Food safety a main issue
On Tuesday, December 20th, staff from the Agriculture, Community and Natural Resources (ACNR)/Land Grant Division of the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) met with representatives of the American Samoa Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the DOA facility to discuss collaboration on matters of importance to the people of the Territory, particularly in the areas of food security and safety for the general public and raising the awareness of the best and safest agricultural practices among American Samoa’s farmers.
DOA Acting Director, Tapa’au Dr. Daniel Mageo Aga welcomed the dialogue participants and facilitated the joint meeting.
“We need to make sure our food is safe before it gets to consumers or the School Lunch (Program),” said DOA Deputy Director Peter Gurr in regards to food safety.
One of the major issues discussed was the lack of proper application of pesticides and fertilizers observed during visitations to some of the local farms. Some farmers do not understand the calibration of chemicals and do not know which types to use on their crops.
“We need to protect our people from getting sick from chemical buildup in their system,” said Gurr. Despite these ongoing issues seen with pesticide application, there are pesticide application training courses conducted by ACNR and EPA to help educate farmers on proper application.
A need for increasing ways to communicate with local farmers and in which local farmers get information was also discussed. Tapa‘au mentioned that local farmers should be looking into the use of technology and the Internet. Information is easily accessible in today’s day and age and local farmers should have access to it to continue to learn and grow.
According to ACNR Director Aufa‘i Apulu Ropeti Areta, to assist with educating local farmers, ASCC-ACNR has educational, research, and extension programs and services available to the farming community. Moreover, ASCC-ACNR is exploring the option of hosting educational information and extension services regarding food, agriculture, natural resources, and wellness on the ASCC website to help farmers and the community. This electronic extension service along with other learning resources and materials could be made available in the coming year.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included the food safety grant proposal, pest survey, translations for Asian farmers, GIS mapping of farms, dry-litter piggery waste management, spay and neutering animal outreach, nutrient management plan, development and creation of educational materials for farmers and other joint food safety projects for 2017.
Aufa‘i commended Tapa’au for initiating and hosting the dialogue, and also recognized the ASCC President, Dr. Rosevonne Pato for her support and for designating ACNR staff to represent ASCC at the joint meeting.
“It is not about us, it is not about ASCC, DOA, EPA or DOH,” said Aufa‘i, “it is about serving our people.”
These departments believe they are stronger in their service to the community when unified and will continue collaborative efforts to address current food safety and agricultural practices issues for the health and safety of American Samoa.