Legislature(2011 - 2012)BARNES 124
04/07/2011 08:00 AM ECON. DEV., TRADE & TOURISM
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|Presentation: Biomass Boiler Heating Systems|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 191-DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD 9:06:36 AM VICE CHAIR OLSON 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." 9:06:55 AM JANE PIERSON, Staff, Representative Steve Thompson, Alaska State Legislature, reminded the committee the purpose of HB 191 was to create a new department of agriculture and food. Although the bill had been previously introduced to the committee, she provided a sectional analysis. Sections 1-18 of the bill address AS Title 3 - AGRICULTURE AND ANIMALS, and specifically, Chapter 5, which is the duties of the commissioners, and puts the duties relating to agriculture and food under the purview of the commissioner of the department of agriculture and food. The sections in Chapter 5 also address the powers and duties of the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and puts retail food establishments and fish products establishments under the purview of DEC. The new department of agriculture will have duties overseeing animals and animal products, the state veterinarian, noxious weeds, invasive plants, agricultural pest management, the grading and classification of agricultural products, inspections, product violations, elk farming, and food security. In addition, under AS Title 17, the new department of agriculture and food will assume duties over federal crop insurance contributions, agricultural and industrial fairs, the Farm to School Program, the Plant Materials Center, controlled livestock districts, brand-marking, beekeeping, and organic food. Sections 19-20 direct the commissioner of the department of agriculture and food to appoint an employee of the department as the director of the board of agriculture and conservation; this board oversees the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund (ARLF). Sections 39-75 deal with AS Title 17, which is Alaska Food and Drug; Chapter 20 is the Alaska Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and applies to the commissioner of the department of agriculture and food having the duty to set standards, regulate, label, inspect, embargo, condemn, re-label, enforce, and fine related food products with the exceptions of fish and fisheries products, and retail establishments, which remain under the purview of DEC. Sections 76-77 make conforming changes. Section 78 deals with the clearing and draining of agricultural land. Sections 79-82 also make conforming amendments. Section 83 adds a new chapter to establish the new department of agriculture and food. Section 84 adds the department of agriculture and food to the agencies enforcing AS 17.20. Section 85 repeals certain laws. Section 86 authorizes the department of agriculture and food, DEC, and DNR to begin adopting, amending, and repealing regulations as necessary to implement this Act. Sections 88-89 set forth the effective date. Ms. Pierson stated that Representative Thompson's office has been in contact with farmers, DEC, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the concerns from all of the interested parties are being addressed; for example, farmers were concerned about mandatory programs to inventory food supplies. Also, DEC requested a change in language regarding the processing of food, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) was concerned about language related to fish. In Section 18, the definition of retail food will be expanded and moved from Title 3 into Title 17. In Section 41, DEC will provide a definition of non- agricultural food. The definition of food establishment will be moved to Section 49, and changes related to retail food and agricultural food processors are forthcoming. Ms. Pierson noted that DNR feels the Division of Agriculture belongs in its department; however, Representative Thompson believes the creation of a new department is sound policy. 9:13:13 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER referred to the letters of support and opposition that were provided in the committee packet and asked for the authors' contact information. 9:14:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE TUCK asked for a copy of the most current sectional analysis. MS. PIERSON will respond to both requests. In response to Vice Chair Olson, she deferred to the Division of Agriculture for information on ARLF. 9:16:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE THOMPSON asked whether the Board of Agriculture & Conservation (BAC) is responsible for managing ARLF and its assets. 9:16:33 AM FRANCI HAVEMEISTER, Director, Central Office, Division of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said yes. In further response to Representative Thompson, she said she was unsure whether the BAC passed a resolution requesting that ARLF be recapitalized; however, the loan fund continues to revolve and BAC is "looking for future requests, ... currently we are able to meet the need of the Ag community." 