Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/03/2002 03:40 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB 353-AGRICULT. PROG.COORDINATOR/ANIMAL FEED                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TORGERSON announced SB 353 to be up for consideration.                                                                 
MS. JANEY  WINEGAR,  staff to Senator  Lyda Green,  sponsor  of SB
353, said that  Pete Fellman, staff to Representative  John Harris                                                              
is  very aware  of  this  issue and  the  bill.  She said  SB  353                                                              
addresses  three areas,  organic crop  inspections, feed  labeling                                                              
and control  of noxious  weeds, and  that she  would see  that the                                                              
committee received  a copy of  "Noxious Invasive  Plant Management                                                              
In  Alaska"  that  was  produced   by  the  University  of  Alaska                                                              
Cooperative Extension Service. She said:                                                                                        
     These  weeds  tend to  impact  our hunting  and  fishing                                                                   
     grounds,  agricultural crops  and  they're getting  more                                                                   
     invasive every  year. Several western states  have spent                                                                   
     millions  and  millions of  dollars  controlling  weeds.                                                                   
     They're at  a point now  that they're very  invasive and                                                                   
     becoming  very destructive. We're  at the crossroads  in                                                                   
     Alaska  where we  can take control  of them  now with  a                                                                   
     little bit of money put into it.                                                                                           
     As far as  the labeling of animal feed, we  are the only                                                                   
     state that doesn't require labeling  of what's in animal                                                                   
     feed and  we think that we need  to do that and  come up                                                                   
     to   national  standards.   Another   area  that   we're                                                                   
     addressing is  the organic label. Federal  labeling laws                                                                   
     require  that organic  food  inspectors may  not have  a                                                                   
     vested   interest  or   participation   in  growing   or                                                                   
     processing the foods being certified.  Either an outside                                                                   
     inspector  or staff  person  will need  to  be hired  to                                                                   
     determine that it is in fact  organic foods and has been                                                                   
     grown and processed within Alaska.                                                                                         
     This  bill speaks  to three  problems  by requiring  the                                                                   
     commissioner  of [the] Department  of Natural  Resources                                                                   
     to  appoint  an  agricultural   program  coordinator  to                                                                   
     oversee management of an organic  crop labeling program,                                                                   
     adopt  animal feed  standards  and implement  this  plan                                                                   
     that  the  University  has   developed  on  noxious  and                                                                   
     invasive   plant  management   as  recommended  by   and                                                                   
     developed in cooperation with  federal, state, local and                                                                   
     private agencies and groups…                                                                                               
CHAIRMAN  TORGERSON  referred  to  language  on page  1,  line  7,                                                              
"establish requirements  that are compatible with  federal law and                                                              
the laws of other states" and asked  why laws of other states were                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN  HARRIS, sponsor of  HB 432, a  companion bill                                                              
to SB  353, responded  that there  is a publication  put out  by a                                                              
federal organization  that coordinated  legislation in  all states                                                              
on  this issue  and  developed model  legislation  so  there is  a                                                              
uniform standard when it comes to weed control.                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN  TORGERSON  said  he  didn't   know  if  he  wanted  that                                                              
requirement.  He  asked  what  would happen  if  a  state  adopted                                                              
something contradictory  to what  Alaska wants  and Alaska  had to                                                              
abide by their laws.                                                                                                            
MR.  MICHAEL PURVIANCE,  Delta Junction  resident, stated  support                                                              
for SB 353.  He said he started  farming in Delta a few  years ago                                                              
on  virgin ground  and he  is already  beginning  to see  invasive                                                              
weeds like chickweed.  He said if we don't address  these problems                                                              
now, they will become big problems  that would require millions of                                                              
dollars to correct. He urged members to adopt this legislation.                                                                 
MS. MARTA  MUELLER, lifelong  Alaska resident,  said she is  a UAF                                                              
student and supports SB 353 for the following reasons.                                                                          
     The  Agriculture Coordinator  Commission will  [indisc.]                                                                   
     its development  in Alaska.  Working with the  federally                                                                   
     mandated  Organic  Food Regulations  will  help  Alaskan                                                                   
     food  producers   market  organic  foods,   because  the                                                                   
     standards  consumers   can  follow  will  be   in  place                                                                   
