Legislature(2011 - 2012)BARNES 124

03/15/2011 10:15 AM ECON. DEV., TRADE & TOURISM

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10:19:24 AM Start
10:20:06 AM Presentation: "alaska Adventure Center: Selling Tourism in the 21st Century"
11:34:58 AM HB191
12:16:43 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
"Alaska Adventure Center: Selling Tourism in the
21st Century," by Perry Green & Bob Coe
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
           HB 191-DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD                                                                        
11:34:58 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR HERRON announced  that the final order of  business would be                                                              
HOUSE BILL  NO. 191,  "An Act establishing  a state  department of                                                              
agriculture  and  food and  relating  to  its powers  and  duties;                                                              
relating  to   the  powers  and   duties  of  the   Department  of                                                              
Environmental   Conservation  and   the   Department  of   Natural                                                              
Resources; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                
11:35:12 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMPSON,  as  the  sponsor,  introduced  HB  191.                                                              
Representative Thompson  said he is  a businessman who  supports a                                                              
strong,   diversified  Alaska   economy.     He  heard  from   the                                                              
agriculture  community concerns  about  agricultural projects  and                                                              
the ability  to provide  a safe,  long-term food  supply.   In the                                                              
'70s, Governor Hammond  established goals for the  state:  broaden                                                              
the economic  base of the  state through agricultural  production;                                                              
stabilize   food  costs   by   increasing   local  food;   provide                                                              
alternative  job   opportunities  through  expanded   agriculture;                                                              
improve  rural  life  by  developing   an  economic  base  through                                                              
agriculture.   Currently,  there  is renewed  interest in  growing                                                              
food locally;  there are  markets for  farmers' produce,  Alaska's                                                              
disease-free potatoes,  and greenhouse  products.  House  Bill 191                                                              
will  enable   farmers  to   communicate   their  ideas   for  the                                                              
enhancement  of agriculture  in the  state.   He pointed out  that                                                              
only  Rhode  Island  and  Alaska  do  not  have  a  department  of                                                              
agriculture.  Representative  Thompson acknowledged  that the bill                                                              
is "a  work in  progress," and  asked the  committee to  assist in                                                              
strengthening  the agriculture  industry  for the  benefit of  all                                                              
11:37:31 AM                                                                                                                   
PETE FELLMAN,  Representative,  Alaska Farm  Bureau, Inc.,  gave a                                                              
brief  discussion  of  the history  of  the  state's  agricultural                                                              
policy.   He referred  to efforts  - spanning over  20 years  - to                                                              
stabilize   the    state   policy   on   agriculture    from   one                                                              
administration  to  the  next.   However,  Mr.  Fellman  has  been                                                              
involved  in this effort  during many  changes in  administration,                                                              
and some administrations  did not support agriculture  in any way.                                                              
He  opined  the  Department  of Natural  Resources  (DNR)  is  not                                                              
serious in supporting  agriculture; in fact, $12  million from the                                                              
Agriculture  Revolving Loan  Fund (ARLF)  has been  tapped to  run                                                              
the  Division  of   Agriculture  within  DNR.     Because  of  the                                                              
restriction  preventing  farmers   from  borrowing  money  against                                                              
agricultural  land, the ARLF  at the division  is the  only source                                                              
of loans  for operating money for  farmers.  He asked  whether the                                                              
committee wants agriculture in Alaska to die a slow death.                                                                      
11:42:06 AM                                                                                                                   
LYALL BRASIER, Owner,  Brasier Farms, stated his farm  has been in                                                              
operation for  40 years raising  potatoes, livestock,  forage, and                                                              
grain.   He  expressed his  support of  HB 191  because the  state                                                              
needs a  strong food  security program,  and should eliminate  the                                                              
multi-layers  of bureaucracy  between  agriculture, the  governor,                                                              
and the legislature.                                                                                                            
11:44:02 AM                                                                                                                   
BRYCE WRIGLEY,  President, Alaska  Farm Bureau, Inc.,  stated that                                                              
food production and  food security need to become  a top priority.                                                              
There is  only a three  to nine day supply  of food in  the state,                                                              
and Alaska's  food distribution  system is  vulnerable to  natural                                                              
and  man-made disasters.   Farmers  and ranchers  are thwarted  by                                                              
regulations  that  prohibit  the   growth  of  the  industry;  for                                                              
example,  agencies   providing  inspection  services,   veterinary                                                              
services, oversight  of land, and  other issues, are  functions of                                                              
several  different departments,  and  would be  more efficient  if                                                              
located in  a single department  of agriculture.  The  Alaska Farm                                                              
Bureau proposes a  10-year goal of increased food  production to a                                                              