9:17:05 AM REPRESENTATIVE THOMPSON asked for an explanation of the sudden drop in projected loan activity from $3,285,000 in fiscal year 2010 (FY 10), to $2,400,000 in FY 11, and to $1,500,000 FY 12. [These figures were from an undated document titled, "Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund Cash Flow Projection," from an unknown source.] MS. HAVEMEISTER opined the projections are based on historical information that does not reflect ARLF lower loan rates that led to refinances and "which shows activity but it's not actual cash out of the fund." 9:17:48 AM VICE CHAIR OLSON asked whether there is a description of the "difference between the two sets of numbers." [Included in the committee packet was an undated document titled, "Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund (ARLF), Financial Summary as of February 28, 2011, Fiscal Year July 1-June 30," from an unknown source.] 9:18:08 AM MS. HAVEMEISTER said: No, I have not. We just had an error that was submitted through this office that did not go through support services, so we requested support services do a new financial projection, and that, that is the one that is currently in the packet. MS. HAVEMEISTER, in further response to Vice Chair Olson, said Cris Cowles-Brunton, Revenue Officer, Central Office, Division of Support Services, DNR, prepared the second document. VICE CHAIR OLSON then asked whether the future sale of Matanuska Maid Diary (Mat-Maid) was a variable included in the cash flow projections. MS. HAVEMEISTER said she was unsure; however, the difference between the initial projection and the second projection was that revenue was not included in the initial projection. In further response to Vice Chair Olson, she said she did not believe any refinancing of bad debts was included. 9:19:46 AM MS. PIERSON, in response to Representative Gardner, explained the original projection by DNR was corrected. She said she will provide the corrected document to the committee. 9:21:20 AM VICE CHAIR OLSON opened public testimony. 9:21:45 AM SIG RESTAD, Master, Northland Pioneer Grange, expressed the Grange's support of the bill at its present "stage of development." The bill improves communication between the agricultural community and local and national agencies, and there is ample time to work on further revisions; in fact, Northland Pioneer Grange has been involved in this issue since 1934. Speaking on his own behalf, he recalled his experience as the Director of Agriculture from 1962-1968, and said state agricultural programs with department-level status are more productive and cost efficient. In addition, farmers benefit from seeking answers from one department organized in a structure similar to that of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mr. Restad offered his experience. 9:27:38 AM JOHN POIRRIER, President, Alaska State Grange, stated that the Alaska State Grange supports HB 191 based on two principles, the first of which is that the development of agriculture moved human society from a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle to a community lifestyle. Although Alaskans are dependent on natural resources and its regulatory approach to management, agriculture results from the efforts of people to produce food products to support a general population. He strongly urged further efforts in Alaska to provide its own food supply. Secondly, a department-level governmental agency should be involved in such an important element of the state's economy. The bill consolidates existing governmental functions into a single department in the best interests of the state. 9:29:57 AM BRYCE WRIGLEY, President, Alaska Farm Bureau, Inc., stressed that HB 191 is not an "indictment" of DNR or the Division of Agriculture. He pointed out that all Alaskans can be affected by transportation breakdowns and there is a serious need to address food security in Alaska by raising more food in the state. The new department of agriculture should have the freedom to strive for this goal of food security, independent of influence from DNR; in fact, the key to reaching this goal is to develop a business climate to support small- and medium-sized farms to grow and process food. A more focused agency will be capable of working with farmers to develop a food source in Alaska for its rural and urban populations. Mr. Wrigley endorsed the previous testimony of others. 9:31:55 AM VICE CHAIR OLSON closed public testimony. 9:32:05 AM REPRESENTATIVE THOMPSON questioned whether the FY 12 projected personnel expenditures in the amount of $512,375 are really needed to administer a loan fund of $1,500,000. MS. PIERSON said she was also interested in looking into these and other "numbers" pertaining to ARLF. VICE CHAIR OLSON, in response to Representative Foster, advised that the next committee of referral is the House Resources Standing Committee, which intends to work on the bill during interim. 9:34:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE TUCK relayed that historically there was a surplus of food in the U.S., but now there is not. Because of the remote location of Alaska, it is important to have an agricultural base, especially since there is only a three to eight day supply of food in case of a catastrophe. Representative Tuck acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done on the bill, but it emphasizes the importance of agriculture as the foundation of the economy, and he offered his assistance and support. 9:36:48 AM REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER moved to report HB 191, Version 27- LS0458\M, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. There being no objection, HB 191 was reported from the House Special Committee on Economic Development, International Trade and Tourism.