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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023

Kaʻū Coffee Mill sells only 100 percent Kaʻū Coffee. The proposed truth in labeling law would would require those brands that blend to clearly label the contents. Photo from Kaʻū Coffee Fest

TRUTH IN LABELING FOR HAWAIIAN COFFEE goes to a Hawai'i Legislature hearing on Thursday. State Senate Bill 746 would beef up labeling and advertising requirements for pure coffee, coffee blends and ready-to-drink beverages. 
Sen. Dru Mamo Kanuha is an author
of the bill for truth in coffee labeling.

    Submit and read testimony and learn more about the bill on the Hawai'i Legislature website: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=746&year=2023&mc_cid=e945308cc2&mc_eid=563999cc96.
    The hearing at 10:30 a.m. Thursday will be available to watch on the YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgswcOE5ENs.
    Kaʻū's state senator Dru Kanuha is one of the introducers of the bill. Representatives of many agricultural endeavors are supportive, saying it could set the stage for protection of products of Hawai'i origin.        Among those companies is Cyanotech, which grows microalgae for dietary supplements. Also in support are macadamia and tea companies. Supporters also include North Kona County Council member Holeka Goro Inaba and Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.
   Hawai'i Farm Bureau and Hawai'i Farmers Union United sent in supportive testimony. State Department of Agriculture sent in testimony recommending the measure and noted that funding would be needed to enforce the labeling
requirements. Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Suzanne Shriner wrote that "The coffee industry does not expect additional enforcement needs from this bill. Labeling laws are generally self-policing through consumer complaints." She also stated, "Our islands’ coffee growers do not earn money from coffee that is improperly labeled."  She said, "consumers now associate Kona or Maui coffees with an off-brand product masquerading under a Hawaiian banner. This damages Hawai'i’s key
agricultural brands. Passage of this Bill easily remedies such damage by requiring expanded labeling on coffee."     President Emeritus of Kona Farmers Association Colehour Bondera also sent in supportive testimony.
     Owners of pure Kaʻū Coffee brands have said they suspect that with a much reduced harvest in Kona, due to coffee leaf rust, coffee berry borer and other challenges, marketers of Kona coffee, particularly blenders, are buying Kaʻū Coffee and selling it as Kona.
   Bonnie Self, whose family lives in Kaʻū and who works in macadamia, which faces similar issues, testified that "Hawai’i’s coffee is well established as being of a high quality and flavor, which is why many of the coffees produced in the state have won

multiple coffee cupping competitions around the world. This prestige is what propels the status of known coffee producing regions in Hawai'i. It is also unfortunately what is driving greed of some companies to use the reputation established by these regions and the hard work of Hawai'i’s farmers to sell blends of coffee that contain mostly low-cost/low quality coffee from foreign countries to deceive customers and boost profits.
    "The current regulation requiring only ten percent of a product to originate in a specific geographic area within Hawai'i, such as Kona or Ka’u, has directly damaged the reputation and integrity of Hawai'i's specialty coffees and has negatively impacted the economic interests of its farmers."
Hawai' Tea Society supports
truth in labeling for coffee.
  Eva Lee, of Hawai'i Tea Society, stated that truth in labeling for coffee could "set a strong precedent in supporting state agriculture and communities. Not only for our local coffee producers that face numerous challenges in marketing and distribution while competing with companies that show little regard for truth in labeling, this bill would help raise public awareness for Hawaii's unique coffee origin and many of Hawaii's specialty crops furthering statewide economy." 
    The measure would would expand labeling requirements to include outer and inner packaging and inner wrapping labels. It would require disclosure on the label of coffee blends of the respective geographic and regional origins and percent by weight of the blended coffees. It would prohibit use of the term All Hawaiian in labeling and advertising for roasted coffee and instant coffee not produced entirely from green coffee beans grown and processed in Hawai'i. 
State Dept. Agriculture submitted testimony 
supporting truth in labeling for ag.
    Hawai'i Farmers Union United issued a statement this week saying, "Please consider providing testimony for state Senate Bill 746 for truth in labeling for locally grown coffee. Truth in labeling is a very important issue for farmers in Hawai'i because the Hawai'i brand is so strong and there are not very many laws protecting it from outside sourcing. By marketing something as 'grown in Hawai'i' but in reality only 10 percent is and the rest is grown elsewhere, dilutes the industry bringing margins down for farmers in Hawai'i. Not only does it harm the farmers but it also misleads consumers."
Cyanotech, which grows micronutrients near Kona Airport,
 supports truth in labeling for coffee and all that is grown
and marketed as Hawaiian. Photo from Cyanotech
   Hawaiʿi Farm Bureau testimony states, "Hawaiʿi-grown coffee is recognized for its high quality and aromatic flavor. Hawaiʿi-grown coffee is held to a set of quality standards that makes it one of the most expensive coffees in the world. It is one of Hawaiʿi’s signature crops.
    "The 2021-2022 USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) of Hawaiʿi Agriculture estimated the value of Hawaiʿi-grown coffee at $61.9 million and ranked as coffee fifth in the top twenty agricultural commodities in the State. We must protect Hawaiʿi’s Geographic Origins in labeling and advertising of Hawaiʿi grown coffee by also including ready-to-drink coffee beverages and inner packages and inner wrapping labels."
    Ka Ohana O Na Pua testified that "In order to realize the full economic potential of Hawaiʻis agriculture exports, farmers and producers need to be able to regulate the representation of their product and origin — in the same way that Idaho protects the integrity of Idaho Potatoes, or Georgia protects Vidalia Onions, or Vermont protects Vermont Maple Syrup, or NAPA Valley Wine."

