Ford, farmers tackle coffee resolutions

Hawaii Island coffee farmers offered split opinions Tuesday afternoon on a pair of resolutions that call on the state Legislature to enact “truth in labeling” laws regarding the labeling of coffee blends.

ADVERTISING


Hawaii Island coffee farmers offered split opinions Tuesday afternoon on a pair of resolutions that call on the state Legislature to enact “truth in labeling” laws regarding the labeling of coffee blends.

“It’s consumer fraud to continue this 10 percent packaging,” coffee farmer Clare Wilson told members of the council’s Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability committee.

Farmer Cecelia Smith agreed.

“We’ve been asked about Kona blend, they think it’s a blend of Kona coffees, they can’t read the tiny font,” Smith said. “That’s the trick. Kona blend is a simple rip off of the word Kona. It only has to say the 10 percent selling word. How come we can’t be for the truth? Kona blend is not truthful.”

But coffee farmer Gary Strawn said that while he only sells 100 percent Kona coffee, he didn’t support the resolutions.

“I do not believe it’s the government’s place to say what I can or cannot sell, what I can or cannot buy or what I can or cannot drink,” Strawn said, adding that sales of even the blends can boost the profile of all Kona coffee.

“This resolution is not recommended, not needed,” farmer Roger Kaiwi added.

Committee members recessed the committee to Sept. 30 after testimony wrapped up at about 6 p.m. They allowed South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford to make a few comments on the issue before the meeting was closed. She said she would bring an amendment to make her intentions more clear.

“I’m not trying to stop blending,” Ford said. “I never have tried to stop it. I want the label to say 90 percent Columbia coffee and 10 percent Kona. I want it on the front label. I want the consumer to see it.”

The resolutions are not specific to Kona coffee, either, but are intended to protect all Hawaii-grown coffees, she said.

“You put it on the front label, all the blenders know exactly what will happen,” Ford said. “People won’t buy that coffee. I don’t care if you blend, but you’d better be honest about it.”

The council’s Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee heard testimony about Puna residents’ concerns about the steam release at Puna Geothermal Venture during Tropical Storm Iselle. Thomas Travis described the symptoms that had been verified in 52 people so far. About 130 total have reported symptoms, Travis added.

“There was a very predictable release of geothermal toxins the night of the hurricane,” Travis said. “If you cut the transmission lines from the plant, the plant has to lift release valves releasing geothermal steam. The county did nothing to inform the community that it was going to happen. The county gave frankly silly advice to the people that experienced these systems. That’s the connection to the emergency response. They experienced these things while trapped in their homes.”

ADVERTISING


Robert Petricci, president of the Puna Pono Alliance, reminded council members about the request a few years ago for an emergency response plan. The council authorized one, Petricci said, but Mayor Billy Kenoi vetoed the plan.

“This has been going on for 30 years,” Petricci said, referring to the length of time since the plant was first planned. “I think at this point the county is responsible. We’re still asking for what is common decency, a monitoring program that will protect us. … We have no buffer zones. We have nobody out there.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.