Question: In recent years invasive species such as Coffee Berry Borer, Coffee Leaf Rust, and Avocado Lace Bug have been introduced into Hawaii and are drastically reducing the income of farmers. What can you do to bring federal funds or subsidies directly to farmers to combat these destructive new agricultural pests?
Joe Akana: US House Hawaii District 2
Recently the USDA allocated over $1.3 million to Hawaii to strengthen surveillance, detection and identification of pests. This will help protect Hawaii’s agricultural industry from invasive pests, however it addresses the situation after the fact - before the pests arrive. In 1998 USDA outlawed importing un-roasted, green coffee to protect Hawaii from the coffee berry borer and coffee leaf rust. However at the local level, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture policy is inconsistent with the USDA. In order to maintain the health of Hawaii’s coffee crops, there must be parity between state and federal law. As your representative one of my responsibilities is to think ahead and be proactive. Hawaii’s law needs to match Federal law.
Patrick P. Branco: US House Hawaii District 2
Subsidies for farmers in the United States averaged $16 billion per year over the past decade. However, the overwhelming amount of support is concentrated among the so-called "big five" commodities of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. By contrast, specialty crops have had relatively minimal support, and only limited funding to support pest and disease control has been made available. Recently, crop insurance has been made available for specialty crop farmers, but the value of the insured acreage for specialty crops is only about 17% of that of traditional crops. This is billions of dollars worth of federal support that is going to farmers in the midwest, and leaving Hawaiʻi farmers to fend for themselves. Congress needs to do more to support Hawaiʻi's specialty crops. Hawaiʻi-grown coffee is the second most valuable commodity produced in our state, and we need to ensure that the federal support is there as the Hawaiian coffee industry faces threats to its biosecurity. Coffee rust has caused billions in crop losses throughout Central America, and the 900 coffee farms in Hawaiʻi risk a similar fate unless action is taken now to prevent systemic threats to future crops. In Congress, I will advocate for Hawaiʻi-specific funding mechanisms in the 2023 Farm Bill that will include support for research, and direct subsidies for combatting agricultural pests and fungi, as well as direct subsidies for any lost income due to invasive species and diseases.
Brendan Schultz: US House Hawaii District 2
I support amending the Farm Bill to diversify the types of crops covered by federal farm subsidies and focus such subsidies on small, family farms. Currently, almost all farm subsidies go to the production of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. In Congress, I will work to diversify the types of crops that the federal government subsidizes to include agricultural products that we grow here in Hawai’i. Furthermore, farm subsidies have historically gone to the farms with the highest revenue. For example, under the federal Market Facilitation Program, the top 10% of farmer recipients received 58% of the program’s funds, while the bottom 80% of farmer recipients received only 23% of the program’s funds. As a Representative, I will work to provide greater subsidies to small family farms. Furthermore, I support having these federal subsidies be flexible so farmers can use them in the manner they see the best fit, which could include combatting invasive species.
Steven Sparks: US House Hawaii District 2
I feel that there are programs in place that can help with these problems the FDA has Emergency Relief Program (ERP) that needs to be used to bring funds to help for the invasive species problem and the uninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) can bring relief for losses due to crop failure due to the problem of invasive species and drought or mudslides and climate change. Once elected my staff would work with you to bring these funds and relief for the downturn in crop production and possibly treatment to help save your crops.