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Gabbard stops in Kona

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met Thursday with local coffee farm owners and members of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association to discuss efforts to combat the devastating Coffee Berry Borer pest that has attacked crops and other challenges faced by local farmers and small business owners. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Gabbard’s Office)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met Thursday with local coffee farm owners and members of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association to discuss efforts to combat the devastating Coffee Berry Borer pest that has attacked crops and other challenges faced by local farmers and small business owners. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Gabbard’s Office)

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was on the Big Island Thursday and met with members of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.

They discussed efforts to combat the devastating Coffee Berry Borer pest that has attacked crops and other challenges faced by local farmers and small business owners.

She also toured the Kona Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), which serves West Hawaii veterans, to learn more about their daily operations and discuss plans for the Hilo CBOC.

She was also able to talk with veterans in the waiting room who spoke about the care and services they receive from the clinic.

Thursday afternoon, the congresswoman hosted a “Talk Story with Tulsi” community outreach meeting in Kona to deliver a Congressional update, respond to questions from the audience, listen to their ideas and concerns, and take in casework.

Island Lava Java Bistro provided the venue, which included refreshments and up-close views of crashing 12-foot waves for about 50 residents.

Gabbard Highlights Watchdog Group’s NSA Reform Recommendations

Also Thursday, Gabbard issued the following statement on a new report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent watchdog group.

The board issued a 238-page report today concluding that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of phone records has only provided minimal benefit in combating terrorism, and that the program is illegal and should be shut down.

“This new report by the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has highlighted the serious overreach of the NSA and its violations of Americans’ civil liberties, and the minimal benefits that its bulk phone records collection has provided for our national security,” Gabbard said. “By making targeted reforms to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress can end this vast and unnecessary overreach of the NSA into our personal lives. The PCLOB’s report underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass these reforms, and to put an end to the surveillance of innocent Americans.”

Gabbard is an original co-sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, which reforms Section 215 of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act that has been widely blamed for the bulk collection of innocent Americans’ personal data.

Gabbard meets with Kona coffee farmers

On Jan. 23, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met with a group of Kona Coffee farmers at Cuppa Kona Farm in Holualoa. Gabbard had requested a meeting with her farmer constituents to discuss the Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) emergency, as well as other issues faced by Kona coffee farmers.

CBB is a small and destructive beetle discovered on Hawaii Island in 2010 that is causing damage to coffee to a degree that raises concerns about the continuing economic viability of coffee as a commercial crop in Hawaii County.

The Kona farmers expressed thanks to Gabbard for her work that was instrumental in 2013 in securing initial emergency funding for research and CBB mitigation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC) in Hilo.

Gabbard was encouraged to continue efforts to bring further funding to the scientists at PBARC to continue the battle against CBB.

Other issues raised by the coffee farmers were their 20-plus year effort to reform Hawaii’s 10 percent coffee blend law and the increasing presence of Black Twig Borer on the west side of Hawaii Island.

The use of the “Kona” name on packages of coffee containing only 10 percent Kona coffee deceives consumers into wrongly believing they are buying Kona Coffee when 90 percent of the contents is not from Kona. These “blends” damage the reputation of Kona Coffee when consumers are disappointed by the mediocre taste of what is mostly ordinary commodity coffee.

The Black Twig Borer is another pest that is also posing challenges to Kona Coffee farmers by reducing harvest levels.

Gabbard expressed her understanding of the concerns and pledged to work hard in Washington, D.C. to preserve coffee as Hawaii’s premier specialty agricultural crop.

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