Advocating for help for Hawaii’s family farmers

This month, the coffee borer infestation – the bane of Hawaii coffee growers – made its way to the East Coast, at least in the form of a plea for help.

When the National Farmers Union 111th Annual Convention adjourned March 5 in historic Springfield, Mass., I, as Hawaii Farmers Union United Legislative Committee chairman, hand-delivered the important message to the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

I was also successful in garnering approval for a NFU policy amendment urging USDA Research Service to provide emergency funding for eradication of pest infestations such as the coffee berry borer.

Attending the convention as one of 110 delegates representing farmers from across the country, I testified on behalf of HFUU members and specifically the small-scale coffee farmers.

The letter I delivered to Undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan, addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requested emergency funding to enable Hawaii coffee farmers to effectively tackle the metastasizing coffee berry borer beetle infestation, which has severely affected the Hawaii coffee industry.

The Hawaii Legislature is considering a bill that would fund further research of the Coffee Berry Borer Task Force. However, the current version of House Bill 353 requires matching grants not less than $200,000 to be provided before state funds can be accessed.

HFUU will be advocating on a county, state and national level for Hawaii’s family farmers now and into the future. Email with questions.

Simon Russell