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Hirono Convinced USDA To Set Up First Major Federal Initiative Specifically Targeting The Pest That’s Devastating Hawaii Coffee Farms

After Senator Mazie K. Hirono and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the first major federal initiative targeting the coffee berry borer yesterday, coffee growers and agriculture leaders across Hawaii praised the new program and Hirono’s leadership in fighting in the pest. As Hawaii News Now and many other outlets reported yesterday, USDA agreed to set up the program after Hirono urged the agency to make fighting the highly destructive invasive species a top priority.

  • “It gives the industry a lot of hope,” Coffee Berry Borer Task Force Vice President Jim Wayman told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald after the announcement.
  • “(Russell Kokubun, director of the state Department of Agriculture) said Hirono has been in touch with officials from the DOA and University of Hawaii about collaborating on the beetle initiative… ‘I think this is an outstanding effort,’ Kokubun said,” reported Big Island Now.  
  • “One of the best things is, it’s science based,” Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Cecelia Smith told West Hawaii Today. “That’s what we need, long-term science research.”
  • Thursday’s announcement left Smith and Wayman extending thanks to Sen. Mazie Hirono, who contacted the USDA on the farmers’ behalf seeking funding, and expressing optimism about the coffee industry’s future,” West Hawaii Today wrote.
  • “Chris Manfredi, government affairs chairman of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, said the industry has been working with local, state and federal officials in trying to obtain as many ‘tools’ as necessary to fight the borer, noting the $1 million award is the largest to date,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
  • “It appears to be a direct application to UH and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture,"?said Manfredi told the Star-Advertiser. “So I think it'll have an immediate and lasting impact.”
  • “(The coffee berry borer is ) here forever, but it's now just a matter of properly containing it and that's what this money will go to — fighting it, containing it and trying to protect the industry from the devastating losses we've suffered in the last 3 1⁄2 years," Dave Bateman, owner of Heavenly Hawaiian Farms in Holualoa and a member of the Kona Coffee Council and coffee berry borer task force, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
  • “Whatever they’re going to do, that all is so much more help than trying to fight it yourself,” Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Cecelia Smith told West Hawaii Today.
  • Thanks to Senator Hirono, the additional million dollars from the USDA coupled with the $800,000 in state funding and other resources will enable us to launch an offensive against this destructive insect before it decimates our coffee industry,” Hawaii Representative Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau) said in a statement.
  • “We're delighted the money is appropriated. We think it's a good first step, but we've got a real emergency in Kona,” said Bruce Corker, a board member of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association told the Associated Press.