Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/06/2000 02:08 PM House RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 committee. 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 section. 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 from. 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- state. 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.