On January 23 Tulsi Gabbard, US Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, met with a group of Kona Coffee farmers at Cuppa Kona Farm in Holualoa on Hawaii Island. Rep. Gabbard had requested a meeting with her farmer constituents to discuss the Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) emergency, as well as other issues faced by Kona Coffee farmers.
CBB is a small and destructive beetle discovered on Hawaii Island in 2010 that is causing damage to coffee to a degree that raises concerns about the continuing economic viability of coffee as a commercial crop in Hawaii County. The Kona farmers expressed sincere thanks to Rep. Gabbard for her work that was instrumental in 2013 in securing initial emergency funding for research and CBB mitigation for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC) in Hilo. Ms. Gabbard was encouraged to continue efforts to bring further funding to the scientists at PBARC to continue the battle against CBB.
Other issues raised by the coffee farmers were their 20+ year effort to reform Hawaii’s 10% coffee blend law and the increasing presence of Black Twig Borer on the west side of Hawaii Island.
The use of the “Kona” name on packages of coffee containing only 10% Kona coffee deceives consumers into wrongly believing they are buying Kona Coffee when 90% of the contents is not from Kona. These “blends” damage the reputation of Kona Coffee when consumers are disappointed by the mediocre taste of what is mostly ordinary commodity coffee.
The Black Twig Borer is another pest that is also posing challenges to Kona Coffee farmers by reducing harvest levels.
Rep Gabbard expressed her understanding of the concerns and pledged to work hard in Washington, DC to preserve coffee as Hawaii’s premier specialty agricultural crop.