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USA – Kona coffee farmers petition Hawaii legislators

On behalf of its more than 300 members, the Kona Coffee Farmers Association has initiated an online Petition to Hawaii State Legislators asking them to put a stop to the marketing of “deceptively labeled coffee blends” using names such as “Kona”, “Maui”, “Ka’u” on packages containing 90% Foreign-Grown coffee.

More than 1600 signers have joined the Petition—and every day more coffee farmers and supporters of Kona Coffee add their names.

Specifically the Petition asks Legislators to follow the requests of Hawaii County Council’s Resolution 501-14–A resolution drafted by South Kona Council Member Brenda Ford and unanimously passed on October 15, 2015.

That Resolution asks for two significant changes to state law: (1) a minimum of 51% genuine content in any Hawaii coffee blend; and (2) clear identification on the package of the percentage and origin of Foreign-Grown coffee.

The Resolution expressly found that anything less than 51% genuine content in packages labeled as Hawaii or Hawaii regional coffee blends is “inherently deceptive and misleading”.

With an impetus from the Hawaii County Council Resolution and the KCFA Petition, Hawaii County Legislators have responded—

Hawaii House Bill 387 has been introduced by Rep. Richard Creagan and sponsored by 8 other Representatives.

This bill requires Hawaii coffee blend labels to disclose regional origins and per cent by weight of the blended coffees and it prohibits using geographic origins of coffee in labeling or advertising, when roasted or instant coffee contains less than 51 per cent coffee by weight from that geographic origin.

For more than 23 years Hawaii has been the only region anywhere in the world to authorize by law the use of the its regional names (“Kona”, “Maui”, “Ka’u”, etc.) on packages with only 10% genuine content. HB387 would provide a major step toward fair marketing and consumer protection standards to protect the integrity of Hawaii-Grown coffee.

State Senator Russell Ruderman (from Hawaii County and Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee) has also introduced, along with 6 other co-sponsors, a similar bill in the Senate—Senate Bill 594.

The Ruderman bill goes even a step further in protecting the integrity of Hawaii-Grown coffee by requiring a minimum of 80% genuine content in coffee labeled as a Hawaii or Hawaii regional coffee blend.

The KCFA supports both these bills—either would provide a significant step toward protecting the integrity of Hawaii-Grown coffee and protecting the economic interests of coffee growers.