- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - A beetle known as the coffee berry borer is the target of a pesticide subsidy program in Hawaii that started two years after gaining legislative approval.

The program kicked off in September with a $500,000 allocation to pay back some of what farmers spent on certain pesticides that battle the beetle, West Hawaii Today reported (https://bit.ly/2f3lt70).

State Rep. Nicole Lowen, who wrote the legislation, says the program is going online just as other funding sources are drying up.

“Coffee is a big part of our economy, but also it’s such an important part of the culture and history and richness of this area,” Lowen said. “We don’t want to have to imagine Kona without Kona coffee.”

Farmers can recoup up to 75 percent of their pesticide costs in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Reimbursements are capped at $600 per acre and up to $9,000 per business in a year.

Future subsidies will cover half of farmers’ pesticide costs.

The program continues through 2019 as long as funds are available.

“This is short-term monetary assistance to get farmers up to speed,” said Rob Curtiss, an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture. “This program should help the industry catch up with controlling this pest until it becomes part of farmers’ everyday management programs.”

Bruce Corker and his wife Lisa applied for a subsidy recently.

“The program is an incentive to farmers to use the fungus, and I hope the state will provide more funding because I’d be very surprised if (the money) lasted through 2019,” Corker said. “I think the cap is probably higher than it should be. But at least there is a cap so a disproportionate amount of the grant doesn’t go just to the large acreage farms.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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