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Hirono Joins Hawaii Delegation in Introducing Bipartisan Bill to Protect and Strengthen Coffee Plant Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined the Hawaii congressional delegation in introducing the Coffee Plant Health Initiative Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation that would broaden current language included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) high priority initiatives in support of the coffee plant industry by improving the tools available for domestic coffee growers to fight pests, diseases, and expand critical research. In addition to Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representatives Jill Tokuda (D-HI) and Ed Case (D-HI), the bill was also co-led by Representatives Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.) and Garret Graves (R-LA).

“Hawaii is known around the world for our coffee,” said Senator Hirono. “Investing in coffee-specific research and combatting current and emerging threats to coffee plant health—including things like Coffee Leaf Rust—is critical to Hawaii’s ability to continue providing high-quality coffee products. This legislation will help producers keep their coffee plants healthy and build our understanding of how best to protect this important industry. I will continue to advocate for Hawaii’s unique agricultural and nutrition needs as we begin the process of forming a new Farm Bill.”

Coffee is the most consumed beverage in our country. Studies conducted by the National Coffee Association show that the total economic impact of this industry was close to $225.5 million in 2015, with consumers spending $74.2 billion in coffee. Additionally, coffee generates over 1.6 million jobs and nearly $28 billion in tax revenue.

The Coffee Plant Health Initiative Amendments Act would expand USDA research and extension grants for the following:

  • Developing and disseminating science-based tools and treatments to combat plant pests and noxious weeds that impact coffee plants;
  • Establishing an areawide integrated pest management program in areas affected by, or areas at risk of being affected by, plant pest or noxious weeds that impact coffee plants;
  • Surveying and collecting data on coffee plant production and health;
  • Investigating coffee plant biology, immunology, ecology, genomics, and bioinformatics; and
  • Conducting research on:
    • Factors that may contribute to or be associated with coffee plant immune;
    • Other serious threats to coffee plants, including the sublethal effects of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on insects and plants beneficial to coffee plant growth; and
    • The development of mitigating and preventative measures to improve habitat conservation and best management practices in coffee-growing regions.

As the U.S. coffee industry faces emerging threats from coffee tree pests, such as the coffee leaf rust, coffee berry borer, coffee leaf miner, and coffee wilt, it is critical that Congress improve the tools available for domestic coffee growers and support this critical industry.