The global coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on many shipping operations across the country, with import and export operations slowing or grinding to a halt. Not so at the Hawaii Government Employees Association, where agricultural inspectors have kept the process of inspecting imported food and plants for pests seamless and uninterrupted.

“Being a plant quarantine inspector means I am on the front lines, defending the state against any harmful invaders,” said Plant Quarantine Inspector Techie Lancaster, who adds “Since COVID-19, inspections seem more tedious and somewhat stressful in terms of cleaning and being more aware of your surroundings…but it’s all worth the effort.”

Agricultural inspection is crucial to ensuring that foreign pests don’t decimate Hawaii’s natural landscape and resources, but the state is facing coronavirus-related budget cuts which threaten to slash the number of inspectors by half.

“With limited manpower there would be a significant delay in inspections…which means the public won’t get their produce [on time]” Lancaster warns.

Hawaii, like many states, is looking to congress for new funding aimed at bridging budget gaps, supporting municipal workers, and ensuring that a reduction in important services like import inspection are not disrupted.

Congressional aid will help workers like Technie continue to – in her own words – “make a difference in preserving the natural beauty of Hawaii for future generations to enjoy.”

Read more about Techie Lancaster’s work and Hawaii’s reliance on inspectors like her here.