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US Steps Up Fight Against ‘Coffee Rust’

FILE - A Costa Rican coffee farmer shows coffee beans affected by a tree-killing fungus known as "coffee rust," in Perez Zeledon July 12, 2013.
The Obama administration is joining forces with Texas A&M University in the fight against “coffee rust” - a fungus threatening to devastate the Latin American coffee crop.

The orange-colored fungus has already caused more than $1 billion in damage. It is especially dangerous to Arabica beans - used to brew gourmet coffees that are much in demand in U.S. coffee shops and elsewhere.

Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama have been especially hard-hit.

U.S. officials say Latin bean production could drop as much as 40 percent in the coming years, putting about 500,000 farmers and others out of work and into poverty. The officials believe many would turn to the illegal drug trade to make a living.

Most so-called mass-produced coffee sold in supermarkets come from Asian beans.