Sinenci Seeks to Create County Department of Agriculture Through Charter Amendment
East Maui Councilmember Shane M. Sinenci said today his proposed charter amendment to create a county Department of Agriculture will be heard on Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the Government Ethics and Transparency Committee.
He said the proposal aims to promote food security, biosecurity and diversifying and strengthening Maui County’s economy, as COVID-19 has driven unemployment to an alarming 37%. Community food banks are having four-hour waits while managing the stresses of a continuous shortage of food, according to Sinenci.
“Agriculture is deeply rooted in Maui County’s history, and for generations we have discussed the need to create food security for our islands,” he said. “We’ve learned the hard way that being overly reliant on tourism doesn’t promote resiliency.
“It’s disheartening it took a global crisis to expose our vulnerability, but this pandemic has revealed our inevitable need for change.”
Sinenci said the proposed department would do the following:
- 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.
“Agriculture can create careers for our people that allow them to lead a quality life with a noble purpose,” said Sinenci, who is serving his first term on the council, holding the Hāna residency seat. “Agriculture isn’t just about growing crops—it includes animal husbandry, aquaculture, forestry, addressing invasive species, product development, equipment development, marketing and product sales.
“The time to act is now. If we miss this critical opportunity, we must wait an additional two years just to propose the department again.
In addition to receiving testimony by phone or video conference, the council’s committees encourage written testimony, Sinenci said. Information on to how to submit testimony is posted on the committee meeting agenda.