Legislature(1997 - 1998)

10/31/1997 01:30 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                    JOINT MEETING                                              
           SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                      
            HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                      
                     Wasilla, AK                                               
                  October 31, 1997                                             
                      1:30 p.m.                                                
                                                                               
                                                                               
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT                                 
                                                                               
Senator Lyda Green, Chair                                                      
Senator Jerry Ward, Vice Chair                                                 
                                                                               
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT                                  
                                                                               
Senator Jerry Mackie                                                           
Senator Mike Miller                                                            
Senator Jim Duncan                                                             
                                                                               
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT                                  
                                                                               
Representative Jeannette James, Chair                                          
                                                                               
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT                                   
                                                                               
Representative Fred Dyson                                                      
Representative Ivan Ivan                                                       
Representative Mark Hodgins                                                    
Representative Al Vezey                                                        
Representative Ethan Berkowitz                                                 
Representative Kim Elton                                                       
                                                                               
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE                                                             
                                                                               
Representative Scott Ogan                                                      
Representative Vic Kohring                                                     
                                                                               
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
                                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 228                                                             
"An Act relating to the Board of Agriculture, to the Agriculture               
Development Corporation, to the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund               
Board, and to the disposal of state agricultural land; and                     
providing for an effective date."                                              
                                                                               
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                          
                                                                               
PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                               
                                                                               
HB 228 -  See Joint Senate/House State Affairs minutes dated                   
          10/24/97.                                                            
                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
                                                                               
Don Brainard                                                                   
HC01, Box 6145                                                                 
Palmer, AK 99645                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Suggested revamping the old system instead of             
                     instituting a new one.                                    
                                                                               
Earl Clabow                                                                    
537 E. Fern Ave.                                                               
Palmer, AK 99645                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  HB 228 does not answer to agriculture's                   
                     problems.                                                 
                                                                               
Harry Leckwold                                                                 
Box 335                                                                        
Palmer, AK 99645                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Suggested more groundwork before proceeding               
                     with HB 228.                                              
                                                                               
Craig & Vicki Trytten                                                          
P.O. Box 871628                                                                
Wasilla, AK 99687                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Need more agricultural land made available.               
                                                                               
Dick Zobel                                                                     
P.O. Box 872683                                                                
Wasilla, AK 99687                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Legislature needs to focus in on and support              
                     agriculture industry.                                     
                                                                               
Ms. Kelly Ladere                                                               
P.O. Box 13304                                                                 
Trapper Creek, AK 99683                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Need less restrictive government control of               
                     agricultural lands.                                       
                                                                               
Scott Miller                                                                   
Delta Junction, AK 99748                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports concept behind HB 228.                           
                                                                               
Herb Simon                                                                     
Nelchina, AK                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Neutral on HB 228.                                        
                                                                               
Sam Lightwood                                                                  
HC 60, Box 229                                                                 
Copper Center, AK 99573                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Does not support a five-member board.                     
                                                                               
Gerald Robson                                                                  
P.O. Box 13114                                                                 
Trapper Creek, AK 99683                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Board should have representation from all                 
                     farming areas of state.                                   
                                                                               
Doug Warner                                                                    
Division of Agriculture                                                        
Department of Natural Resources.                                               
P.O. Box 949                                                                   
Palmer, AK 99645-0949                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on division's inspection programs.              
                                                                               
Robert Wells, Director                                                         
Division of Agriculture                                                        
Department of Natural Resources                                                
P.O. Box 949                                                                   
Palmer, AK 99645-0949                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Reviewed division's activities.                           
                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
SENATE TAPE 97-28, SIDE A                                                      
                                                                               
