Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R) of Puerto Rico and Representative Jill Tokuda (D) of Hawaii introduced two pieces of legislation seeking to authorize research and extension grants by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect plantain, banana, and cacao crops.
“Plantains and bananas are staple crops in Puerto Rico with both being widely produced and consumed by Island residents. Similarly, cacao production is increasing and attracting new farmers, which has a significant impact on our economy. These two bills seek to leverage agricultural research undertaken by USDA to protect all three crops against pests and plant disease, which can be highly threatening to our agriculture sector. I am proud to lead this legislation alongside my colleague from the state of Hawaii, Congresswoman Tokuda, and look forward to advocating for both bills in the 2023 Farm bill,” said González-Colón.
“I am pleased to co-lead these two bills that will make overdue research investments in cacao and banana/plantain. Hawaiʻi’s emerging chocolate industry is winning international awards and bringing additional recognition to Hawaiʻi’s value-added agricultural industry. Bananas, like apple bananas, remain an important staple in local farmers’ markets and family kitchens throughout Hawaiʻi. Providing specialty farmers and producers with needed resources to fight invasive pests, combat diseases, and adapt to changing weather patterns will strengthen and expand these important local industries. I look forward to continuing to champion tropical specialty crop research as we head into the Farm Bill,” said Tokuda.
The Plantain and Banana Plant Health Initiative Act, HR 1455, directs USDA to:
- Study potential resistance and tolerance to nonnative diseases and insect pests;
- Increase research for treatment of pests that affect plantains and bananas, including Fusarium oxysporum f.sp/ cubense, Tropical Race 4;
- Conduct field studies to evaluate plantain and banana cultivars with enhanced resistance to diseases and pests, and adaptability to tropical soils;
- Disseminate information and educate growers on best practices to promote safe production of plantains and bananas, and;
- Establish an areawide integrated pest management program in areas affected by or areas at risk of being affected by pests such as Fusarium exospore f.sp.cubense, Tropical Race 4.
The Cacao Tree Health Initiative Act, HR 1454, includes cacao trees in the US Department of Agriculture’s research and extension initiatives, authorizing research and extension grants for the following:
- Developing and disseminating science-based tools and treatments to combat plant pests (as defined in section 403 of the Plant Protection Act (7 USC 7702) that affect cacao trees;
- Establishing an integrated pest management program for cacao trees in areas affected by or at risk of being affected by such pests.
- Surveying and collecting data on cacao tree production, health, and markets.
- Investigating cacao tree biology, ecology, genomes, and production systems.
- Conducting research on factors that may contribute to, or be associated with, resilient cacao production systems, including-
- The selection and propagation of cacao tree varieties that improve the market advantage of cacao grown in the United States; and
- Best management practices in cacao-growing regions under various climate conditions; and
- Conducting research on factors that may contribute to, or be associated with, serious threats to cacao trees, including the sublethal effects of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on beneficial insects and cacao tree growth.