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Sinenci proposes county Ag Department

The Maui News

Maui County Council Member Shane Sinenci has proposed a charter amendment that would create a county Department of Agriculture.

The proposal will be heard at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Government, Ethics and Transparency Committee.

Sinenci said that the proposal aims to promote food security and biosecurity while diversifying and strengthening Maui County’s economy. During the pandemic, Maui County’s unemployment has risen to the highest in the state at 33.4 percent as of May.

“Agriculture is deeply rooted in Maui County’s history, and for generations we have discussed the need to create food security for our islands,” Sinenci said in a news release Friday. “We’ve learned the hard way that being overly reliant on tourism doesn’t promote resiliency.”

The proposed department would:

• Streamline permitting requirements by having agricultural inspectors perform farm inspections.

• Help farmers navigate the myriad of county, state and federal regulations.

• Start as a small entity with a vision to expand as grants and other funding becomes available.

• Create an organizational foundation with a director, deputy director and necessary staff.

• Identify strategic direction, practices and resources that will address and strengthen the needs of the agricultural community.

“The time to act is now,” Sinenci said. “If we miss this critical opportunity, we must wait an additional two years just to propose the department again.”

Charter amendments are proposed during elections years to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

For information on submitting testimony and viewing the meeting, visit mauicounty.us/agendas.

The meeting will be broadcast Tuesday online and on Akaku Channel 53.

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