Emergency appointment of Acting Director for Agriculture made

Both DOA director and deputy director are off island gov says
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Due to “critical issues” affecting locally grown agriculture products, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has made an “emergency appointment” of an Acting Director for the Agriculture Department in the absence of the department’s director and deputy director from the territory.

In a separate memo, the governor has appointed an Acting Director for the American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture and Humanities, following the resignation of its former director this month — Nov. 18.

AGRICULTURE

In a Nov. 22 memo, Lolo appointed Tapa’au Dr. Daniel Aga to the post of Acting Director for Agriculture, duly noting the absence of the director and deputy director from the territory.

“This emergency appointment is made because of critical issues affecting the safety of locally grown agriculture products being consumed by the local school children and the general public,” the governor explained.

Lolo says it’s imperative that the methods being used involving the utilization of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides must be assessed to ensure that proper safety standards are met.

“Moreover, given the remoteness of our island and its susceptibility to food shortages, it is necessary that we improve our capacity to be self-sufficient to locally grown foods items,” he said. “It is important that the territory engage in food production to reduce our vulnerability to natural and manmade disasters.”

Additionally, this mandate requires the collaboration between Agriculture and the American Samoa Community College Land Grant to ensure that “our food security and food safety objectives are achieved.

The governor calls on cabinet directors to extend to Tapa’au their “support as he embarks to accomplish specific tasks connected with this assignment and appointment.”

Late last month, DOA implemented a temporary ban on the sale of all locally grown produce except for local taro, green bananas, ripe bananas and hydroponically-grown vegetables, until further notice, to the school lunch program as well as the market, stores, restaurants and roadside stands.

The move followed a DOA inspection of farms where it “uncovered numerous violations by some local farmers” during routine DOA farm inspections in October.  Two weeks ago, DOA re-certified some local farms to sell to stores, restaurants, market, and roadside stalls, while the temporary suspension remains in place for the school lunch program.

Farmers have continued to speak out to Samoa News about the ‘unfairness’ of the ban — punishing all for the wrong by a few, with no specific evidence of wrongdoing, as well as there being no set schedule for the re-certification visits by DOA inspectors, causing farmers to lose lots of money while waiting for them.

Agriculture Director Lealao Melila Purcell has been off island for medical reasons. It’s unknown at this time the reason for the department’s Deputy Director Peter Gurr, who had been Acting Director for several weeks, leaving island.

Tapa’au has been serving as executive director of the newly established Office of Political Status, Constitution and Federal Relations since April this year.

ARTS COUNCIL

In a separate memo, dated Nov. 21, Lolo appointed Paogofie Fiaigoa as Acting Director for the Arts Council, until a permanent director is appointed. Paogofie is the current Arts Council board chairman.

Lolo says Paogofie will take charge over the implementation of the agency’s programs which includes the coordination and orchestration of ASG’s annual Christmas Program in collaboration with Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs.

Paogofie’s appointment comes after Arts Council director Uta Dr. Laloulu Tagoilelagi resigned Nov. 18 for medical reasons and left the territory on Nov. 21st.

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