BY KONA COFFEE FARMERS ASSOCIATION – Gov. Neil Abercrombie has decided to allow HB 280 (the repeal of mandatory certification of coffee) to become law without his signature rather than follow through on his announced intent to veto the bill. This failure of political will represents the abandonment of consumer protection, the “Hawaii” brand and hundreds of small-scale Hawaiian farmers.
The governor, like so many before him, has bowed to Mainland money interests that profit from the ruthless marketing of Hawaii’s agricultural products—sugar, pineapple and now coffee. Topa Equities is one of the largest conglomerates in the United States and is the sole owner of Paradise Beverages, Hawaii’s largest distributor of beer and spirits. Paradise Beverages owns the Hawaii Coffee Company, Honolulu’s largest coffee roaster and coffee marketer.
The Hawaii Coffee Company had HB 280 introduced and ramrodded it through the legislature. HCC and its allies will now benefit from HB 280’s elimination of mandatory certification of coffee quality. No longer subject to required quality inspections they will be free to legally pass off vast amounts of substandard coffee as “Kona” or one of Hawaii’s other specialty coffees.
Last year HCC promoted HB1552, a bill that prohibited the word “Kona” from being used first in a product name unless it was in fact 100% Kona coffee. HB 1552 made it illegal for HCC’s primary competitor, Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Company, to use the trade name “Kona Classic” but allowed HCC to continue to use the equally deceptive trade name “Royal Kona.” At most this was “faux consumer protection” that merely promoted HCC’s deceptive branding at a competitor’s expense. Bruce Corker, KCFA’s Legislative Committee Chair noted that:
“For the second year in a row the governor has bowed to pressure from HCC and let bills HCC wrote and promoted to become law over the objections of small farmers. Where is the courage and integrity touted in the 2010 campaign?”
The Governor’s 2010 campaign promise of a “Renaissance” for Hawaii agriculture has now been shown to be just “Rhetoric” for Hawaii agriculture. When the interests of Hawaii farmers come into conflict with Mainland money, the Governor has followed the money.
Cecelia Smith, KCFA President said when told that the governor would let HB 280 become law: “If Hawaii agriculture is to have a true renaissance, the state needs to actively support specialty crop and small family farms. Now we will wait for another Kona Kai scandal to happen.”