            HB 228 BD OF AGRIC./AGRICL.DEVELOP. CORP                           
                                                                               
The joint meeting of the Senate State Affairs Committee and the                
House State Affairs Committee was called to order at 1:30 p.m. in              
the Wasilla City Council Chamber, Wasilla, AK.  In attendance were             
Chairman Green and Senator Ward of the Senate State Affairs                    
Committee and Chairman James of the House State Affairs Committee.             
The only order of business before the joint committee was a public             
hearing on HB 228.                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES, prime sponsor of HB 228, said the              
legislation, which would create an agriculture board and an                    
agricultural development corporation, is just a starting point,                
and, if it is decided to proceed with this kind of a process, there            
are a lot more things that need to be in the bill to implement it.             
                                                                               
Representative James pointed out that she has been in the                      
Legislature for five sessions, and every year it has been a battle             
to get any money to support agricultural interests in the state.               
She said it is an up and growing business in the state and is                  
something that needs to be supported.                                          
                                                                               
Representative James opened the meeting to public testimony and                
said the committee would have a question and answer period after               
completion of the testimony.                                                   
                                                                               
DON BRAINARD of Palmer said he was a retired employee of the                   
Agriculture Forestry Experiment Station and presently the owner of             
a small hay operation located in the Matanuska Valley.                         
                                                                               
Mr. Brainard said that having lived in the state for several years             
he has heard a lot of complaints about the Division of Agriculture,            
but one thing that came out loud and clear last year was that there            
are several producers who feel that they could not survive without             
the division's continued support, particularly with regard to the              
inspection service.  He suggested that instead of instituting the              
system, as provided by HB 228, revamping the old system.  He                   
believes the Board of Agriculture could give that direction to the             
Division of Agriculture, but he is unsure that an Agricultural                 
Development Corporation is necessary.  While he thinks a Board of              
Agriculture is a good idea, he could not support HB 228 in its                 
present form.                                                                  
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that she doesn't think there is                 
anyone that could support the bill as it written now because it is             
just the beginning.                                                            
                                                                               
EARL CLABOW of Palmer related that he comes from a family of                   
farmers and that he has personally been involved in various aspects            
of agriculture all of his life.  He said the agriculture industry              
in the state is growing at a healthy rate, and the greatest need is            
for land so that this growth can continue.                                     
                                                                               
Mr. Clabow said the industry has survived dramatic ups and downs in            
the economy, but the major problem over the years has been with                
government because there have been few administrations that have               
been supportive of the industry.  When the oil industry came to the            
forefront in the state, agriculture lost the support and the                   
interests of the legislators in general.  Today they find                      
themselves with administrators, legislators and a bureaucracy that             
knows very little about the industry, and their attitude is                    
indifference, or at least condescending when one tries to explain              
what the industry is to the state of Alaska, what its needs are,               
and potential solutions to problems they find themselves faced                 
with.                                                                          
                                                                               
Mr. Clabow suggested the beginning to getting the industry and                 
government back on the same track would be the reestablishment of              
the Alaska Agriculture Advisory Board, and to use this group to                
help reestablish the mission of the Division of Agriculture and get            
it back on course.  He said they need a healthy, responsive                    
Division of Agriculture for the industry, they need the inspection             
programs, and they need a one-stop government office serving the               
industry.                                                                      
                                                                               
In his closing remarks, Mr. Clabow said he personally feels that HB
228 is not the answer to today's problem and that it would be many             
years of continued growth in the industry before it is ready for               
such a change.                                                                 
                                                                               
SENATOR GREEN asked how long the Agriculture Advisory Board had                
been in place before it was dissolved.  MR. CLABOW didn't know how             
long it had been in existence, but he knew it had been in place for            
a number of years.                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked what role the former Agriculture Advisory            
Board played.  MR. CLABOW explained that it was a board that met               
periodically, representing the views of the industry and                       
communicating very effectively with legislators and government.                
                                                                               
SENATOR WARD agreed with Mr. Clabow that when that board was in                
existence, it was the voice for agriculture.  He added that at that            
same time, cities and boroughs were also bringing forth the                    
agricultural agenda from their areas to the Legislature, but he                
doesn't think it is being done as strongly now as it was back then.            
MR. CLABOW said he thinks that the industry is beginning to get                
that community support back.                                                   
                                                                               