level  that would  provide for  the population  for 90  days.   If                                                              
created, the department  of agriculture would be funded  as is the                                                              
Division  of  Agriculture,  and  critical  agricultural  functions                                                              
would  move  from the  Department  of  Environmental  Conservation                                                              
(DEC)  and DNR  to  one  department.   He  offered  help from  the                                                              
agricultural community  to develop and focus the  department.  Mr.                                                              
Wrigley advised that  for three decades the needs  of the division                                                              
have been sidetracked  by the size of DNR and its  other large and                                                              
important  priorities; in  fact, DNR  does not  have the  capacity                                                              
for an appropriate  level of management to provide  food security,                                                              
which  is something  that has  been possible  for many  years.   A                                                              
dynamic  agricultural industry  would  benefit  Alaska by  growing                                                              
local food,  reducing social  ills in  rural areas, and  fostering                                                              
good  work ethics  in  young people.   He  urged  support for  the                                                              
creation of  a department of  agriculture that will  be efficient,                                                              
responsive,  proactive, empowered,  and  positively involved  with                                                              
many facets of life in Alaska.                                                                                                  
11:48:15 AM                                                                                                                   
RUBY  HOLLEMBAEK,  Owner-Operator,  Alaska  Interior  Game  Ranch;                                                              
President,   Alaska   Diversified  Livestock   Association,   Inc.                                                              
(ADLA), said  she is  a life-long Alaskan  resident and  noted her                                                              
support for several  agricultural organizations around  the state.                                                              
She provided a brief  personal history.  In her  role as president                                                              
of ADLA,  she expressed support  for the creation of  a department                                                              
of agriculture and  food.  A department of agriculture  was formed                                                              
under  the territorial  constitution,  but  unfortunately was  not                                                              
retained at  statehood.  This  department should be  reinstated to                                                              
supply resources  for Alaskans who produce food,  fiber, and fuel.                                                              
Ms. Hollembaek  advised that  there was a  15 percent  decrease in                                                              
the  amount of  land in  production from  1987 to  2007; in  fact,                                                              
Alaska is ranked  50th in the amount of land in  production of all                                                              
of  the  states,  due  not  to  a  lack  of  land,  water,  or  an                                                              
acceptable growing  season, but  because of the political  outlook                                                              
toward  agriculture in  Alaska.   As a  matter of  fact, ADLA  was                                                              
formed in 2001 to  bring unity and a voice to  livestock producers                                                              
who are  encouraged by  the public's  interest in eating  locally,                                                              
alternative  energy products,  and Alaskan-made  fiber.   She said                                                              
livestock businesses  are thriving,  although fuel and  fertilizer                                                              
prices are  high.   Livestock producers are  looking for  the same                                                              
consideration from  state government  as oil, gas,  fisheries, and                                                              
other  resources receive,  and "to  sit at the  table and  conduct                                                              
business  about our  product ...  we want  a cabinet-level  seat."                                                              
She stated  the purpose of  the department of agriculture  created                                                              
by the  territorial constitution,  and relayed  that the  ARLF was                                                              
created in 1953 with an authorization of $1 million.                                                                            
11:52:40 AM                                                                                                                   
LYNN  GATTIS, Owner,  Gattis Farm,  observed that  as a  life-long                                                              
Alaskan  she  continues to  be  interested  in how  residents  get                                                              
their  food.   Ms.  Gattis  is  a  farmer in  Port  MacKenzie  and                                                              
supports HB  191 because  the attention  to agriculture  in Alaska                                                              
is    lacking,   which    she    attributed    to   DNR's    other                                                              
responsibilities.   Furthermore,  this situation  reflects a  lack                                                              
of  a  true  plan  for  the  needs  of  Alaska  and  its  farmers.                                                              
Although  she did  not agree  with all  aspects of  the bill,  the                                                              
bill will  address the issue of  inattention to agriculture.   Ms.                                                              
Gattis expressed  her preference  for less  government, not  more,                                                              
but  she  said   agriculture  struggles  to  be   heard  by  state                                                              
government, and  instead the state  should support  agriculture so                                                              
its businesses can be profitable.                                                                                               
11:54:46 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK asked which  aspects of  the bill  Ms. Gattis                                                              
did not support.                                                                                                                
MS. GATTIS  explained  that the  bill adds a  layer of  government                                                              
and  cost, but  will  allow agriculture  to  have "a  seat at  the                                                              
table."    She  opined  DNR  cannot   provide  a  "direction"  for                                                              
