Categorized | Agriculture

Legislative update from Kona Coffee Farmers Association

Kona Coffee Farmers Association board member Bruce Corker has issued the following statement:

A major accomplishment – Amendment of HB1552

Thank you for your written testimonies! Because of opposition to HB1552 from the KCFA, the Kona County Farm Bureau, and close to 200 written testimonies from Kona coffee farmers, the most objectionable provision of this flawed bill appears to have been removed.

As originally introduced (at the request of the president of Honolulu’s largest blender, Hawaii Coffee Co.), HB1552 would have made it illegal to use the word “Kona” even on labels for 100% Kona coffee except as part of a “registered trademark” or in the “identity statement” required by the current coffee labeling law.

Most of our current 100% Kona farm labels would have become unlawful.

Nonetheless, the Honolulu corporate blending interests (Hawaii Coffee Co. and its allies – the Kona Coffee Council, the Hawaii Coffee Association, and various Kona processors) vigorously supported HB1552 and its senseless restriction in testimony to legislative committee hearings Feb. 11, Feb. 23 and March 17.

Not until a March 20 meeting with the KCFA Board of Directors did HB1552’s introducer, Rep. Denny Coffman, acknowledge publicly that the bill was flawed and suggest for the first time that 100% Kona coffee should be exempted from the labeling restrictions on use of the word “Kona.”

On April 1, the Legislature finally responded to the wave of opposition testimony from farmers when the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee amended the bill to exempt 100% Kona from the HB1552’s restrictions. [As of April 7 the Committee has still not posted the amending language on the Legislature’s website.]

KCFA continues to oppose the amended HB1552 because it would expressly authorize the continued confusing use of the name “Kona” on packages of 90% non-Kona coffee.

As a proposed compromise, KCFA President Colehour Bondera suggested to Hawaii Coffee Co. President Jim Wayman that language providing for label disclosure of the origin of non-Kona in a “Kona blend” be added to the bill.

Wayman rejected that compromise out of hand. The blenders continue to oppose the right of consumers to be able to determine the origin of coffee in a “Kona blend.”

HB1552 continues to be a “flawed bill”, but thanks to the voices of Kona farmers its amended version is significantly less damaging to farmer interests than was the original bill.

Other coffee bills:

* HCR244 – A resolution requesting the state Department of Agriculture to enforce its “100% Kona Coffee” trademark. The need is to address blatant counterfeiting – particularly on the mainland. This resolution was introduced at the request of KCFA. It was favorably passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on April 1.

* HB1553/SB1474 – Providing for fractured funding of CBB research and mitigation. These companion bills died in committee.

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