The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today celebrated the start of construction of the second phase of its research center here with a ground blessing ceremony.
Edward B. Knipling, administrator of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), hosted the event at the ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC). He was joined by keynote speaker and featured guest Jennifer Sabas, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye; U.S. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono; Hawaii State Legislature Representative Clift Tsuji; William Takaba, representative for County of Hawaii Mayor William P. Kenoi; ARS Pacific West Area Director Andrew Hammond; and PBARC Director Dennis Gonsalves. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
"The completion of Phase 2 will allow our scientists to continue their pioneering research on Hawaii's exotic tropical crops," Knipling said. "These state-of-the-art facilities will ensure that we continue to provide essential research results that benefit growers, consumers and industry."
The first phase of the new PBARC facility—a $19 million, 35,000-square-foot office and laboratory building—officially opened in 2007. Phase 2 will involve completion of more office space, screen houses and head houses. Construction of PBARC, which is operated by ARS, will be completed in three phases.
The ground blessing was conducted by Kumu Kimo Awai, a Hawaiian cultural advisor. A program including presentations and speeches by growers, industry representatives and the community emphasized the impact and value of ARS research in Hawaii.
Dating back more than 100 years, ARS research in the Hawaiian Islands has helped open new markets for Hawaii-grown fresh produce, including exports to the U.S. mainland and to Pacific Rim countries. ARS research has helped ensure that the exported products are free of hitchhiking insects, and also has helped reduce the amount of pesticides used in farming and helped growers manage attacks from disease and insects. Scientists are also working with state and university collaborators in combating some of Hawaii's most invasive species.
Recent initiatives include development of alternative energy sources and development of sustainable agriculture systems using the concept of "zero waste," a philosophy that encourages deriving the maximum use from all resources utilized.