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Hawaii coffee growers seek federal help to fight pest

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 11:36 a.m. HST, Mar 5, 2013

Hawaii coffee industry leaders are seeking federal emergency assistance to defend against the Coffee Berry Borer pest.

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association and the Hawaii Coffee Association sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack asking for more help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to defeat the destructive beetle discovered on Hawaii island in late 2010.

The letter dated Feb. 28 said the pest has increased exponentially whereby billions of beetles threaten Kona Coffee farmers and potentially coffee growers on other islands despite more than two years of efforts combating the invasive insects.

"Clearly more expertise is rapidly needed," the letter said. "As a Hawaii-born citizen, Mr. President, you can understand the gravity of our situation as our agricultural business sector provides our diverse citizenry with the economic bases for life here on the Island of Hawaii."

Kona Coffee is grown on more than 700 mostly small family farms. Last year, all coffee in Hawaii was a $35 million crop produced by 830 farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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