In a federal court class action lawsuit, Kona coffee farmers have recovered more than $15 million in settlement payments from companies accused of marketing fraudulent Kona coffee. More effective than lawsuits, however, would be active enforcement of fair labeling laws by the FDA. What ideas do you have to accomplish that?
I believe we can build a coalition with other Hawaii specialty products, such as sea salt, to establish a universal standard requirement for "Made in Hawaii" labeling, such as a 51% minimum content. In addition, universal testing standards and funding for enforcement would need to be established.
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?
I will work to amend the Farm Bill to include financial support for crops important to Hawaii, including coffee. I will furthermore look into all options to secure emergency funding for combating these invasive species. If unsuccessful in securing this funding, I will work to be creative in partnership with local farmers to secure federal grants that can be used to address this, as I have previous personal experience with USDA grants.
When we fly to the mainland, USDA agents scan luggage and remove fruits, vegetables and other plant material to prevent damage to mainland farms. When we fly into Hawaii, there is a voluntary disclosure system and “Amnesty Bins”--and no involvement on the part of the USDA. What are your ideas on how to bring the same type of USDA protections to Hawaii farmers as provided to mainland farmers?
I believe that at least some of the USDA luggage scan points in Hawaii airports can be immediately reallocated and moved to scan incoming luggage. Regardless, I would work to secure funding for additional inspection points. If the USDA is unwilling to provide the inspection points, the funding would go to the state to oversee. Separately, I would advocate for a mandatory informational video to be viewed on all flights coming into Hawaii that educates visitors on our cultural and natural resources, including the impacts of invasive diseases and pests. I suspect many travelers do not read the current voluntary form carefully.
Please close by telling us a bit more about yourself and your commitment to agriculture. Mahalo!
I'm a Kaua'i High and Stanford grad who has spent the past decade fighting environmental pollution. My grandfather was an agriculture teacher for many years in the public school system on Kaua'i, and I'm deeply passionate about making Hawai'i a self-sufficient, sustainable food hub that supports local farmers.