Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/30/2002 09:46 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 353(RES)                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to the labeling of animal and poultry feeds                                                               
     and to the agriculture program coordinator; and providing for                                                              
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
JANE WINEINGER, Staff to  Senator Green, testified this bill relates                                                            
to agricultural  programs  and creates an  Agricultural Coordinator                                                             
position within the Division  of Agriculture to oversee organic crop                                                            
inspections, feed labeling and noxious weeds.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Wineinger  noted  Alaska  is  the only  state  without  a  feed                                                            
labeling  process and  that  currently some  feed  imports into  the                                                            
State contain  weed seeds.  She asserted Alaska  has a problem  with                                                            
noxious weeds,  although not as serious  as in other Western  states                                                            
that must spend  millions of dollars on eradication.  She instructed                                                            
how noxious weeds  impact the agriculture lands, railroad  right-of-                                                            
ways, and hunting lands.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
PETER FELLMAN,  Staff to Representative  John Harris, testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from Delta, that the  industry requested  assistance                                                            
in this matter.  He told that as the agriculture industry  has grown                                                            
in the  State, the issue  of noxious weeds  has increased;  however,                                                            
little funding has been provided to the Division of Agriculture.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Fellman  informed  that  the  federal  government  changed  the                                                            
standards regarding  the definition of organic and  this legislation                                                            
would  update State  statutes to  match the  federal provisions.  He                                                            
stated the  Agricultural  Coordinator would  monitor the farmers  to                                                            
ensure they meet the organic standards.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Fellman reiterated  Alaska  is  the only  state  that does  not                                                            
monitor the  labeling of feed. He  stressed that with the  outbreaks                                                            
of  mad  cow  disease,  feed  labeling  has  become   important.  He                                                            
expressed intent  to verify that feed producers in  Alaska are using                                                            
the  ingredients  they claim,  as  well as  ensuring  that  rendered                                                            
animal parts, which could include contaminants, are not used.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Fellman   listed  the   third  purpose   of  the  Agricultural                                                             
Coordinator to control  noxious and invasive weeds. He noted that in                                                            
the  previous  year,  funding  was secured  to  attempt  to  control                                                            
noxious and  advancing weeds. He specified  Canadian Sow  Thistle, a                                                            
hearty three  to six foot  tall rhizome plant  that is difficult  to                                                            
eradicate  and kills grass.  He noted the  plant has migrated  north                                                            
and is  present in  the Fairbanks  area. He  expressed concern  that                                                            
this weed would endanger native plant species.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Fellman  warned that addressing  the problem immediately  is the                                                            
only  way to  control  these  weeds without  expending  millions  of                                                            
dollars.  He indicated  efforts  have begun,  but  that a  statewide                                                            
coordination  is  necessary.  He also  spoke  of the  importance  of                                                            
documenting  the  presence  of  invasive  weeds  to  obtain  federal                                                            
funding to address the matter.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Fellman admitted  the fiscal note is significant,  but cautioned                                                            
that if the  problems are not controlled  the long-term costs  would                                                            
be considerably higher.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ward  moved to adopt  CS SB 353,  22-LS1663\J, as a  working                                                            
draft                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson objected.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson asked  the  number  of mill  feed operations  in  the                                                            
State.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Fellman listed  three and noted Alaska Mill and  Feed has voiced                                                            
support of this legislation.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT  WELLS,  Director, Division  of  Agriculture,  Department  of                                                            
Natural  Resources, testified  via  teleconference  from an  off-net                                                            
site  in Palmer  to note  there  might be  an additional  mill  feed                                                            
operator.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked about input from other operators.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Wells answered  that  the only  business  that  has offered  an                                                            
opinion on this legislation has been Alaska Mill and Feed.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Wells did not anticipate  any opposition from the manufacturers,                                                            
noting they  currently label products  in accordance to the  laws of                                                            
the State of  Washington. He assured  the Division "is committed  to                                                            
working  with  the  feed  producers,"   and  he  was  confident  the                                                            
