Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/17/2000 02:18 PM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 204                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to elk farming."                                                                                               
PETE FELLMAN, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS spoke in support                                                                     
of HB 214. He explained that HB 204 is an effort to address                                                                     
the needs of domesticated elk farmers in the state. The                                                                         
Department of Fish and Game currently has the statutory                                                                         
authority to regulate domesticated and wild elk stock. The                                                                      
legislation would move the regulation of domesticated elk                                                                       
into the Department of Natural Resources, Division of                                                                           
Agriculture. The department, industry and the state                                                                             
veterinarian support the legislation.                                                                                           
Vice Chair Bunde questioned the fiscal cost. Mr. Fellman                                                                        
observed that farmers pay a $250 dollar annual fee for fence                                                                    
inspections. The fiscal note covers $1.5 thousand dollars                                                                       
for additional inspections.                                                                                                     
Vice Chair Bunde maintained that the animals will escape and                                                                    
asked if the Department of Natural Resources considered the                                                                     
impact of escaped animals on other Alaskan resources.                                                                           
CAROL CARROLL, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SUPPORT SERVICES,                                                                          
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES stated that the department                                                                      
will inspect fences and issue licenses. She did not have                                                                        
information on the impact of escaped animals. She pointed                                                                       
out that there are already elk in Alaska.                                                                                       
Mr. Fellman emphasized that the animals are valuable and                                                                        
estimated that owners would keep track of them. He added                                                                        
that the animals would be tested for disease prior to their                                                                     
Representative Phillips agreed that the farmers would not                                                                       
risk losing the animals and noted the value of the elk.                                                                         
Co-Chair Therriault pointed out that the Department of Fish                                                                     
and Game supports the legislation.                                                                                              
In response to a question by Vice Chair Bunde, Mr. Fellman                                                                      
observed that the Department of Fish and Game currently                                                                         
regulates the animals. The intent is to transfer regulation                                                                     
to the Department of Natural Resources                                                                                          
MARCIA WARD, WARD FARMS, DELTA JUNCTION testified via                                                                           
teleconference in support of HB 204. She gave a brief                                                                           
history of elk farming in Alaska. Ward Farms was begun on                                                                       
the Kenai Peninsula in 1990. The legislation places domestic                                                                    
elk farming in the Division of Agriculture, with other                                                                          
domestic farm stock. She assured the Committee that fences                                                                      
are adequate; the fences are eight feet high and made sturdy                                                                    
enough to withstand: buffalo, elk, or deer. She added that                                                                      
elk are territorial and maintained that an elk that escape                                                                      
would attempt to return. Elk cost from $4,500 to $10,000                                                                        
dollars each and are more valuable than beef cattle or                                                                          
bison. Elks are tagged for identification. She pointed out                                                                      
that elk have passed health inspections and stressed that                                                                       
elk farmers are concerned that disease from wild Caribou                                                                        
stock could infect their elk. Elk farmers pay a $250 dollar                                                                     
fee every two years. She observed that they are the only                                                                        
livestock industry that pays a licensing fee.                                                                                   
Representative Phillips spoke in support of the legislation.                                                                    
She emphasized that the elk industry is successful and is                                                                       
good for Alaska.                                                                                                                
Representative Austerman asked if there had been problems                                                                       
with bears. Ms. Ward noted that the elk are aggressive and                                                                      
have repelled bears. She stressed that the fence can                                                                            
withstand a tree falling on it and that there have been no                                                                      
problems with predators.                                                                                                        
Representative Austerman asked if wild Southeast elk could                                                                      
be certified for domestication. Ms. Ward responded that she                                                                     
did not think that the Department of Fish and Game would                                                                        
allow wild elk to be domesticated. She stated that                                                                              
veterinarians in the state could test them. She emphasized                                                                      
that elk farms would quarantine wild elk before exposing                                                                        
their domesticated herds.                                                                                                       
In response to a question by Representative J. Davies, Ms.                                                                      
Ward emphasized that it is easier to have all of the                                                                            
regulations under one department. Branding and health                                                                           
services are under the Department of Natural Resources,                                                                         
while licensing and inspections were under the Department of                                                                    
Fish and Game.                                                                                                                  
Ms. Ward noted that there are nine elk farmers in the state                                                                     
and that the industry is growing.                                                                                               
Representative Foster MOVED to report CSHB 204 (RES) out of                                                                     
Committee with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO                                                                     
OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
CSHB 204 (RES) was REPORTED out of Committee with a "do                                                                         
pass" recommendation and with three fiscal notes: a fiscal                                                                      
impact note from the Department of Natural Resources; a                                                                         
fiscal impact note from the Department of Fish and Game,                                                                        
dated 3/8/00; and a zero fiscal note from the Department of                                                                     
Environmental Conservation, dated 3/8/00.                                                                                       

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