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Hawaii News

Kona coffee bill marked for veto


Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Monday he plans to veto a bill that would remove mandatory certification for Hawaii-grown coffee, a measure Kona coffee farmers said would be disastrous for the industry’s integrity and reputation.

Abercrombie listed the bill as one of 19 from the 2012 legislative session he is considering for veto.

Kona coffee farmers who were against the certification repeal from the start welcomed the veto. The certification helps them protect their coffee against lesser-quality products, they said.

"The implications of this measure are problematic," Abercrombie said. "Further discussion is needed to ensure that the Hawaii brand will not be undermined."

Lawmakers passed the law as a measure to help a staffing shortage at the state Department of Agriculture, an agency that’s eliminated all but one inspector on the west side of the Big Island.

Right now, Kona-grown coffee has to be inspected and certified by the state. Inspectors make sure Kona-labeled blends actually contain at least 10 percent Kona-grown coffee.

The bill would have made inspections voluntary and allowed companies to provide their own documentation of origin.

Lawmakers who supported the bill said inspections delayed farmers from getting their coffee to market.

The governor said he also is considering vetoing is a bill to allow agricultural landowners to rent rooms for 21 days or less for agricultural tourism.

He said the bill doesn’t have a good enough definition of what constitutes agricultural tourism.

Abercrombie has until July 10 to veto the bills. As of Monday, the governor signed more than 150 bills into law from the 2012 session. The Legislature passed more than 340 measures.

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