Department  could establish an effective  working relationship  with                                                            
industry and  not impose onerous regulations  on the businesses.  He                                                            
emphasized the feed labeling  issue has arisen due to concerns about                                                            
rendering plants and the  contents of food fed to animals. He shared                                                            
that  the  Federal  Drug  Administration  has  indicated  the  State                                                            
Division  should have  greater participation  in  the monitoring  of                                                            
feed manufacturers.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
AT EASE 9:58 AM / 10:01 AM                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  stated his intent to  hear directly from industry  on                                                            
this legislation, as it  is their livelihood that is affected by the                                                            
feed they produce.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Kelly  asked if Senator Olson had specific  objections with                                                            
the provision in the proposed committee substitute.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Olson  had  no   specific  objection   to  the   committee                                                            
substitute.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
A roll call was taken on the motion.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
IN FAVOR: Senator  Ward, Senator Wilken, Senator Austerman,  Senator                                                            
Green,  Senator  Hoffman, Senator  Leman,  Senator  Olson,  Co-Chair                                                            
Donley and Co-Chair Kelly                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
OPPOSED: none                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The motion PASSED (9-0)                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
The committee substitute was ADOPTED as a working draft.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Ward  expressed he  was  unsure  whether he  clarified  his                                                            
motion to adopt  the committee substitute as a working  document and                                                            
surmised this caused confusion.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Hoffman understood  that  Senator Olson's  concern is  with                                                            
passing  this  bill  from Committee  without  input  from  the  feed                                                            
producers.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Kelly announced  he would  hold the bill  in Committee  to                                                            
allow  members  an   opportunity  to  solicit  opinions   from  feed                                                            
producers.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Green  referenced  a University  of  Alaska  report  titled                                                            
"Strategic  Plan  for Noxious  and  Invasive  Plants  Management  in                                                            
Alaska".  She stressed did  not want the  weed situation to  advance                                                            
and become as serious as in other states.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Kelly asked  if there  is a  similar bill  pending in  the                                                            
House of Representatives.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Green affirmed.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Austerman asked  if this  legislation  also addresses  seed                                                            
products  imported to the  State for planting  and whether  it would                                                            
provide for  certification  of the absence  of noxious weed  seed in                                                            
these products.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator Green affirmed.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Wells  furthered that  the Division  "encourages" that  imported                                                            
seed be certified. He understood  that feed labeling requirements in                                                            
other states require disclosure  of purity and germination rates. He                                                            
noted that farmers are  "pretty cautious" about the seeds planted to                                                            
avoid weed infestation in their fields.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Leman commented  he is  "skittish" about  adding new  State                                                            
positions,  especially  those established  in statute.  However,  he                                                            
understood the  necessity of this position and the  importance of it                                                            
serving an  advisory function  rather than  having the authority  to                                                            
close an industry.  He hoped this position could be  shared with the                                                            
University   of  Alaska,   Cooperative  Extension   Service,   Plant                                                            
Materials Center,  to allow maximized  resource and minimized  cost.                                                            
He expressed intent to pursue this option.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Amendment  #1:  This  amendment  provides  that Section  7  of  this                                                            
committee substitute,  which stipulates  that this legislation  does                                                            
not apply to meat,  fish or poultry, take effect July  1, 2002. This                                                            
amendment also  inserts a new Section 14 to provide  that Section 8,                                                            
AS 03.60.006.  Agriculture  program  coordinator,  of the  committee                                                            
substitute take effect January 1, 2003.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Leman moved for adoption.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
There was no objection and the amendment was ADOPTED.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Kelly suggested  Senator Olson communicate with Mr. Fellman                                                            
regarding  his concerns  about the  impacts of  this legislation  on                                                            
industry. Co-Chair Kelly  appreciated Senator Olson's considerations                                                            
for their interests.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Kelly ordered the bill HELD in Committee.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                

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