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Governor directs 7 agencies to conduct farm site visits

Allowing them to resume supply of locally grown veggies to School Lunch Program

In an Oct. 25 general memorandum, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga ordered the suspension of all locally grown vegetable farms from supplying the federally funded School Lunch Program, while seven government agencies have been directed to conduct site visits of all vegetable farms on island — and certify those who can resume supplying the school lunch.

The governor’s directive came the same day Agriculture Department acting director Peter Gurr recommended the suspension, until further notice, the supplying of the school lunch program with locally grown vegetables except for taro, green bananas, ripe bananas and hydroponic vegetables.

Gurr’s recommendation followed a DOA routine farm inspection for October that found potential health hazards caused by unregulated use of pesticides and fertilizers at local farms. (See Samoa News edition last Friday for details.)

In support of Gurr’s recommendation, the governor ordered the suspension, until further notice, of supplying the school lunch program with all locally grown vegetables except for local taro, green bananas, ripe bananas and hydroponic vegetables.

Lolo, however, also directed the following government departments and agencies to collaborate to conduct site visits to all farms on island: DOA, American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, Health Department, ASPA’s Water Division, Treasury’s Customs Division, Samoan Affairs Office and Education Department.

The visits would:

•     Inventory the amount of fertilizers and chemicals present at the farm;

•     Assess compliance with local laws particular to labeling requirements;

•     Ascertain how fertilizers and chemicals are used;

•     Method of monitoring and securing the supply of fertilizers and chemicals present on the farm;

•     Collect other relevant data to help determine future impact of continued use of fertilizers and chemicals on the same plot of land; and

•     Propose new legislation for submission to the Fono for consideration to improve local ability to monitor, control, and enforce the illegal use of these substances

“Given the time sensitive nature of this assignment and the direct financial impact on farmers, the overriding, urgent duty of the... group is to certify which farms will be allowed to sell their produce to the school lunch program,” Lolo wrote.

“Any farmer not deemed to be in compliance with DOA standards will be provided a corrective action plan that will bring them into compliance,” Lolo explained. “Farmers certified by the group will be immediately allowed to re-commence sales to the school lunch program.”

Lolo has also called on all ASG entities to be on the alert to stop the importation of illegal fertilizers and chemicals. Additionally, all products entering the territory must carry English language labels pursuant to the prohibitions dictated by local law.

Furthermore, the Customs Division is advised to “aggressively enforce existing laws governing the importation, distribution, and use of these fertilizers and chemicals” while all other agencies of the American Samoa Government are advised to report to DOA any evidence of the illegal importation of fertilizers and chemicals, the governor said.