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Inspector cuts endanger Hawaii farms, environment

HONOLULU — Fewer inspectors are checking cargo and passengers entering Hawaii, leaving some worried that more pests will get established in a state that's especially vulnerable because of its tropical weather and few natural predators.

In the past few years, Hawaii has made big cuts to its team of inspectors who check shipping containers and keep an eye on tourists' luggage. The number of inspectors fell from 95 people in 2009 to 50 last year. The state added more positions later, but could only fill some because it lacked a stable source of funds.

Such inspections are vital in Hawaii because once creatures get established, they thrive in the warmth and can cause extensive damage to farms and the environment.

State lawmakers are considering allocating $1.8 million to hire more inspectors.