Coffee roasters called on to help fund critical research

World Coffee Research (WCR) has developed a new way for roasters of all sizes to pitch in and back the organisation’s work to ensure the global coffee industry survives the multiple challenges presented by disease, land use pressure and climate change. A half-cent-per-pound check-off system has been designed to raise necessary funds for WCR to address these pressing issues through its unparalleled research program. According to WCR Executive Director, Dr Timothy Schilling, the inspiration comes from the check-off system that has long worked in funding research and marketing for other widespread goods. “Almost all commodities in the U.S. have a check-off fund,” he says. “Producers produce a bushel of soybeans, for example, and 25 cents of the price goes to a fund. They utilise that fund on research for diseases in soybeans, or for promotion.” All funds collected will be used to enable work in critical areas of disease treatment and prevention, as well as support the collection of other much-needed data that stands to have great impact on the present and future of specialty coffee. “Our core program is about improving the volume of coffee produced—and also the quality of those supplies of coffee—mainly through genetic improvement and variety development, germ plasm enhancement, and other things that are necessary, there's no doubt about it, “Dr. Schilling explains. “This research applies directly to rust interventions and treatment in Central America.” Shawn Hamilton, the green buyer for US-based Java City who also serves as WCR's treasurer, says that now is the time for roasters of all sizes to pitch in and back the organisation's work. “I think if anybody knows the (specialty) coffee business well enough, they know that the 10 to 20 year future of the coffee that we buy does not look good. Between land-use pressures, (the) pressure to switch out of coffee, climate change—there's going to be a significant changes. How do we grow higher quality coffee at lower altitudes, for instance? Drought resistance, rust resistance… Right now, there are no answers to those questions.” Once a roaster commits to participate, it approaches a participating importer, alerts the WCR, and draws up a contract that allows the importing company to apply a half-cent levy on every pound of green coffee purchased over the course of five years. The extra money is included on the roaster's regular invoice from its import partner (and is eligible for tax write-offs as a cost of doing business), and is collected automatically for submission to the WCR by the importing company itself. Importers like Paragon, InterAmerican and others have already signed on. For more information about participating in the check-off program or supporting World Coffee Research in other ways, visit

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