MEDIA RELEASE

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $1 million to help combat the coffee berry borer that has been ravaging Hawaii Island coffee farms for almost four years.

The funding will be distributed through the Integrated Pest Management (IMP) Program at USDA and be divided between Hawaii ($700,000) and Puerto Rico ($300,000). The program is a scientifically-based approach to fighting invasive species.

“I wrote directly to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this year to urge continued funding to fight the coffee berry borer and am very pleased that USDA recognizes the threat of this highly destructive invasive species to Hawaii’s farms and economy,” said Hirono. “I’ve met and listened to farmers whose crops are being impacted by this alien pest species. Coffee is an important agriculture crop and export for our state – we produce some of the world’s best beans – and it is crucial that we provide the resources our farmers need. Over the past year, there has been encouraging progress as stakeholders from the federal, state and county levels work with farmers. Moving forward, the Integrated Pest Management Program funding combined with the recent Coffee Plant Health Initiative in the Agricultural Act of 2014 will help us combat the coffee berry borer.”

“The Coffee Berry Borer has destroyed more than $9 million worth of our world-renowned coffee since 2010, leaving many small businesses and families in our rural communities devastated. Coffee farms are a major pillar in our rural Hawaii Island communities, and a majority are family-owned and operated. They provide jobs on farms and at processing plants, purchase equipment, fertilizers, and other hardware necessary to bring the famous Kona and Ka‘u coffee to consumers worldwide. This $700,000 award to further fund the Coffee Plant Health Initiative program in Hawaii will help researchers combat this and other new invasive pests, and will also help to restore our farmers’ ability to grow and market world-class coffee, which is the only domestically grown coffee our country has to offer.”

Sen. Hirono first contacted Vilsack in April 2013 to urge for funding to fight the coffee berry borer and was successful in securing $1 million to establish an area-wide integrated pest management (IPM) program.

Hirono wrote to Vilsack again this year to urge for continued funding.

Hawaii Island is home to more than 700 small coffee farms. In 2011, coffee farmers in Hawaii produced more than 8 million pounds of coffee, valued at more than $30 million.

The borer is an insect native to Central Africa that lives, feeds and reproduces in both immature and mature coffee berries.

This damage can have a significant negative impact on the quality and quantity of coffee crop yields.

As a direct result of the coffee berry borer, many farmers in 2012 have expressed concerns that their yields were in jeopardy.

The Agricultural Research Service commenced an integrated pest management program in 2013 to study and develop a management plan for the coffee berry borer.

STATE REP. LOWEN THANKS HIRONO, GABBARD FOR SECURING ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO FIGHT COFFEE BERRY BORER

Following an announcement from U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono that she and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard were successful in securing $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to combat the coffee berry borer in Hawaii, state Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau) issued the following statement:

“For the last several years, Hawaii Island coffee farms have been battling the coffee berry borer. Together with the $500,000 secured by the state Legislature this session to establish a Pesticide Subsidy Program, these monies will go a long way to turning the tide and protecting Hawaii’s coffee industry, which brings in $30 million annually. I am very grateful to both Senator Hirono and Representative Gabbard for their continued strong efforts in looking after Hawaii’s interests in Washington D.C.”

To date the coffee berry borer has destroyed more than $9 million of locally grown coffee since 2010, impacting many small local businesses and farms, especially on Hawaii Island.

As a member of the House Finance Committee, Lowen successful secured $800,000 in 2013 and, as noted above, $500,000 this session to combat the coffee berry borer.