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Hawaii County Democrats Support Coffee Labeling

At its 2016 Convention held on April 30 at the new West Hawaii Community College campus at Palamanui, the Hawaii County Democratic Party overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for reform of Hawaii’s 10% coffee blend labeling law. The document calls on Hawaii legislators to address deceptive labeling by (1) requiring a minimum of 51% genuine content for labeling or advertising blends of coffee grown in the State of Hawaii; and (2) requiring the origin of all coffee in those blends be clearly identified on the label.

This Resolution was proposed at the Convention by the Legislative Committee of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association in order prevent continuing consumer deception and to protect the economic interests of Hawaii’s coffee farmers.

Along with other resolutions, the coffee labeling measure will be submitted by the County Democratic Party for adoption at the Hawaii State Democratic Convention in Honolulu in late May.

“Coffee farmers appreciate that strong action of the Hawaii County Democrats”, said Bruce Corker, president of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. “If the State does not act to affirmatively protect the interests of its farmers, Hawaii will continue to lose its agricultural heritage.”

The full text of the Resolution provides:

HC BUS/AG 2016-01 STATEWIDE
Calling for Truthful Labeling of Hawaii-Grown Coffee and for Related Purposes

Whereas, Hawaii is the ONLY REGION ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD to permit the use of its
regional names in labeling one of its heritage crops (coffee) with only 10% genuine content; and

Whereas, the unique climatic and soil conditions of Hawaii are ideal for cultivation of coffee; and
Whereas, the care, skill and cultivation practices of Hawaii coffee farmers, most of whom operate small family-owned farms, have resulted in recognition of Hawaii’s coffees as among the world’s premier specialty coffees; and

Whereas, existing Hawaii statutes allow consumers to be misled into believing that packages
containing 90% foreign-grown coffee are Hawaii-grown coffee—thereby damaging the reputation for quality which Hawaii coffee farmers have built over generations; and
Whereas, by way of example, HRS 486-120.6 permits the use of the “Kona” name on packaging of a coffee blend having as little as 10% Kona-grown coffee and 90% from unidentified foreign countries; and

Whereas, by way of further example, the writers of Consumers Reports in their review of Kona coffees confused “Kona Blends” with “Kona Coffee” and concluded that Kona coffee can be “second rate” on the basis of this common mistaken belief that “Kona Blends” are “Kona Coffee”; and

Whereas, the State of Hawaii should provide the same type of protections to its specialty crop farmers as California provides to Napa Valley grape growers, as Idaho provides to Idaho potato farmers, and as Georgia provides to Vidalia onion farmers: and

Whereas, the Hawaii Legislature made a factual finding in Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 102 (2007) that “existing labeling requirements for Kona coffee causes fraud and confusion and degrades the ‘Kona coffee’ name”; and

Whereas, the Hawaii County Council in October 2014 unanimously adopted Resolution No. 501-14 asking that the Legislature enact legislation requiring a minimum of 51% genuine content for labeling or advertising blends of coffee grown in the State of Hawaii and that the origin of allcoffee in such blends be prominently identified on the label; now therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Hawaii County Democrats request the members of the Hawaii County
Democratic delegation in the State Legislature introduce and vigorously work for the adoption of the legislative reforms to HRS 486-120.6 requested in Hawaii County Council Resolution No. 501-14 requiring a minimum of 51% genuine content for labeling or advertising blends of coffee grown in the State of Hawaii and that the origin of all coffee in such blends be prominently and clearly identified on the primary display panel of the label; and be it

RESOLVED, That this legislation be included in the Democratic Party’s “2017 Legislative
Package” and that the Department of Agriculture and all members of the Democratic delegation in the State Legislature vigorously support the adoption of this legislation; and be it

ORDERED, That copies of this Resolution be transmitted to each Democratic Party member of the State Legislature, the Department of Agriculture Chair and Governor of the State of Hawaii.

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