Hawaii grown bill deferred following opposition

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A state House bill that would have set up a system for designating certain agricultural products as specifically Hawaii grown has been deferred following opposition from several Kona coffee farmers.

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A state House bill that would have set up a system for designating certain agricultural products as specifically Hawaii grown has been deferred following opposition from several Kona coffee farmers.

The state Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection deferred House Bill 1051 Wednesday.

The bill attempted to create an avenue for the state Department of Agriculture to implement a system of identifying and labeling crops and agricultural products as 100 percent made in Hawaii. The bill also would have given the department the ability to establish certain standards, certification programs and labeling requirements for agricultural products that claim to originate from Hawaii.

A representative from CPN Vice Chairman Brian T. Taniguchi’s office told West Hawaii Today that the bill was deferred because it needed improvement and attempted to give HDOA powers, such as rule-making capabilities, that it already has. The bill was also deferred following much opposition.

Some coffee farmers, and various associations, including the Department of Agriculture, originally supported the bill.

However, a section of the bill that excluded coffee and macadamia nut crops from the list resulted in public outcry against the piece of legislation, and according to testimony filed April 1, the HDOA later called some of the bill’s language confusing.

Numerous Kona residents and coffee and macadamia stakeholders opposing the measure submitted testimony before Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Randall Phillips of Kona View Coffee and member of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association wrote a passionate testimony accusing the bill of being “poorly written” and failing to give any “real legislative standards for Hawaii geographic origin agricultural products.”

He also did not approve of the decision to take out the protection of coffee and macadamia nuts, which came following a review by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

“I need the good name of Kona coffee protected. I am tired of mainland coffee companies shipping millions of dollars to the mainland that never goes to local coffee farmers. I am tired of bills that do more to protect foreign grown coffee over coffee grown in our state,” according to testimony.

Colehour Bondera, chairman of the Kona Coffee Farmer’s Association Geographical Identity Subcommittee, said he also opposed the bill for multiple reasons.

Instead of HB 1051, he said he’s in favor of promoting regulations that support the industry. Referencing Idaho potatoes, Napa wines, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Bondera believes Kona could benefit from having state and national levels of recognition (such as these products have) around the world.

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He also supports implementing an advisory committee of area and industry stakeholders that could assist in formulating another piece of legislation in the future.

Following Wednesday’s decision, the bill will not pass on to the next committee.

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