Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/06/2000 02:08 PM House RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 204 - ELK FARMING                                                                                                          
Number 0118                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                              
be HOUSE BILL NO. 204, "An Act relating to elk farming."                                                                        
Number 0184                                                                                                                     
JOHN  MANLY,  Legislative  Aide for  Representative  John  Harris,                                                              
Alaska  State  Legislature, explained  HB  204  on behalf  of  the                                                              
sponsor. He  informed members  that HB 204,  a simple  bill, would                                                              
transfer  the   licensing  requirements,  oversight   and  fencing                                                              
requirements for elk farming from  the Alaska Department of Fish &                                                              
Game  (ADF&G)  to  the  Division  of  Agriculture,  Department  of                                                              
Natural Resources  (DNR).  He noted  that elk are being  raised in                                                              
the state as domestic farm animals.                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that  the proposed committee  substitute                                                              
(CS) needed to be adopted.                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR  HUDSON made a  motion to  adopt the  proposed CS  for HB
204,  version 1-LS0528\H,  Utermohle,  1/29/00, as  a work  draft.                                                              
There  being  no  objection,  proposed  CSHB 204  was  before  the                                                              
MR. MANLY addressed the changes in  the proposed CS.  He indicated                                                              
a  request  had  been  received  from  the  Division  of  Wildlife                                                              
Conservation (ADF&G) to insert the language on page 1, line 11:                                                                 
     Before issuing or renewing an elk farming license, the                                                                     
     commissioner shall conduct a physical inspection of the                                                                    
     elk   farming   facilities   and  determine   that   the                                                                   
     facilities  are  in  good repair  and  comply  with  the                                                                   
     fencing   standards  established   under  (d)  of   this                                                                   
MR. MANLY noted that along with transferring  the responsibilities                                                              
from ADF&G  to the Division  of Agriculture  (DNR), the  bill also                                                              
provides  that fencing  standards would  no longer  be managed  by                                                              
ADF&G.  Instead, the Division of  Agriculture would consult ADF&G.                                                              
In response to  questions from members, he specified  that the elk                                                              
are being  farmed only for  the meat and  the antlers.   The farms                                                              
are in Delta Junction and in Kodiak.                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  HUDSON  wondered where  the  original  breed stock  come                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  HARRIS  indicated  that people  on  teleconference                                                              
could probably answer that question.                                                                                            
Number 0593                                                                                                                     
BILL WARD,  Ward Farms,  testified via  teleconference from  Delta                                                              
Junction.   He  indicated that  he had  requested the  legislation                                                              
through Representative Harris.  He  explained that presently there                                                              
are  nine elk  licenses  in Alaska,  with  ranches scattered  from                                                              
Kodiak clear  up through  Delta Junction;  he estimates  there are                                                              
300  to 350  elk in  the state.   The  first elk  were brought  to                                                              
Alaska  in 1990  after the  original legislation;  some came  from                                                              
Montana and some  from Canada, and all of the elk  that are in the                                                              
state currently came out of their  herd, except for a few animals.                                                              
MR.  WARD   explained   that  he  had   requested  the   [current]                                                              
legislation because when the legislation  first passed in 1988, it                                                              
was also happening  in other states; it was a  new growth industry                                                              
in the United States and Canada.   At that time, everyone followed                                                              
the  same pattern  that  brought  the dual  administration  about.                                                              
Other states  have found, however,  that the administration  works                                                              
cleaner and easier when it is all transferred to one entity.                                                                    
MR. WARD  noted that in  Alaska the two  agencies have had  a good                                                              
relationship,  but  ADF&G really  has  no authority  with  fencing                                                              
regulations,  for example.   A couple  of years  back, he  had met                                                              
with Wayne Regelin,  Director, Division of  Wildlife Conservation,                                                              
ADF&G; Bert  Gore, State  Veterinarian, Division of  Environmental                                                              
Health    Animal   Industries,    Department   of    Environmental                                                              
Conservation;  and the  director of the  Division of  Agriculture.                                                              
He explained  that they had discussed  the whole concept,  and out                                                              
of it came this legislation.                                                                                                    
MR. WARD indicated that they are  trying to get in line with other                                                              
states.   The  bill transfers  responsibility to  the Division  of                                                              
Agriculture,  where  the  regulatory  authority really  is.    The                                                              
United States Department  of Agriculture (USDA) is  in the process                                                              
of identifying elk as domestic livestock;  for the purpose of meat                                                              
