Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/09/2004 09:02 AM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 34-FED TRAINING AND ASSISTANCE FOR FISHERMEN Number 0042 CHAIR SEATON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 34, Requesting the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Labor to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits to Alaska fishermen; requesting the United States Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture to extend additional disaster and price support benefits to Alaska salmon fishermen; and requesting the United States Department of Agriculture to establish terminal markets in Alaska for all covered commodities including salmon. [The resolution was sponsored by Representative Ogg by request of the Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force.] Number 0108 REPRESENTATIVE OGG moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS), Version 23-LS1408\S, Utermohle, 2/3/04, as a work draft. [No objection was stated, and Version S was treated as adopted.] Number 0180 REPRESENTATIVE OGG moved [to adopt Amendment 1], on page 3, line 9, to delete "salmon". He said it was a typographical error. CHAIR SEATON asked about the effect of removing it on page 3, but not in the title [page 1, line 6]. Number 0235 REPRESENTATIVE OGG said he'd amend Amendment 1 to also delete "salmon" from [page 1, line 6, in the title]. The "Resolved" section was to expand the resolution to include all commercial fishermen; the first part addresses just the salmon industry. He explained that he was trying to get the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish a Trade Adjustment Assistance program for commercial fishermen across the spectrum, as seen in the fourth "Resolved" [page 3, lines 7-9]. REPRESENTATIVE OGG said he'd remove his original [Amendment 1] and restate it as follows: Page 1, line 6 Delete the word "salmon" Page 3, line 9 Delete the word "salmon" Number 0369 CHAIR SEATON asked if there was any objection to adopting [the new] Amendment 1. There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 0413 MELISSA DOVER, Staff to Representative Dan Ogg, Alaska State Legislature, explained the changes to Version S. On page 2 of the original resolution, lines 17-19 were deleted because the coordinating "Resolved" statement had been previously removed, and [lines 17-19] were accidentally left in, she said. On page 2 [of the original resolution], line 24, after the first "years", she said the words "due to import-related price fluctuations" were added. And [on page 2, line 24] after the [second] "years", the words "due to loss of market caused by import-related price fluctuations" were added. MS. DOVER, in response to a question from Chair Seaton, clarified that the changes in Version S were on page 2, lines 21 and 22; those changes were made to make [the language] specifically related to imports. Number 0625 MS. DOVER said in the original resolution, on page 3, lines 7-9 were deleted. She said it ended up being a very complicated issue when it was discovered that it was impossible to establish terminal markets in Alaska. Number 0679 MS. DOVER pointed out that in Version S on page 3, lines 7-9 were added to request that the U.S. Department of Commerce pursue the establishment of a TA [Trade Adjustment] program that is specific to commercial fishermen, because the current TA program was designed for farmers. Number 0772 MATT PANCRATZ, Commercial Salmon Fisherman, mentioned that he'd heard retraining was the goal for fishermen who've suffered from the loss of market price. He said the fishermen and processors in Cook Inlet don't have the money for their occupations. He asked if the legislature would consider providing funds to help fishermen create a better product, rather than spending the money on retraining. CHAIR SEATON responded that the resolution does have a provision for the [United States] Department of Agriculture (USDA), program, as well as the [United States] Department of Labor (USDOL) program. The USDA program is the cash payment to fishermen, based on the depressed prices or losses from competition with imported products, he explained, and the (USDOL) program is the retraining money. Number 0976 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON commented that over the weekend she'd talked to someone involved with the university who was excited by the numbers of fishermen who were taking classes to enhance their fishing businesses. CHAIR SEATON noted that last year, legislation was passed that allowed processors to take a tax credit on their corporate taxes for investments in value-added products; small operations were included. He said [this resolution relates to] a federal program, and the legislature doesn't have a lot of influence on the way the federal program allocates money; however, the intent, as stated by Representative OGG, is to ask for a "fisherman-specific program, instead of just shoehorning fishermen into the agricultural program." He said he hoped to discuss some of the issues brought up by Mr. Pancratz in negotiating for the fishermen's program. MR. PANCRATZ remarked that he believed the committee had addressed most of the difficult issues. CHAIR SEATON asked Mr. Pancratz to keep his eyes open for other legislation coming up. Number 1180 MARK VINSEL, Executive Director, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), spoke in favor of HJR 34. He said, "I also think that the resolution addresses the concerns that we heard the most from, both from fishermen, directly, and through the Farm Service Agency and marine advisory program that are implementing the program." Number 1232 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked if the retraining and relocating programs were designed to take fishermen out of the industry indirectly and then shut it down. MR. VINSEL responded, "I don't think that it's necessarily the intention of the program to reduce the number of commercial fishermen." He spoke about the technical-assistance part of the program, which includes information on improving quality and diversification in order to remain in the [fishing] business. He continued: The retraining is part of the [U.S.] Department of Labor program that is provided in the USDA program to people who qualify for the cash benefits. One of the points of the resolution is to apply that retraining assistance even to fishermen who don't qualify for the cash, under the understanding that everybody is affected by the increased imports. And, in my mind, and I believe it's in the spirit of the program that it should be allowing that retraining benefit to people that are salmon fishermen because the salmon is a commodity that's been affected by imports as they determined in the petition certification. Number 1354 MR. VINSEL explained that relocation is one aspect of the normal USDOL TAA program not provided in this. The fishermen who qualify [under this TAA program] are eligible for retraining, but not the relocation aspect. He added: In general, I think the spirit of the program is to allow farmers to continue to farm. The way I look at these price support programs is, it's to help retain a industry sector of small individual farmers, or in our case, fishermen, as the heart of the nation's food supply, which I think is a good goal because it keeps a diversified food supply for the country, not in the hands of just a few. Number 1413 CHAIR SEATON drew attention to the letter from UFA in support of HJR 34. He asked Mr. Vinsel if the UFA agreed with Amendment 1. MR. VINSEL said yes. CHAIR SEATON noted that the USDOL program, although it conjoins with the USDA's, also exists independently; fishermen can qualify if they were working for a processor that applied separately. Even if [fishermen] weren't eligible for the USDA program, they could qualify for the USDOL training program. Number 1510 CHAIR SEATON asked if anyone else wished to testify. He then closed public testimony. REPRESENTATIVE OGG complimented UFA and Mr. Vinsel for their work on HJR 34. He also commended Chad Padgett from the USDA for his hard work on the resolution. Number 1583 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved to report CSHJR 34, Version 23- LS1408\S, Utermohle, 2/3/04, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHJR 34(FSH) was reported from the House Special Committee on Fisheries.