HONOLULU – The State House Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Kona representative Richard Creagan, advanced a contentious bill relating to coffee labeling on Friday.
House Bill 256 “requires coffee blend labels to disclose regional origins and per cent by weight of the blended coffees,” and also “prohibits using geographic origins of coffee in labeling or advertising for roasted or instant coffee that contains less than 51 per cent coffee by weight from that geographic origin.”
Carol Weaver of Pau Hana Estate LLC in Captain Cook wrote testimony in support, saying she has watched for more than 16 years “as Hawaii coffee farmers have suffered economic losses and the reputations of Hawaii coffee have been damaged because State law permits the use of Hawaii coffee names on packages containing 90% foreign-grown coffee.”
“These 2 straightforward changes have been requested in formal resolutions adopted by the Hawaii County Council, the 2016 Hawaii County Democratic Convention, and the 2016 State Democratic Convention,” Weaver wrote. “As these resolutions recognize, Hawaii needs to protect the economic interests of its farmers and the reputation and integrity of their crops.”
The bill has the support of many coffee farmers like Weaver, especially in Kona. However, it is opposed by some of the larger processors and retailers.
Roger Ka’iwi, president of the Kona Coffee Council, tried to explain how the bill would cripple his company. “We cannot police (the rules) that we have already, and we’re trying to place more rules upon us. What concerns me is we’re gonna be like dairy and eggs and we’re gonna put enough rules on ourselves that we’re gonna put ourselves out of business.”
The committee recommended that the measure be passed, unamended.