inspection, elk will  be an identified species.   Therefore, it is                                                              
necessary to have  the Division of Agriculture as  the lead agency                                                              
to do  USDA inspections.   Mr. Ward concluded  that he  is pleased                                                              
with HB 204 and really has no problems with it.                                                                                 
Number 1075                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY  wondered if most  of the meat is  sold in-                                                              
MR. WARD replied  yes.  They are doing mostly  private sales where                                                              
people contact them to purchase the elk meat.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY  wondered how much  it costs per  pound and                                                              
where in Anchorage it could be purchased.                                                                                       
MR. WARD  replied that  it is  sold on  a hanging-weight  basis at                                                              
about $4 to $5 per pound of hanging  weight.  He indicated that if                                                              
elk meat  can be found  in Anchorage, it  is most likely  from New                                                              
Zealand.  He explained  that he can sell elk meat  directly to the                                                              
consumer for more money than he can sell it to the wholesaler.                                                                  
Number 1260                                                                                                                     
MARCIA WARD, Ward  Farms, testified via teleconference  from Delta                                                              
Junction.   She indicated  that she  was testifying  on behalf  of                                                              
Scott Miller,  who is president of  the Delta Farm Bureau  and who                                                              
presides over the  elk subcommittee.  She said he  supports HB 204                                                              
and  believes that  the  consolidation  of regulations  under  one                                                              
heading in the Division of Agriculture  will be a lot smoother for                                                              
new operators coming into the business.   She noted that for those                                                              
same reasons she also supports the bill.                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR MASEK pointed  out that Scott Miller's  letter of support                                                              
had been included in the committee packet.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  COWDERY wondered  what kind of  a diet  the farmed                                                              
elk utilize.                                                                                                                    
Number 1368                                                                                                                     
MR.  WARD replied  that elk  are both  browsers and  grazers.   He                                                              
explained that they  are a little bit seasonal in  their diet.  In                                                              
the spring they eat a lot of brush  and boughs; in the summer they                                                              
graze on short  grasses; in the fall  they eat leaves;  and in the                                                              
winter they  are fed  hay, which  is supplemented  with oats.   He                                                              
pointed out that  they do adapt well to captivity  in that regard.                                                              
He also  noted that  three elk can  be put in  the same  amount of                                                              
pasture as one beef cow.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE wondered about the size of the farms.                                                                      
MR.  WARD indicated  that  elk  farming  lends itself  to  smaller                                                              
farms,  because they  don't  need quite  as  much area  as a  beef                                                              
operation.  He explained  that elk do need enough  space to go out                                                              
and  roam, because  they are  still wild  animals.   He said  that                                                              
people have started  out with as little as 10 acres  and have gone                                                              
up from there.  He noted that [his  farm] has about 150 to 160 elk                                                              
about 300 acres of fenced ground.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  HUDSON  wondered  if  they have  to  be  concerned  with                                                              
natural predators, such as wolves and bears.                                                                                    
MR. WARD  said that they  do have to  be concerned,  because those                                                              
are their natural  predators, but [elk] are herd  animals and work                                                              
in  a  tight  social  unit,  so  they  band  together  to  protect                                                              
themselves from predators.                                                                                                      
Number 1630                                                                                                                     
EDNA ANDERSON,  President, Kenai Peninsula Farm  Bureau, testified                                                              
via  teleconference  from Homer.    She stated  that  she and  her                                                              
husband have  been in Alaska  for 42  years, and they  started out                                                              
with cattle.  She  said her husband died in 1995,  and she and her                                                              
sons decided  to buy some elk, so  they went to Ward  Farms.  They                                                              
started  out with about  6 elk,  and they  have 25  elk now.   She                                                              
explained that  [elk] eat  far less than  the cattle did,  and she                                                              
certainly supports HB 204.                                                                                                      
GERON  BRUCE, Legislative  Liaison,  Office  of the  Commissioner,                                                              
Alaska Department of Fish and Game,  thanked Representative Harris                                                              
for working  with  them on  HB 204 and  stated that  they have  no                                                              
problem with the bill.                                                                                                          
Number 1755                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  HUDSON made  a motion to  move CSHB  204 from  committee                                                              
with  individual recommendations  and  attached  fiscal notes;  he                                                              
asked  for unanimous  consent.   There  being  no objection,  CSHB
204(RES) was moved out of the House  Resources Standing Committee.                                                              

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