agriculture,  such  as small  farms  and  niche markets,  or  huge                                                              
tracts of land.                                                                                                                 
11:56:28 AM                                                                                                                   
PAUL   HUPPERT,  Owner,   Palmer  Produce,   Inc.,  informed   the                                                              
committee his  family and he are  involved in agriculture  in many                                                              
ways, and he  has served on industry-related councils  and boards.                                                              
Mr.  Huppert supported  the testimony  of  the previous  speakers,                                                              
and added  that an additional problem  with DNR is  its negativity                                                              
towards  agricultural   issues.    He   opined  if  there   is  no                                                              
department  of   agriculture,  the   industry  will   continue  to                                                              
decline.   Mr. Huppert is also  upset by the inappropriate  use of                                                              
the  ARLF.   He concluded,  saying  that Alaska's  isolation is  a                                                              
protection  from  agricultural  diseases  and  that  creates  many                                                              
opportunities   for  agriculture  in   Delta  Junction   and  Port                                                              
11:59:03 AM                                                                                                                   
MICHAEL NEECE, President,  Homer Grange, expressed  his support of                                                              
HB 191.  He  informed the committee that the Grange  is a national                                                              
organization  established  in 1867  to  help provide  support  for                                                              
farmers throughout the U.S.                                                                                                     
11:59:52 AM                                                                                                                   
BRUCE WILLARD,  Director, Alaska  Farm Bureau,  Inc., said  he has                                                              
been involved in  commercial agriculture in the  state since 1959.                                                              
Mr. Willard  expressed his support  of HB 191, and  described some                                                              
of   the  problems   surrounding  the   marketing  of   livestock.                                                              
Although there  is a  slaughterhouse in  Palmer, it is  threatened                                                              
with  closure, and  then conditions  would  revert to  "butchering                                                              
under a tree."   He reiterated that agriculture  needs a direction                                                              
and a voice, and the state does not need more fisheries.                                                                        
12:02:01 PM                                                                                                                   
MARIE  RICE had  her  testimony  read by  Bill  Burton as  follows                                                              
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     I've  been  involved  in the  agriculture  community  in                                                                   
     Kodiak since  1963 when we  purchased a cattle  ranch at                                                                   
     Kalsin Bay.   We took a big hit in the  1964 tidal wave,                                                                   
     [losing] many  of our purebred Scottish  Highland cattle                                                                   
     we had  shipped all the way  from Colorado.   We revived                                                                   
     and added  a large lease  and cattle from the  adjoining                                                                   
     ranch  a  few years  later  that  resulted in  a  cattle                                                                   
     ranch  encompassing 50,000  acres  of lease  and we  ran                                                                   
     nearly 1,000  head of cattle.   At the time  agriculture                                                                   
     was at  its peak with  seven large cattle operations  on                                                                   
     the road system on Kodiak.                                                                                                 
     I  remember  when  the  transition  was  made  from  the                                                                   
     Department   of   Agriculture   to   the   Division   of                                                                   
     Agriculture  and  the  great concern  the  ranchers  had                                                                   
     about the  change.  The  fear at  the time was  that the                                                                   
     emphasis on  support for agriculture in Alaska  would be                                                                   
     greatly  diminished.    The  timing  of  this  was  also                                                                   
     coupled with  the Native Land Claim Settlement  Act that                                                                   
     allowed  for native  selection of  land that  encroached                                                                   
     on some  of the  leasehold interest.   Those fears  have                                                                   
     come to reality  in the place agriculture  has been able                                                                   
     to hold in the state.                                                                                                      
     I strongly  support  the switch back  to the  Department                                                                   
     of  Agriculture.     Agriculture  in  our   state  needs                                                                   
     renewed emphasis  and support if we are  to increase the                                                                   
     level  of production  to serve  our needs.   I  recently                                                                   
     saw a  statistic that  said we produce  3% of our  food.                                                                   
     I  have  recently taken  part  in  the USDA  hoop  house                                                                   
     project  which is very  exciting in  trying to  increase                                                                   
     local  production of  vegetables.   Please  support  the                                                                   
     move to the Department of Agriculture.                                                                                     
BILL BURTON  said that ranchers  in Kodiak  have lost land  due to                                                              
the  Alaska Native  Claims  Settlement Act,  and  a department  of                                                              
agriculture  is needed to  help promote  agriculture in  the event                                                              
of a disruption in the delivery of food.                                                                                        