HARRY LECKWOLD of Palmer stated he is not a farmer, but he has been            
in the agriculture business for over 45 years.  He said                        
agricultural rise all over the world is being destroyed by nature,             
by man, etc., but the population continues to go up.  There is a               
great potential for the industry in the state, but one of the worst            
failures is the fact that there is no course or plan of action to              
follow.                                                                        
                                                                               
Mr. Leckwold said he has heard it expressed that some organizations            
are interested in trying to resurrect some of the state's                      
agriculture potential by putting it into a corporate structure,                
away from the government structure.  He pointed out that this type             
system is being used in the Yukon Territory and seems to be                    
working.  He also pointed out that the Alaska Railroad has a                   
corporate structure and a business plan and it is functioning well.            
                                                                               
                                                                               
Mr. Leckwold said HB 228 does not separate agriculture from                    
politics because it provides for a five-members board appointed by             
the governor, which is the same old approach.  He suggested not                
moving forward with the legislation until more groundwork is                   
planned, which he believes would be of benefit to more people.                 
                                                                               
CRAIG TRYTTEN, owner of a dairy farm at Point McKenzie, said it is             
a real disaster when people come to that area from out of state and            
see the condition that many of the farms and dairies are in.  He               
said all of the money that the state poured into that area is being            
wasted, and he suggested communicating with other states to get                
some ideas on how the agriculture industry in Alaska can be fixed.             
He also pointed out that people want to come to the state to make              
a living at farming, but there is no land available to them because            
it is either owned by the state, the feds or the borough, and some             
of this land should be made available to help get this industry get            
back on its feet.                                                              
                                                                               
In conclusion, Mr. Trytten said he doesn't have the answers to                 
solve the problems that plague the agriculture industry, but he                
supports having a board that can address the issue.                            
                                                                               
SENATE TAPE 97-28, SIDE B                                                      
                                                                               
DICK ZOBEL, a farmer from Wasilla, commented that legislators have             
to figure some way to address the agriculture industry's needs and             
requirements.  He voiced his opposition to elimination of the                  
Division of Agriculture because he believes it is a very integral              
part of our state government, and, if it were eliminated,                      
agriculture would be driven further and further into the ground.               
                                                                               
Mr. Zobel said he farmed in the Mat-Su Valley for approximately 19             
years, and one thing he learned was that you get out what you put              
into it.  At that same time, he was working for the state and he               
saw the big money come into various state agencies with little                 
thought and with little actual participation from the industries               
that were affected by it.  In some cases it worked, but in some                
cases it didn't and the agriculture industry is one that didn't                
work.                                                                          
                                                                               
Mr. Zobel stressed the need for the Legislature to focus in on and             
support the agriculture industry.  He added that there is a lot of             
disagreement within the agricultural community as to what the                  
solution for this problem is, but he thinks the former Alaska                  
Agricultural Advisory Board was doing a good job and that it set               
down a lot of what resulted in a marked increase in agriculture                
production.  He encouraged the reestablishment of such a board                 
rather than breaking down the Division of Agriculture and creating             
a private entity.                                                              
                                                                               
Mr. Zobel also spoke to the critical need for more agricultural                
land in the state.                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out that one area of discussion on                
this bill was to capitalize this corporation with the Agricultural             
Revolving Loan Fund (ARLF), the existing contracts for land sales              
to agriculture, and all of the agricultural land that has been                 
identified as agricultural land as their base to begin to be able              
to be self-sufficient.  The corporation would then be responsible              
for giving the land out to people.  She asked Mr. Zobel that if the            
control of the agricultural land was in the hands of the                       
corporation, or even in the control of the Division of Agriculture             
as opposed to the Division of Lands in DNR, did he think this would            
make a difference on the success of this type of an operation.  MR.            
ZOBEL replied that he thought it would make a difference and it is             
something that has been mentioned in the industry for a number of              
years.  It was always brought back to them that state statute                  
requires that all monies derived have to go into the general fund              
unless there is another big series of hoops to jump through until              
you get to that point.                                                         
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES advised that by setting up a corporation, as              
provided by HB 228, the Legislature has to appropriate the money,              
but it is the only way to get the revenues to go into a stream to              
be used for agriculture.                                                       
                                                                               
