Sen. Mazie K. Hirono has included her Macadamia Tree Health Initiative—legislation that prioritizes research into combating the macadamia felted coccid, an invasive pest threatening Hawai‘i’s macadamia nut industry—in the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report. The bipartisan Farm Bill, which sets policy and funding levels for agriculture and nutrition programs through 2023, was approved in the Senate by a 87-13 vote. The House of Representatives must now vote on the bill in order to send it to the President for his signature.
“Today’s vote brings much needed federal resources to combat the macadamia felted coccid, which has been ravaging our $46 million macadamia industry for over a decade,” Sen. Hirono said. “This strong bipartisan agreement also protects needy families from painful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and supports many programs that are critical to Hawai‘i farmers and growers. I urge the House to pass this legislation and for the president to sign it as quickly as possible.”
Introduced earlier this Congress, Sen. Hirono’s Macadamia Tree Health Initiative makes researching and developing management strategies to combat the macadamia felted coccid a high priority at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Additionally, Sen. Hirono teamed up with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) to include a floor amendment to provide small grants for individuals, food banks, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations to promote food security and the availability of fresh food for local communities throughout Hawai‘i.
Additional Hawai‘i priorities Sen. Hirono fought to protect and include in the Senate Farm Bill:
- Reauthorizing the USDA’s Education Grants for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions. These grants are provided to eligible Hawai‘i and Alaska educational institutions which serve Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native students for the purpose of helping with educational needs as they relate to food and agricultural sciences.
- Protecting current benefits for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program provides assistance for more than 42 million participants nationwide—including 163,000 individuals from 83,000 households in Hawai‘i.
- Reauthorizing The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). This program provides federal resources to support low-income individuals and households with fresh food through local food banks.
- Promoting Industrial Hemp. The bill includes provisions of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, a bill that Sen. Hirono cosponsored, which promotes the development of industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. The University of Hawai‘i as well as the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture have been exploring the potential for industrial hemp production in Hawai‘i.
- Reauthorizing and Providing Mandatory Funding for Organic Research and Extension. The bill includes permanent, mandatory funding for organic research, makes much-needed improvements to the organic certification process, and provides assistance to farmers that want to transition to organic food production.
- Reauthorizing the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). The bill renews funding for SCRI through 2023. Competitive funding from SCRI can be used by research organizations and institutions like the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to conduct research on specialty crops such as floriculture, fruits, nuts, and coffee.
- Reauthorizing and Maintaining Funding for Conservation Programs. The bill reauthorizes a number of conservation programs through 2023, including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
- Maintaining Mandatory Funding for Rural Energy Programs. Energy costs have a major impact on farmers, particularly in Hawai‘i, where we pay some of the highest energy costs in the nation. The bill renews funding for Farm Bill energy programs like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses install renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency.