Categorized | Agriculture

Commodities join forces to market, export Hawaii ag brand


In an effort to better market Hawaii commodities to foreign and domestic markets, three statewide agriculture associations have founded the non-profit Synergistic Hawaii Agriculture Council (SHAC).

The three founding associations — the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association (HPIA), the Hawaii Coffee Association, (HCA), and the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association (HFNA) — represent 543 businesses stretching from Hilo to Hanalei.

Combined, the three commodities earned $120 million in 2010. According to January 2012 figures, that includes $75.6 million in flowers and nursery products, $33.4 million in coffee and $11.1 million in papaya.

“Through SHAC, multiple Hawaii commodity groups are unifying to utilize federal and state funding to market and export our made-in-Hawaii brand,” said Eric Tanouye, SHAC vice-president and president of the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association.

Under SHAC, Hawaii commodities can apply for funds through the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). In 2012, $200 million was authorized by Congress under the Farm Bill to be channeled through FAS grants to more than 70 participants.

SHAC will mainly target grants through two funding opportunities: the Market Access Program (MAP) and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC). A cost share program, MAP helps U.S. producers and trade associations finance overseas marketing and promotional activities to support ag exports. TASC tackles technical trade barriers like crop regulations, sanitation and pest-control.

Serving as an umbrella association, SHAQ will enable Hawaii commodities to combine financial resources to provide MAP’s required amount of matching contributions and “desired broadness of representation.”

The idea is to consolidate association contributions with diminishing state Department of Agriculture (HDOA) grants to better leverage the federal MAP funding.

“Many trade shows on the US Mainland are considered international in nature and are eligible expenses under FAS funding,” said Gloria Biven, HCA treasurer. “By maximizing limited state funds and association contributions, we can share the cost of the same activities that span multiple groups.”

Those activities could include production of Hawaii-orientated product shows, the branding of members’ commodities and support of HDOA quality standards.

With a founding purpose to have commodities work cooperatively for the development and sustainability of Hawaii’s agriculture, SHAC will address other issues of importance to its members, such as legislative and regulatory representation.

SHAC hopes to increase membership by at least one commodity association every two years to improve synergism and operational finances.

“Our vision of is to create a solid management structure to support members in planning, government financing, compliance and activity implementation,” said Ken Kamiya, president of SHAC and former HPIA president.

“Many Hawaii commodities face the same challenges: geographic isolation, a high cost of doing business and no winter climatic control of plant diseases and pests,” Kamiya said. “It makes sense to seek solutions by pooling our financial and human resources.”

Immediate goals for SHAC include seeking $500,000 in MAP funds and additional TASC support to fight the coffee berry borer and possible transgenic research.

SHAC will vie for funds with large organizations like the American Soybean Association, U.S. Apple Export Council and the California Table Grape Commission.

Steve Beasley, FAS international marketing specialist, recently visited Hawaii to educate ag organizations, HDOA and the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) on FAS.

“Steve got everyone off to a good start in visualizing the benefits of a multiple commodity group for Hawaii,” SHAC executive manager Rod Yonemura said. “Export is a significant part of our members’ sales so it is important to promote the high quality of our ag products to foreign markets.”

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