KELLY LADERE said she is a farmer and a second generation land user            
in Alaska, having been raised on a homestead.  Over the years she              
has learned that you must put as much as you can back into the                 
ground and it will repay you into perpetuity.  Her family has 1,100            
acres, but they need 3,000 acres for their operation, however, at              
this time, there is no way they can obtain additional land because             
of land availability and the tremendous expense.  She said there               
needs to be a system for financing farmers.                                    
                                                                               
Ms. Ladere said many fine farmers in her area gave up, not because             
they couldn't raise the crops, harvest and sell them, but because              
of very restrictive government control of the land.  She believes              
that agricultural land should be in the hands of an agency of                  
whatever nature that understands the industry, which is not the                
case right now.                                                                
                                                                               
Ms. Ladere suggested that the Agricultural Development Board should            
have seven members instead of the five as provided for in the                  
legislation with the members being elected from the farm community             
by those farmers.  She also suggested that the finances should be              
separated from administration.  She questioned how a business can              
succeed when run by someone who is appointed for political reasons.            
She said agriculture is an incredibly complex, diverse, difficult              
to understand industry.                                                        
                                                                               
Ms. Ladere expressed her appreciation to the committee for their               
interest and support for the agriculture industry, as well as the              
introduction of HB 228.                                                        
                                                                               
SCOTT MILLER, testifying via teleconference from Delta Junction,               
voiced his support for the concept behind HB 228.  For years the               
farming community has been fighting for a Board of Agriculture, and            
if this board is given some actual authority, it would have a much             
more grass roots feel for the needs of the industry.                           
                                                                               
Mr. Miller expressed his disappointment with the Division of                   
Agriculture because he believes it has lost is sense of mission and            
it is scrambling for funding and self-justification.  He also                  
expressed his disappointment with the current ARLF board because he            
feels that their policies are not in touch with the realities of               
modern agriculture.                                                            
                                                                               
Mr. Miller pointed out that in Delta and other areas where                     
agriculture is in place, livestock is the backbone of their                    
industry, and they are in need of some livestock enhancement                   
programs.  He also spoke to the need for making more land available            
and getting more real farmers involved in the picture.  He said                
that is a real problem in this state: there are a lot of land                  
owners, but we do not have a lot of serious farmers.                           
                                                                               
HERB SIMON, testifying via teleconference from Nelchina, stated he             
doesn't either endorse or reject HB 228.                                       
                                                                               
Mr. Simon said that although the agriculture community nationwide              
experiences troubles from time to time, he is not aware of even one            
of the other 49 states having the type of bureaucratic slanted                 
government strangle hold on producers as is experienced here in the            
state of Alaska.  He said very few producers in this state have                
actually ever had a level playing field in relation to the Division            
of Agriculture.  He suggested as a starting point to resolve these             
problems, redefining the role of government in relationship to                 
agriculture and then what role the Division of Agriculture has                 
played in some of these areas.                                                 
                                                                               
One of the concepts of HB 228 will turn the agriculture land base              
into an endowment for either the Division of Agriculture or a new              
corporation, although he doesn't see the total Legislature                     
supporting such an endowment.  However, some of the problems within            
the industry, although not necessarily created by the Legislature,             
may be the result of the failure on the part of the administrations            
to justify to the Legislature the need for appropriations that                 
perform these various government roles.                                        
                                                                               
Mr. Simon also spoke to the importance of the various support                  
services that are bolstered by any agriculture activity.  He said              
if we just focus in on agriculture, it doesn't really look very big            
in its present configuration, but when you take an overall economic            
analysis of agriculture, it is a real shot for i.e. local                      
economies.                                                                     
Mr. Simon said he doesn't know much about the regulatory process               
and he requested that Mr. Warner of the Division of Agriculture                
explain the various regulations and the interface between the                  
Division of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture.                    
                                                                               