12:06:03 PM                                                                                                                   
GAYLE  EASTWOOD disclosed  she was  a  member of  the Alaska  Farm                                                              
Bureau  and that  she  was  testifying on  her  own  behalf.   Ms.                                                              
Eastwood  and  her  husband have  imported  different  species  of                                                              
trees for  future sale  in Southeast  Alaska.   At their  ranch in                                                              
Delta Junction,  they can  grow and sell  hay cheaper  than buying                                                              
imported hay, thus  they are proponents of  Alaska-grown products.                                                              
Ms.  Eastwood expressed  her support  for HB  191, restating  that                                                              
the department  was originally  created in 1945  and the  ARLS was                                                              
authorized  in  1953.    She  further   explained  that  the  ARLS                                                              
intended  to  help  farmers  control  animal  diseases  and  plant                                                              
pests,  and for  other agricultural  endeavors.    Agriculture  in                                                              
Alaska  extends  beyond  garden-grown  vegetables  to  the  barley                                                              
project  in  Delta  Junction where  farmers  are  growing  barley,                                                              
wheat, oats,  canola, and potatoes  on a commercial scale.   Also,                                                              
farmers are raising  sheep, cattle, yak, bison,  and other animals                                                              
for commercial  sale.   In Southeast Alaska,  on a smaller  scale,                                                              
sheep  and  cattle  are  raised,   and  there  are  nurseries  and                                                              
Farmer's   Markets.    Ms.   Eastwood  opined   a  department   of                                                              
agriculture  will  benefit  farmers  and  consumers  by  assisting                                                              
farmers to  improve products,  thus providing  a locally  produced                                                              
product  reducing   freight  costs  and  increasing   the  vitamin                                                              
content of  food.    She  concluded that  agriculture is  the poor                                                              
relation of oil, gas, and coal at DNR.                                                                                          
12:09:14 PM                                                                                                                   
DELBERT SIMINEO, Palmer, Alaska (Indisc.).                                                                                      
12:11:46 PM                                                                                                                   
ED  FOGELS,  Deputy  Commissioner,  Office  of  the  Commissioner,                                                              
Department of Natural  Resources, advised that  the administration                                                              
has no  position on  the bill at  this time;  however, as  long as                                                              
the division  is located within  DNR, he and the  commissioner are                                                              
committed to making  it more effective.  Mr.  Fogel recognized the                                                              
true  value  of agriculture  to  Alaska  and  the issues  of  food                                                              
security,   and   agreed  with   the   need  to   strengthen   the                                                              
agricultural plan  for the state.   In fact, the  commissioner has                                                              
a strong  connection to the  agricultural industry, and  Mr. Fogel                                                              
has  met  with  the  farming  community   on  numerous  occasions.                                                              
Referring  to the  bill, he  agreed  that state  agencies need  to                                                              
collaborate  on  agricultural  issues,  and  said  DNR  will  work                                                              
toward that goal.                                                                                                               
12:13:46 PM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR HERRON  referred to  the passion  of the previous  testimony                                                              
and asked  for clarification  on whether Mr.  Fogel felt  that the                                                              
division needs to become a department of agriculture.                                                                           
MR.  FOGEL stated  that his  intent  was to  inform the  committee                                                              
that there  is new management  at DNR,  thus the division  will be                                                              
given a "fresh look".                                                                                                           
CHAIR HERRON  observed the newest  member of the  legislature from                                                              
Fairbanks  was  listening  to  the   deep-rooted  concern  of  his                                                              
12:15:43 PM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  appreciated the department's  commitment to                                                              
examine the issue.                                                                                                              
12:16:15 PM                                                                                                                   
[HB 191 was held for further testimony.]                                                                                        

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Alaska Tourism Recovery Executive Summary Final 3.10.2011 BC.pptx HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - Alaska Business Monthly - ARLF.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 Alaska's State-Funded Ag Projects and Policy.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HEDT 4/7/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 191
HB 191 farm bureau Department of AG.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 Letter of Support Ruby Hollembaek.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 Sectional Analysis.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - Brasier Farms letter of support for Dept of AG.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - Mat-Su Farm Bureau 2007 letter.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - SPONSOR_STATEMENT_HB_191 (Revised #2).pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HEDT 4/7/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 191
HB 191 - Letters of support.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - New - Farm Bureau legislator's Letter-December 22.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - New -Farm Bureau Dept of Ag.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - 14 Fiscal Notes.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HEDT 4/7/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 191
HB 191 - Eastwood Support LTR.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM
HB 191 - ARLF - Fiscal Summary10.pdf HEDT 3/15/2011 10:15:00 AM