Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Bill to Fund Invasive Species Research in Hawaiʻi

September 28, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC—Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) introduced legislation today to help fight the macadamia felted coccid, an invasive species destroying macadamia trees and threatening the domestic macadamia nut industry at large. Since the invasive insect was introduced to Hawaiʻi in 2005, it has cost the local macadamia nut industry millions every year, threatening the vitality of one of Hawaiʻi’s most important crops. The Macadamia Tree Health Initiative would authorize highly sought research and development to help fight the invasive insect and establish an Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) plan in affected areas to help manage the invasive pest in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and cost effective way.

Video of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s full speech on the House floor is available here

“The macadamia felted coccid is one of more than 4,300 invasive species that threaten our agriculture industry in Hawaiʻi and across the United States. In Hawaiʻi alone, this pest costs our local farmers, landowners and agriculture industry millions of dollars a year, and puts hundreds of local farms, thousands of local workers, and the future of one of our most important crops at risk,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “As I visited multiple farms on Hawaiʻi Island last month, I heard story after story of how this tiny invasive insect is destroying farms and threatening the livelihood of communities like Kona, Kaʻu, and Hilo. Very little is known about this invasive pest, making it difficult for our agriculture workers to fight back. The Macadamia Tree Health Initiative will authorize much-needed research and development and establish a comprehensive management plan to help our local agriculture industry combat these invasive, harmful insects.” 
 
“The Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau applauds Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's efforts to help the Hawaiʻi macadamia industry and fully supports the proposed Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. Federal funding is desperately needed to find a solution to controlling the macadamia felted coccid which has severely impacted the Hawaiʻi macadamia growers. The initiative can be a game changer in our farmers’ fight against this devastating pest,” said the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau Federation. 
 
“The Edmund C. Olson Trust No. 2 is a grower of over 1,100 acres of macadamia orchards on the island of Hawaiʻi and a part owner of Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, a processor of several million pounds of nuts grown by the Trust and many dozens of independent growers around the island. We truly appreciate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's proposed Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. The invasive macadamia felted coccid is an especially damaging pest to many growers on Hawaiʻi Island. The health and wellness of our trees translates into a healthy industry able to keep our employees and their families with good jobs.  Further, healthy trees also assure consumers that Hawaiian-grown macadamia nuts will continue to be the finest macadamia products for many years to come. This bill will help not only our farm but that of the 16,000 acres of other growers and processors that combined produce some 50 million pounds of nuts each year,” said John Cross, land manager for the the Edmund C. Olson Trust II. 
 
“Royal Hawaiian Orchards (RHO) is a grower of macadamia nuts on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and supports the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. The threat to the macadamia orchards in Hawaiʻi from the macadamia felted coccid (MFC) is real and potentially devastating. The plan to develop and disseminate the best science based tools for treating MFC will make the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative exactly what the industry needs," said Martin E. Ramirez, Director of Farming Operations at Royal Hawaiian Services. 
 
Background: Last year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) Act (H.R.3893) to support long-term sustainable solutions to many pest management problems and reduce invasive species impact on agriculture and the environment. The bill would help farmers in Hawaiʻi and across the country fight invasive species like the coffee berry borer, fruit flies, and macadamia felted coccid [kok-sid]. AIPM systems reduce reliance on a single pest management tactic, reduce risks to human health and the environment, and increases economic benefits for farming communities across the nation. 

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