SAM LIGHTWOOD, testifying via teleconference from Kenny Lake,                  
stated he thought a five-member board of directors leaves something            
to be desired because those five people will have a lot of work to             
do.  [THE REMAINDER OF MR. LIGHTWOOD'S TESTIMONY WAS DIFFICULT TO              
HEAR ON THE TAPE AND NOT TRANSCRIBABLE]                                        
                                                                               
SENATE TAPE 97-29, SIDE A                                                      
                                                                               
GERALD "DUSTY" ROBSON of Trappers Creek said he agreed that a board            
of directors should have representation from all of the farming                
areas in the state, and he suggested an Alaska Native should serve             
on the board as well.  He thinks it is important to get the land               
out to the public and then to figure out how to keep it in                     
agriculture because right now more agricultural land is being lost             
than gained.                                                                   
                                                                               
DOUG WARNER, Division of Agriculture, said inspection programs not             
only provide a means to commerce for local produce and farmers, it             
is also a consumer protection device to maintain that consumers in             
the store are purchasing quality produce.  The Division of                     
Agriculture offers produce inspection services which maintains that            
the produce purchased by the consumers meets certain grade level.              
They also certify produce that comes in from the Lower 48.  The                
division also provides a meat grading service that helps the farmer            
be compensated in relation to what the value of that product is, as            
well as identifying for the consumer the type of meat that is being            
purchased.                                                                     
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked if the division charges fees for these              
services.  MR. WARNER acknowledged that they do provide a fee basis            
for some of their inspections.  If a wholesaler has a problem with             
a van load of bananas that come up from Ecuador or wherever, they              
will inspect that produce and a fee is charged to adequately cover             
that service.  In the past, they have inspected produce from local             
farmers as a market and development project for which there has not            
been a direct fee charged.                                                     
                                                                               
SENATOR GREEN asked how the division tracks the money that is                  
brought in by fees.  MR. WARNER explained that all the fees are                
collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and after they                
deduct for overhead for collection and management, the balance is              
sent to the state.  The division has to then receive authority from            
the Legislature to spend those funds.  He added that in                        
relationship to the funds that he specifically deals with, they are            
all accounted for.  He feels like the division is getting exactly              
back from the state what they put into it.                                     
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she has had concern with plants, seeds,              
etc., coming into our pristine state that may have hosts of                    
disease, and she asked if these inspections were state mandated and            
not involved with the USDA.  MR. WARNER said Alaska cooperates with            
other states to make sure that when receiving seeded materials from            
other states that it comes from an area that is certified free from            
disease.  He also clarified for Representative James that animals              
brought into the state have to go through a very strict federal                
requirement with disease testing and blood tests before they can               
enter the state.                                                               
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES noted that aphids brought in on plants have               
been a big problem in the state of Alaska, and she was told by the             
Division of Agriculture that if the state were to expand the                   
inspection service for plants, it could then charge the retailer               
for that service so that it could be self-supporting.  MR. WARNER              
said it would be timely to initiate a program like that, and he                
feels it is very fortunate that there hasn't been more disease                 
brought into this state.                                                       
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if the concept of the bill is to set up              
a quasi-private corporation similar to the Alaska Railroad                     
Corporation.  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES acknowledged that is the general            
idea, but she reiterated that the legislation is not complete.                 
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES voiced her frustration that for five years she            
has watched the Division of Agriculture's budget decline and the               
actual spending off of the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund, and she            
questioned how this division can save what it has in order to                  
protect agriculture and to not have it completely dissolved.  MR.              
WARNER responded that he thinks some sort of advisory board from               
the farming communities that can hear constituents' concerns and               
make recommendations would be a good starting point, although as a             
general rule, the division tries to be very receptive to ideas to              
do things better.  He stressed the importance of carrying this                 
message across to all legislators in Juneau, especially those who              
have not been supportive of the industry in the past.                          
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that from administration to                     
administration, the people change, but agriculture keeps on going              
and there is no continuity of plans, so it is important to set up              
something that could have some continuity over the long haul.  She             
added that she does not believe that it is errors on the part of               
the Division of Agriculture as much as it is political input and               
political opinion that agriculture doesn't count.                              
                                                                               
HERB SIMON pointed out that the former Agriculture Action Council              
was formed as a political subdivision under the Department of                  
Commerce & Economic Development while the Division of Agriculture              
was within the Department of Natural Resources so there wasn't any             
continuity.  When Governor Sheffield abolished the council, all of             
the remaining funds that were directly appropriated to the council             
were supposed to go the Division of Agriculture, but that never                
happened.  He suggested that whatever kind of new board is created,            
to make sure that it has continuity and interface with the Division            
of Agriculture.                                                                
                                                                               
SENATOR GREEN said in last year's Governor's budget, the entire                
Division of Agriculture was funded from ARLF funds.  This was of               
great concern to herself and Representative James, and they made an            
inquiry and were told that at the present rate of use of that                  
fund,either by the end of 1998 or the beginning of 1999, the fund              
would most probably be extinguished for money available for loans.             
She and Representative James subsequently requested an audit of the            
ARLF, but she has not yet seen the result of that audit.  She has              
written a letter to the Governor, with copies to the Division of               
Agriculture and others, requesting that as they formulate this                 
year's budget, that the Division of Agriculture be returned, in                
part at least, to the general fund.  She said fortunately, the loan            
fund forecast is much better now than it was last year, however,               
she encouraged that the participants in the meeting correspond with            
their legislators and the administration commenting on how they                
would like to see the division funded in the upcoming budget.                  
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said another issue is the $3 million to the               
University of Alaska for the agriculture and forestry experimental             
farm which is being committed to being reduced by $500 million a               
year.  She added that with another chunk out of their budget, they             
will be out of business and will not be able to get their federal              
matching funds.                                                                
                                                                               
VICKI TRYTTEN of Wasilla commented that when she and her husband               
farmed in the Lower 48, they basically just farmed, but since                  
moving to Alaska and farming in this state, they have found that               
they need to be involved, particularly because the industry is in              
such an infantile state in Alaska.  She said it is time that the               
farmers themselves are this Board of Agriculture to overlook what              
is going on with their lives and livelihood.                                   
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said there has been a lot of talk about the                
former board, but he is always a little leery about creating extra             
layers of government, especially that are politically appointed.               
He wondered if it is better to have a governor appointed board like            
before, or would it be better to put together an ad hoc citizen's              
group from various people that are politically active and that will            
be a sounding board.  CRAIG TRYTTEN responded that they are not                
proposing starting another government agency or being part of                  
another government agency; they want an advisory board that has                
farmers as its members.                                                        
                                                                               
ROBERT WELLS, Director, Division of Agriculture, Department of                 
Natural Resources, said he took the job as director knowing that it            
would be quite a challenge, knowing of the existence of HB 228 and             
the recent passage of SB 109.  He has had a busy two weeks on the              
job.  With the passage of SB 109 and its implementation, the                   
divisions of lands and agriculture will be going to public                     
informational meetings from Delta to Homer, and he will take that              
opportunity to go to the Kenai Peninsula and upper Mat-Su Valley to            
get a sense of the folks in those areas.  He said his initial focus            
is what he is calling an "outreach."                                           
                                                                               
Mr. Wells said the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund had a meeting              
recently and made loans to farmers, with another meeting scheduled             
for November.  He added that he shares the concern for the                     
integrity of the ARLF and the continued funding of the division out            
of that source; it is not a positive prospect and they need to find            
alternatives.  Bringing back general funding to the Division of                
Agriculture will save that loan fund and it will continue to be a              
source of funds for farmers who have need.                                     
                                                                               
