Coffee berry borer research money coming from Washington

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Hawaii County could soon see more money from Washington to fight the coffee berry borer that has threatened signature coffee brands in Kona and elsewhere on the island.

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Hawaii County could soon see more money from Washington to fight the coffee berry borer that has threatened signature coffee brands in Kona and elsewhere on the island.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday the release of another $1 million, to be shared with Puerto Rico, to battle the invasive beetle that for four years has been ravaging the Big Island, and more recently, Oahu. The Areawide Mitigation and Management for Coffee Berry Borer Control funding is in addition to $1.8 million previously allocated to Hawaii last year.

The money will be used to continue research into eradication and control.

It’s not yet known how much of the money is coming to Hawaii and how much goes to Puerto Rico, said Scott Enright, chairman of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. He said the money will go first to Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, known as PBARC, and then some will be sent to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“There’s a lot of ongoing research that the department has asked both PBARC and the university to conduct,” Enright said.

Hawaii is home to nearly 10,000 acres of land planted in coffee. In 2012, coffee farmers in Hawaii produced more than 8 million pounds of coffee, valued at more than $54 million.

The borer is an insect native to Central Africa that lives, feeds and reproduces in both immature and mature coffee berries. It can do significant damage to the quality and quantity of coffee crop yields.

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

The Hawaii Legislature has also stepped up resources to fight the beetle, appropriating $500,000 in subsidies to local farmers to spray their crops and creating a temporary manager to oversee the program. The funds will be available to farmers until 2019 and will cover 75 percent of the cost of the spray until June 2016, and 50 percent after that.

All four members of the state’s congressional delegation, all Democrats, in statements praised the new funding.

“As a longtime advocate for Hawaii’s coffee farmers, I understand the unique challenges they face growing their crops in the only state in the country that produces coffee commercially,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono. “This funding will now allow Hawaii researchers to continue to develop effective techniques and provide the necessary tools to help our farmers fight off and contain this invasive species.”

“In the past few years, we have seen the devastating impact the coffee berry borer has had on Hawaii coffee and the farmers that grow it,” said Sen. Brian Schatz. “This federal investment will go a long way in helping local farmers protect their farms and limit the spread of this invasive species.”

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“I continue to be fully engaged with Hawaii’s coffee farmers as we work to fend off this invasive species, which is why I passed an amendment in the 2014 Farm Bill to establish an area-wide pest management plan and authorize research and funding to combat the coffee berry borer,” said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the neighbor islands and rural Oahu. “I am pleased to see the USDA’s continued support in eradicating this noxious species.”

“The coffee berry borer is causing significant damage to our coffee crop as well as hurting the economic well-being of our coffee farmers,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, representing Honolulu. “I will continue to work with my colleagues here in Congress to ensure the preservation of our island home.”

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