US coffee-growing industry welcomes proposed amendment to the Farm Bill

Congressional leaders in the United States re-introduced a bill that would expand the scope of federal research spending on coffee pests and diseases. The National Coffee Association (NCA), World Coffee Research (WCR), the Synergistic Hawaii Agricultural Council (SHAC), and the Hawaii Coffee Association (HCA) applaud the Coffee Plant Health Initiative Amendments Act (CPHIAA, HR 966) introduced 9 February by Representative Jill Tokuda (Hawaii) along with Reps Jenniffer González-Colón (Puerto Rico), Ed Case (Hawaii), and Garret Graves (Louisiana) and Senators Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii). The amendment authorises research to combat pests and diseases that threaten coffee supplies and farmers by expanding the scope of an existing initiative at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USD $225 billion US coffee sector and more than 1.6 million US jobs rely on coffee supplies from around the world. Coffee growers in Hawaii and Puerto Rico that supply the lucrative specialty coffee market in the US, as well as growers in low-income countries, are particularly vulnerable to pests and disease. The CPHIAA will accelerate agricultural research to help overcome these challenges while maintaining flavour and quality.

“More Americans (66 per cent of adults) drink coffee each day more than any other beverage,” said William “Bill” Murray, president and CEO of the NCA. “As agricultural research and development plays a key role in the future of America’s favourite beverage, the NCA urges Congress to advance legislation that prioritises coffee as a key contributor to Americans’ daily lives, farmers’ livelihoods, and the US economy.”

“From Kona to Maui to Mayaguez, coffee is woven into our island cultures and drives over $500 million in benefits to our communities,” said Suzanne Shriner, administrator of SHAC. “Hawaiian growers have been devastated by diseases such as leaf rust, which arrived in 2020 and cut crop yields in half after causing $1 billion in damages globally and forcing farm workers, particularly in Central America, to abandon farms and even migrate. This bill focuses needed research attention on our biggest problems, while helping our small farmers stay in business.”

Legislators are seeking to include the CPHIAA in the 2023 Farm Bill to amend a programme established in the 1990 Farm Bill that focused exclusively on the coffee berry borer pest. The bill authorises the USDA to fund research on coffee diseases and pests broadly. “The existing Coffee Plant Health Initiative Act does two things: first, it says ‘coffee plant health’ is a priority of the industry, therefore ‘should’ receive support, but it limits that directive to supporting research on coffee berry borer,” said Hanna Neuschwander, strategy and communications director, World Coffee Research told T&CTJ. “The amendment, which is what we’re talking about here, maintains the coffee plant health priority, but broadens the mandate to cover all coffee diseases/pests, not only coffee berry borer.” In effect, she said, “the bill authorises Congress to fund this work, but it doesn’t allocate money to it, that is a separate process.”

Chris Manfredi, executive director of the HCA explained that “this important legislation will help Hawaii target resources toward the most immediate threats to our coffee. By also anticipating

future threats, it will enable researchers to quickly pivot as they emerge and ensure the survival of one of Hawaii’s most important crops.”

“CPHIAA will enable much-needed research at a time when coffee is under severe strain. Public research aligned with industry needs is critical to securing the future of coffee,” said Vern Long, CEO of World Coffee Research.

The USDA focuses on programs/projects that impact US farmers, so projects typically either involve Hawaii and Puerto Rico coffee farmers and/or US university researchers. However, Neuschwander shared that there is the potential for any funding of research to benefit farmers globally. “For example, a current research program funded by USDA’s FFAR program is working on sequencing the coffee rust genome. This is US public funding helping deliver a critical global public good that will advance other countries’ ability to tackle rust.”

Related content

Leave a reply

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal