"You know, it certainly wasn't planned," said Enright, who is chairman of the
Enright, 61, said it wasn't long after he graduated from UH-Hilo that he went to work on
"We were looking for biomass, as we still are today, for alternative energy purposes," he said.
Since then, he also has been an orchard superintendent for Kilauea Agronomics, a cultivation and irrigation superintendent for
His first state job was as deputy director of the
"I was working with the now-Gov. Abercrombie when he was a candidate, writing talking points for agriculture, and I'd had a long career in agriculture around the state, and though I didn't apply for the position in the transition team, I was asked to serve (as volunteer chairman) on the
Issues on his plate include agricultural development, food sustainability, invasive species, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), pesticides and many more, as he works to support the department's mission of enhancing and promoting agriculture and aquaculture in
Enright is a graduate of
Enright lives in Ookala on
QUESTION: How much of what the
ANSWER: For the most part, the department is driven by the rules and regs and laws of the state of
Q: What is the department's mission?
A: It's diverse. It's in animal industry, which is one of our divisions, to keep the livestock industry vital and healthy. ... Then you segue over to the quality-assurance division, and they're inspecting to make sure that coffee is regulated and labeled correctly, and that's also true for eggs and milk and most of the commodities. ... Then, when you move to plant industry, we have plant quarantine -- that's our invasive-species work and trying to keep plant diseases and pests out of the state. ... Also, we do pesticide regulation and we do education and we do enforcement. So it's diverse.
Our ag loan division is the lender of last resort for farmers because there's not a lot of financial institutions that are lending for agriculture. ...
We also have the
Q: It sounds like you must be the third- or fourth-largest department.
A: We're one of the smaller ones, and we get only 0.4 percent of the state budget. So to the extent that there's all the talk about growing food self-sufficiency and moving agriculture forward, we don't have the resources to do that. In the last economic downturn, the department was cut by 40 percent of its workforce.
Q: What are you down to now?
A: We have 264 people employed around the state in the different divisions. ... But we have a third of our workforce that's open, and those are the positions that ... we're attempting to put back into place now that
Q: How do the activities of the state intersect with those of the federal DOA?
A: It depends on which division we're speaking about. With animal industry, we work closely with
Q: Speaking of that, wouldn't you guess that the military might be a major source of invasive species?
A: Yes. We know this coconut rhinoceros beetle was found on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. ...
Q: In general, how is the battle against invasive species going?
A: I guess the way I would start it out is, in 2002 the
Q: What's wrong with just letting various species spread across the face of Earth organically?
A: There are certain pests that we wouldn't want to bring in because we couldn't control them, and the effect that it would have for agriculture is what we're specifically looking at.
Q: So this is about trying to protect
A: That's where it started out initially, but invasive species have become a much bigger issue, and it will be with climate change. ... I was amazed how big a topic invasive species is nationwide. When I go to the
Q: How much of the food that we eat in
A: We don't know that. There's a number that's often been in the press -- 85 percent of the food that we eat is imported -- but it really can't be substantiated. ... The department is currently about eight months into a food-metrics study funded jointly by the Ulupono Initiative and the department. So at the end of the project we'll know exactly what we're growing and what we're importing in each of the commodities. Then we'll have a benchmark to know if we're making progress toward food sustainability.
Q: Isn't the idea of food sustainability really just a pipe dream?
A: Right. It's one of those terms that gets used without getting defined. But it's probably in the neighborhood of 40 percent, say, of our food that we could produce locally. That could be fruit and veg crops certainly, but it also speaks to people's food preferences that are formed early in life. So to the extent that people continue to eat a lot of apples as opposed to mangoes, we won't be able to impact the apple source.
Q: I'm surprised we don't have huge mango orchards in
A: Yes. You know, it's the exporting costs, the transportation costs, in being competitive. But what we do have here in
Q: How much of the food that is grown here is shipped to other locations?
A: In terms of veg crops, not a lot. Most of it is consumed here locally. That's true of most of the fruit crops, too. Certainly all of the bananas.
Q: Then you have the big crops, like sugar, right?
A: Yeah, sugar is exported, mac nuts for the most part are exported, coffee is exported. ... The basil that's grown here, a lot of that is exported.
Q: Has the department ever analyzed the Jones Act, what impact that might be having on food prices in
A: We haven't, and, you know, it's a politically hot issue, but I'll be having a meeting this Saturday with the Cattlemen's Council, and I know that is something that they want to talk to me about.
Q: What crop would you say has the most promise here?
A: One of the places that we'll see real growth in agriculture commodities is with milk. ... Right now we import 80 percent of our milk. ... But with
Q: In terms of nonfood products, did you endorse the proposal to legalize hemp production in
A: Well, I was about as supportive as you could be. If you were to talk to (bill sponsor) Rep.
Q: About pesticides, what is your position regarding the state versus the counties in terms of regulation?
A: It's clear to the
Q: What about GMOs? Do you think
A: It's the cost, as was often spoken to in testimony. A small state like
Then you need to define terms, too, because once a product is processed, you can't find the (DNA) marker that would tell you whether it was genetically modified anyway. ... I'm not a geneticist, but this is what I've been told, so it becomes exceedingly difficult for a small state like
Q: What is your view about the best bio-energy fuel option right now?
A: On the Big Island,
Q: Do the trees grow that fast?
A: You can tree up and harvest it in seven years, and do it in rotation.
Q: And it would be consumed in what way, for power plants?
A: Depending on the technology, you could turn it into fuel for transportation or you could turn it into diesel and bunker fuel that could be used by HELCO on the Big Island.
Q: Labor is really expensive here, so do you work with Immigration or anyone to help import lower-cost ag workers from foreign countries?
A: No, we have not played a role to date in securing ag labor from foreign nationals. ... The department is working with the UH system to develop agriculturalists, and to a certain extent that could include ag labor, but to the extent of meeting the needs in real time of somebody like
Q: If you have a goal of agricultural sustainability, and local workers aren't available ... how do you achieve that without an adequate labor supply?
A: Most of the rest of the country uses ag labor that comes up from south of the border. And that's every state from
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