Categorized | Agriculture, Business

Kona Coffee farmers adopt resolution demanding video testimony at state legislature


At their March meeting, Kona Coffee Farmers Association adopted a resolution requesting “the Hawaii State Legislature to provide video conferencing in order to end the disenfranchisement of outer island residents from effective participation in the legislative hearings process.” This trade organization of working Kona Coffee farmers frequently works on legislation to protect their internationally recognized product, 100% Kona Coffee. Due to current practices at the State Legislature of scheduling early hearings at short notice as well as expensive airfare and the reality of running a coffee farm, testimony favors paid lobbyists of large special interest groups. This resolution is intended to be a catalyst in bringing the State Legislature up to date in democratic technology. On Hawaii Island, farmers are used to being able to testify by video when the County Council Hearings are on the opposite side of the island.

In order not to be silenced as Outer Island residents, Kona Coffee Farmers Association would like the State Legislature to have the simple and inexpensive technology in place for us to testify at their last minute hearings. This session, HB 448, requiring processed products “Grown in Hawaii” to have more than 51% Hawaiian content, introduced by Rep. Coffman and Rep. Choy, was scheduled for a hearing with minimal notice. Kona Rep. Coffman, one of the co-sponsors, was not advised by the Agriculture Committee Chair that HB 448 had been scheduled for hearing and did not learn of the hearing until the evening before. This was far too late for sending in written testimony, which is required 24 hours in advance or for getting plane tickets to fly over and testify in person. It is widely recognized that in-person testimony has greater impact, and with the option of video testimony, Kona Coffee Farmers could have had real input to the discussion which directly impacts their 100% Kona Coffee market and could have testified as to the damage being caused by use of the “Kona” name on packages containing 90% foreign-grown coffee. Kona Coffee Farmers also wanted to weigh in on HB 931 restricting Origin Name use and HB 1226 the Preemption Bill for GMO crops.

Clearly, access to video testimony to the State Legislature is not just needed by Kona Coffee Farmers. Outer Island residents from Kauai, Maui and Hawaii with myriad issues would benefit from the access to video testimony in hearings at the State Capitol. The legislators would feel more secure that they were making the best decisions for their constituents with access to a broader range of testimony than just those who can retain a Honolulu based lobbyist.

Bruce Corker, Legislative Chair for Kona Coffee Farmers Association, says, “Video testimony would allow our farmers meaningful input into the decisions the State Legislature is making that affect our market for 100% Kona Coffee, that protect against unwanted pests or transgenes, and that safeguard our valuable agricultural lands.”

Cecelia Smith, 20 year coffee farmer in Kona agrees, “My husband and I have been working on these issues of origin labeling for Kona coffee for over 20 years. The legislative session is during our pruning season, and we cannot make time nor find money to testify in Honolulu. Video testimony would change that for us”.

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association is a volunteer, non-profit, community-based organization of coffee farmers with the mission to promote and protect the economic interests of Kona coffee farmers who grow and sell 100% Kona coffee and to seek greater legal protection of the Kona coffee name.

Kona Coffee Farmers Association
P.O. Box 5436
Kailua-Kona, HI 96745

One Response to “Kona Coffee farmers adopt resolution demanding video testimony at state legislature”

  1. Alani says:

    Yes, outer islands need to be heard on Oahu!


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