Mr. Wells said the Plant Materials Center, which does research and             
helps with revegetation projects on the military bases, with oil               
companies and with mining operations, continues its good work.                 
Currently, the meat plant, which usually is not up to capacity at              
this time of year, is full and working.                                        
                                                                               
Mr. Wells after the annual agriculture symposium, which will be                
held in Anchorage in November, he plans on having a meeting which              
would include the Division of Agriculture, the Farm Bureau and                 
those members of the ag committee who are not part of the Farm                 
Bureau to redefine and refocus the Division of Agriculture.  He                
said as long as he is the director of the division, they will be               
committed to the long-term steady growth of the agriculture                    
industry.                                                                      
                                                                               
In conclusion, Mr. Wells said he agreed with the reestablishment of            
an advisory board, but he believes the director of the division                
ought to be doing that outreach and is he is willing to do that                
outreach.                                                                      
                                                                               
SENATOR GREEN advised that she will be urging that regulations be              
promulgated on SB 109, that it not just be policy, that it not just            
be notifications.  She said it needs to go through the regulatory              
process and be publicly discussed.  She also noted that everyone at            
the table was unanimous on the desire for land disposal and that it            
has been a main focus of what legislators have been trying to do               
this year.  She said it is a very difficult issue because some of              
the powers that be right now feel that the purpose of the Division             
of Lands is not to dispose of land, which she totally disagrees                
with.                                                                          
                                                                               
SENATE TAPE 97-29, SIDE B                                                      
                                                                               
MR. WELLS informed the committee that the Division of Lands did                
dispose of 11 parcels within the last year and he said they                    
anxiously await the removal the mental health cloud at Point                   
McKenzie so that they can dispose of additional land.                          
                                                                               
HERB SIMON asked if the Legislature can draft legislation directing            
that the classified agricultural lands in the state of Alaska be               
managed and administered by the Division of Agriculture or the                 
corporation.  He said there is difficulty dealing with the Division            
of Lands because their mission is a little bit different than the              
mission of the Division of Agriculture.  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES                  
clarified that the Legislature could direct them to transfer that              
activity of selling the land to the Division of Agriculture, but it            
is not possible under the current structure to have the money go               
any place else except to the general fund.  SENATOR GREEN pointed              
out that it would accomplish the goal of getting more land sold                
because the Division of Agriculture would be more intent in selling            
the land.                                                                      
CRAIG TRYTTEN voiced his frustration that he and wife bought land              
a year ago and still have not received title for it.  SENATOR GREEN            
said what he is talking about is part of what motivates a                      
reorganization conversation to come about, because it is real                  
difficult to understand why there are so many problems with these              
transactions.                                                                  
                                                                               
DICK ZOBEL commented that he thinks the issue of lands, the paper              
work, etc., is quite common with the Department of Natural                     
Resources, and he suggested that perhaps some reorganization should            
be done at the DNR level.  He said it is ridiculous that only three            
percent of the land has been distributed to the public in this                 
state, and he thinks legislators have the hammer to have these                 
agencies justify their existence.                                              
                                                                               
KELLY LADERE pointed out that the basic agreement between a land               
grant college and the federal government, which endows it with                 
land, is that it will educate those in that state in natural                   
resources.  Most specifically, relative to the University of Alaska            
it was mining and agriculture.  However, approximately four of five            
years ago the University of Alaska ceased to fully honor its                   
agreement, which is of great concern to her.  She said this is a               
facet of what the committee is discussing relative to land.                    
                                                                               
In her closing remarks, REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated that when this             
topic was being discussed in committee before the bill was ever                
drafted, the effort was to try to put arms around all of the                   
various parts of agriculture so that the money could be utilized               
more effectively, to maximize the ability to get federal funds, and            
all of other things that are necessary to have a valid and vibrant             
agricultural community.                                                        
                                                                               
There being no further business to come before the committee, the              
meeting adjourned at approximately 4:05 p.m.                                   
                                                                               

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