East Hawaii News

Governor to Veto Bill Removing Coffee Inspections

June 26, 2012, 12:16 PM HST
* Updated June 26, 4:30 PM
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Monday that he plans to veto 19 bills passed during the 2012 legislative session, and several of the measures have Big Island ramifications.

The most controversial is House Bill 280, which would have removed the requirement that all Hawaii-grown green coffee beans be inspected and certified by the state Department of Agriculture to make sure that Kona-labeled blends contain at least 10% Kona-grown beans.

The bill would instead make inspections voluntary and allow companies to provide their own documentation about the origin of the beans.

The inspections had been voluntary for many years, but lawmakers instituted mandatory inspections in 1997 after a coffee dealer was found selling Central American beans as Kona coffee.

Kona coffee growers were strongly opposed to the measure.

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“We cannot open up Hawaiian coffees to the kind of fraud the state certification system addressed and has prevented for more than 15 years,” Page Trygstad, of the Hawaii 100% Kona Coffee company, said in testimony submitted on the bill.

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State Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun testified in support of the measure, saying that his department currently has only one inspector on the Big Island inspecting Kona coffee. That can mean export delays of up to a month, he said, which causes cash flow problems for coffee producers.

Abercrombie said the matter needs more study. “Further discussion is needed to ensure that the Hawaii brand will not be undermined,” he said.

The governor also intends to veto House Bill 283 which would appropriate $196,000 from the state agricultural loan revolving fund toward control and eradication of the coffee berry borer.

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Abercrombie said that rather than use the revolving fund which aids farmers in obtaining financing, the Department of Agriculture intends to replace that appropriation with $200,000 in petroleum barrel tax funds.

Abercrombie also plans to veto House Bill 1617, which would authorize the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to extend leases for state land under hotel, commercial and industrial ventures for another 55 years when the lessee makes certain substantial improvements to the property.

The governor noted that the bill would essentially allow the lessee to lock up the property for more than a century. Abercrombie said the impacts of such a move should be weighed against the benefit of reopening the leases to public bidding.

Expiring state leases was the subject of a law passed in 2005 reopening the lease on the land under Hilo’s Hawaii Naniloa Hotel. The hotel’s owners had requested that the lease be reopened because finding financing for improvements was difficult with only 10 years left on the lease. Hilo businessman Ken Fujiyama was the eventual winner of the new 65-year lease.

The governor said he would also veto Senate Bill 2341, which would allow vacation rentals of three weeks or less on agriculture lands as part of agricultural tourism. Abercrombie said the bill lacks sufficient definition of what constitutes “true agricultural tourism.”

Abercrombie so far has signed more than 150 of the 340 bills approved by lawmakers during the past session. Other bills are still being reviewed by the governor who has until July 10 to either veto or sign the measures or allow them to become law without his signature.

 

 

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