It seems like Kona coffee farmers can’t catch a break. After dealing with the devastating coffee borer beetle for the past two years, Hawaii lawmakers are looking to pass House Bill 280 into law. House Bill 280 aims to change the requirements for labeling Kona coffee. Currently, Kona coffee growers are required by law to have their coffee inspected by the Department of Agriculture to certify the premium coffee’s origins before labeling it Kona coffee. However, if House Bill 280 is signed into law, this mandatory measure will become a voluntary measure for Kona coffee growers.
Lawmakers pushed the bill through both the House and Senate in order to address the Department of Agriculture’s shortage of staff. Due to extensive budget cuts, the Department of Agriculture has laid off all the coffee inspectors on the westside of the Big Island, except for one position.
If House Bill 280 is signed into law by Governor Abercrombie, coffee growers will be the ones verifying that the coffee they are selling is Kona coffee. To put this in context, this would be like having a child grade their own tests in school, without any teacher supervising that they actually graded it correctly and honestly.
Ultimately, the bill will increase the likelihood that consumers buying premium coffee labeled as Kona will not actually have any Kona coffee. The Kona Coffee Farmer’s Association has already battled numerous businesses that label non-Hawaiian coffee as Kona coffee. The associations last battle was against Safeway improperly labeling coffee. While the Kona Coffee Farmer’s Association’s battle is far from over, these tight knit group of farmer’s won’t be going down without a fight.