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands. 

National Agricultural Statistics Service, of the USDA, urges farmers and ranchers in Kaʻū to take the surveys that help determine the federal priorities and commitment to agriculture. Photo by Julia Neal

THE FEDERAL FARMER AND RANCHER CENSUS deadline is extended and National Agricultural Statistics Service will reach in Kaʻū through personal visits to livestock and crop areas to talk to producers and also to those with inactive agriculture. Outreach will also include mailing and phone calls. Census results can be submitted by mail or online at agcounts.usda.gov.
    National Agricultural Statistics Service has extended the deadline to complete census questionnaires through the spring so more farmers and ranchers can be represented, according to a statement from USDA.
   "I’d like to thank all who have responded,” said Gary Keough, Director of the NASS Pacific Regional Field Office, which represents Hawai'i, California and Nevada. "I am pleased we are extending the time to report because the more reports, the better results. I encourage others not to miss their chance to be represented.”
    Completing the survey is mandated by federal law, even for farmers and ranchers no longer producing food. Individual submissions will be confidential and used only to general statewide reports. The results of this census will be shared in early 2024.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands. 

CONGRESSWOMAN JILL TOKUDA invites farmers and ranchers from Kaʻū to head north to meet and greet her this Friday, Feb. 24 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hawai'i 'Ulu Co-op Hanalo Marshaling Yard off Hwy 19. The location is at 79-1017 E. Honalo Rd., south of Higashihara Park and north of Teshima's.
     Kaʻū Farm Bureau President Phil Becker said he encourages attendance and also looks forward to Tokuda visiting Kaʻū in the near future. Tokuda said her aim in visiting with farmers and ranchers is "to learn about your priorities and issues."
To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands. 

A BROWN WATER ADVISORY REMAINS FOR THE COAST OF EAST KAʻŪ, from Punalu'u through Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, then on through Puna, Hilo and up the Hamakua Coast to Waipio Valley. 
The state Department of Health's Clean Water Branch, which issues brown water advisories, stated that “Heavy Rain has resulted in stormwater runoff entering into coastal waters." DOH advises the public to "stay out of flood waters and storm water runoff due to possible overflowing cesspools, sewer, manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens,
chemicals, and associated flood debris. Not all coastal areas may be impacted by runoff, however, if the water is brown stay out.”                 DOH also advise people exposed to brown water to “Continue to practice good personal hygiene and follow-up with your primary care physician if you have any health concerns."

NEW SEWAGE SYSTEM OPTIONS FOR PĀHALA'S old sugar cane housing area will be discussed at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 23 at Pāhala Community Center. It will be a public information session on the large capacity cesspool closure project, sponsored by the county Department of Environmental Management. Notices were mailed to those who attended earlier meetings and provided contact information. One of the issues is whether the county will be able to provide individual waste water systems for each home or provide a piped sewage treatment system to replace the old gang cesspools, which are illegal across the country, banned by the EPA.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands. 

St. Jude's Hot Meals are free to those in need on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until food runs out, no later than noon. Volunteers from the community are welcome to help and can contact Karen at
pooch53@gmail.com. Location is 96-8606 Paradise Circle Drive in Ocean View. Those in need can also take hot showers from 9 a.m. to noon and use the computer lab from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are served from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. Volunteers prepare the food provided by 'O Ka'ū Kākou with fresh produce from its gardens on the farm of Eva Liu, who supports the project. Other community members also make donations and approximately 150 meals are served each day, according to OKK President Wayne Kawachi.

Volcano Evening Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See facebook.com.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music.

Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner Kona Dr. Drive and Hwy 11, near Thai Grindz. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no rez needed. Parking in the upper lot. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.