, fruit piercing moth, and Dickeya species of pests;

·         $233,000 to develop a compendium reference publication on fruit fly host commodities;

·         $232,000 for x-ray equipment supporting Hawaii pre-departure agricultural inspections of commercial air passengers;

·         $123,000 to survey for harmful invasive mollusks and solanaceous vegetable crop pathogens;

·         $138,000 to support increased awareness about invasive ants and CRB in Hawaii; and

·         $44,000 to support National Clean Plant Network foundation plant stocks for sweet potato.

These projects, which will be carried out by both federal and state agencies as well as academia and non-profits, illustrate the important role that federal partnerships play in protecting Hawaii’s unique environment and agricultural industry. Prevention, early detection, and rapid response are critical to fighting invasive pests and diseases and these funds will help advance those efforts throughout the state.