Categorized | Agriculture

Farm Bill to fight coffee berry borer beetle


U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono has announced the 2014 Farm Bill expected to be passed by Congress this week includes a measure to fight the coffee berry borer that has been ravaging Hawaii Island coffee farms for almost three years.

Hirono had worked with Senate and House agriculture committees to include language that lays the groundwork for a long-term federal investment to fight the borer.

Hawaii Island coffee growers praised Hirono’s work to secure an initial $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last July to help set up the program, which is being managed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo.

“The inclusion of my amendment to fight the coffee berry borer in the bipartisan Farm Bill is great news for Hawaii and our economy,” Hirono said. “I’ve spoken with farmers concerned about how this invasive species will hurt their crops and our economy – it’s crucial we mount a concerted effort to protect our coffee plants. This amendment will help USDA, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawaii work collectively and efficiently to help coffee farmers combat and contain the coffee berry borer.”

“Through ARS’ Areawide Pest Management Program, scientists at the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center and our partners have been able to develop integrated, biologically based control measures for coffee berry borer,” said Dr. Marisa Wall, PBARC Acting Director. “This program enables us to optimize biological control methods, improve pest detection and mass trapping technology, manage coffee flowering and fruiting cycles, and provide outreach to growers in an areawide system for CBB control.”

“I am also pleased that this bill helps promote sustainable, local agriculture – from investments that help family farmers sell locally to supporting beginning farmers with training and access to capital,” Hirono said. “This bill was a bipartisan compromise and I am hopeful that my colleagues and I can continue to work together to help the people of Hawaii and the nation.”

Additionally, the bill strengthens top priorities that help famers in Hawaii and the nation.

The bill:

* Reauthorizes $10 million per year through 2018 for Education Grants to Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions

* Extends authorization for rural housing and general economic assistance to parts of Hawaii including: Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Kapolei, Makakilo, Nanakuli, Royal Kunia, and Waianae on Oahu; Hilo on Hawaii Island; and Kihei on Maui

* Extends the Livestock Forage Program and Livestock Indemnity Program to provide a safety net to Hawaii farmers affected by drought or other adverse weather

* Extends the loan programs for sugar cane for five years

* Authorizes $375 million over five years for Specialty Crop Block Grants

* Continues investments to meet growing consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, local foods and organics by helping family farmers sell locally, increasing support for farmers’ markets, and connecting farmers to schools and other community-based organizations

* Authorizes nearly $1.4 billion over five years for bioenergy research and development programs, including the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Bioenergy Program for Advanced Fuels, Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, and Rural Energy for America (REAP) Program

* Extends the authorization for rural water programs, including Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program, Rural Water and Waste Disposal Infrastructure program, and Household Water Well Systems program

Statement from Rep. Lowen

“The coffee berry borer beetle is one of the most destructive invasive species that have undermined our ability to sustain local farming and agriculture on Hawaii Island,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau), who has strongly supported state legislation to eradicate the destructive insect.

“I am encouraged by the amendment in the 2014 Farm Bill that establishes a long-term federal commitment to fight the coffee berry borer beetle. My thanks to Sen. Hirono for her hard work. Together, with funds secured last year from the State Legislature and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this will give us a fighting chance to protect the viability of our local coffee growers from this destructive insect.

“More importantly these initiatives allow us to harness resources at both the state and federal level to maximize our efforts in this fight. To that end, I recently introduced HB 1514 that appropriates funds for the control and containment of the coffee berry borer.”

Gabbard votes for Farm Bill

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted to pass the House-Senate conference FARM Bill (H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act), which includes an amendment she championed in the House, authorizing research funding to combat the devastating impact of the coffee berry borer in Hawaii.

The bill also ends an unnecessary, expensive direct payment program subsidizing big corporate farms, helps local farmers and processors by promoting specialty and organic crops, as well as expanding access to locally grown food for low-income families and individuals.

According to CBO estimates, the FARM bill will cut $23 billion in spending over the next 10 years.

“The FARM bill compromise we passed in the House today reflects a commitment to farmers and consumers in Hawaii, and across the country,” Gabbard said. “By cutting wasteful direct payments and subsidies to mega-farms, the bill takes important steps to support small farmers and those who grow healthy food. For years, these loopholes have allowed corporate farms to rake in profits while family farms suffer. While I’m disappointed in overall SNAP funding reductions, it is important to note that the reforms made to this specific program will not affect Hawaii food stamp recipients. Overall, the reforms passed in this bill will reduce fraud and will ensure that the most vulnerable among us, such as our kupuna and keiki, will have access to affordable and healthy food.”

Gabbard also highlighted a measure to protect Hawaii coffee farms that she included in the House-passed FARM bill last July, and was amended and included in the FARM bill conference report:

“As the only commercial producers of American-grown coffee, our renowned Kona and Ka‘u coffee farmers have been fighting hard against the destructive coffee berry borer for years. This invasive species has caused devastating losses of more than $9 million in the last two years alone. The ‘Coffee Plant Health Initiative’ included in the FARM bill compromise will help our local growers combat the effects of the coffee berry borer by making grants available for research and pest management, and will help to prevent the spread of this pest to our other island coffee farms. This is a very positive step toward ensuring the long-term health of Hawaii’s multi-million dollar coffee industry, and the hard-working farmers who produce this treasured local product.”

Major FARM Bill Highlights for Hawaii:

* Includes funding authorization for research and development to address the coffee berry borer invasive species and area-wide pest management plans.

* Disaster Assistance Programs will receive a permanent baseline. Disaster assistance includes such programs as the Tree Assistance Program, which helps Hawaii and Maui Island flower growers impacted by the ongoing drought.

* Reauthorizes the Market Access Program (MAP). MAP helps Hawaii small agriculture businesses (ie: papaya, coffee, and mac nuts) market their products overseas.

* Provides an additional $20 million annually for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to support food banks. In 2012, 185,500 (14 percent) of Hawaii’s population (55,050 children/11,010 seniors) received emergency food assistance through the Hawaii Foodbank network.

* Enhances the Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher program. Beginning farmers on Moloka‘i have benefitted from this program.

* Extends to 2020 the current definition of “rural” in the Housing Act of 1949 to allow the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue to offer rural housing programs to about 900 communities nationwide, including Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Kapolei, Makakilo, Nanakuli, Royal Kunia and Waianae, where 99 percent of USDA’s Oahu single-family housing is located.

* Hawaii benefits from Rural Development Programs. For FY 2013, Rural Housing Services received $354.6 million, Rural Business Services received $9.9 million in loans and grants assisting 23 businesses, farmers, and renewable energy projects, and Rural Utilities Services received $14.5 million.

* Promotes Hawaii’s specialty crops. The bill provides $800 million nationally for specialty crop research and $290 million for the specialty crop block grant program.

* Reauthorizes sugar program to support cultivation and about 800 jobs on Maui.

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