Feds slight Hawaii's agricultural interests
The federal government has approved imports of tropical fruits from Thailand while maintaining a ban on Hawaii-grown products.
HAWAII growers will likely suffer an economic blow because of the federal government's unfair decision to allow cheap imports of competing products from Thailand to the United States while blocking island tropical fruits from the same market.
The decision follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's typical pattern of ignoring the state's interests while advancing foreign imports that undercut local businesses. It again shows the inability of Hawaii's congressional delegation and Republican governor to persuade the Bush administration to give even minimal regard to the state's agricultural economy.
For nearly eight years, Hawaii's tropical fruit growers have been seeking the department's approval for sending their fruit, irradiated to remove possible pests, to mainland markets. Meanwhile, the department took less than a year to give Thailand the OK to ship irradiated lychee, rambutan, pineapple and mango to the continent and Hawaii.
The department last year told local farmers that their economic interests weren't part of the formula in making a decision. An international treaty allows the agency to consider only health and safety risk, but does not consider protecting Hawaii from invasive species from Asia as one of them.
Officials attributed the delay in approving Hawaii fruits to the varied doses of irradiation from fruit to fruit, which growers propose primarily to ensure quality. Still, eight years is a long time, even for a bureaucracy.
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