     Second, enforcing  the existing state noxious  weed code                                                                   
     and reviewing  DNR regulations  can help development  by                                                                   
     assuring  disturbed  areas,   such  as  mineral  leases,                                                                   
     transportation  corridors, [indisc.], public  recreation                                                                   
     areas and farms remain weed free…                                                                                          
MR. RIVER  BEAN, President, Alaska  Organic Association,  said the                                                              
federal  Natural Organic  Program would  supercede the  certifying                                                              
organic program in Alaska this year. He added:                                                                                  
     While the standards that the  federal government has are                                                                   
     not as stringent as the ones  that we have for the state                                                                   
     of  Alaska, we  still would  like to  see the  [indisc.]                                                                   
     natural   organic   program   standards   be   [indisc.]                                                                   
     What SB 353 does is it removes  the old organic law from                                                                   
     the  [indisc.] book,  which are the  worst standards  in                                                                   
     the  nation…  It  will also  adopt  a  national  organic                                                                   
     program that becomes effective,  I believe October 22 of                                                                   
     this year. And  third, it allows the State  of Alaska to                                                                   
     become  accredited   with  the  federal   government  to                                                                   
     certify  organic  foods and  [indisc].  Without  passing                                                                   
     this  bill, the  farmers are  going to have  to rely  on                                                                   
     out-of-state  certification  and carry  their labels  on                                                                   
     the organic  Alaskan-grown foods  - like certified  with                                                                   
     standards  of  California  or   Washington  state.  It's                                                                   
     unlikely that any organic farmer  in the State of Alaska                                                                   
     would  want  another  state's  label  on  their  Alaskan                                                                   
     organic foods.                                                                                                             
     So, the consumer is left without  a choice. If they have                                                                   
     a preference  for buying  certified organic foods,  they                                                                   
     will be forced  to buy certified organic  foods that are                                                                   
     not grown in this state…                                                                                                   
MR.  LARRY DE  VILBISS, Mat-Su  "carrot  man," said  this bill  is                                                              
important  to his  business. Last  year  he began  the process  of                                                              
transitioning his  entire farm to  organic, including  carrots and                                                              
beets, about 1,000  acres outside of Palmer. If they  are not able                                                              
to  continue with  the  certification  process that  they  started                                                              
about five years ago through the  Alaska Organic Association, they                                                              
can't  continue the  program  or switch  to  the one  from out  of                                                              
MS. KELLY LANGFORD LADERE, Secretary,  Alaska Livestock Producers'                                                              
Cooperative,  said she also  had been President  and that  she was                                                              
Chairperson  for the  Upper Susitna  Water  and Soil  Conservation                                                              
District, a quasi-state  agency that functions within  DNR, and is                                                              
composed  of volunteers  from  within  the district  covering  two                                                              
million  acres in the  Upper Susitna  Valley.  She also makes  her                                                              
living as a farmer and a rancher.                                                                                               
Regarding the labeling  aspect of this legislation,  she said it's                                                              
very  important  for  people  who  have  made  the  investment  in                                                              
livestock in  Alaska that  the feedstuffs that  come out of  a bag                                                              
and go  into the  animals be of  a certain  standard. In  the past                                                              
unlabelled  feed  has come  into  the  state and  has  contributed                                                              
substantially  to the  noxious weed  and  invasive plant  problems                                                              
that are  taking place across  Alaskan farms, roadsides,  railroad                                                              
beds, and  along rivers. She  said, "Accurate labeling  will allow                                                              
the consumer  the option  of choosing a  higher quality  feed that                                                              
may be certified as weed-free. She  plants about 400 acres of oats                                                              
each year and  buys only certified weed-free, however  even it has                                                              
noxious and invasive weeds.                                                                                                     
MS.  LADERE said  that a  number of  people across  the state  are                                                              
trying  to  reach  this  level  of  organic  certification.  "It's                                                              
expensive; they  have to go  through multiple years  of inspection                                                              
of their farm…"                                                                                                                 
She said that most of the noxious  plants that affect livestock in                                                              
this state  have been introduced. For  the first time in  50 years                                                              
on one of  her farms she is going  to have to spray  a chemical to                                                              
control invasive plants and she is not happy about it.                                                                          
SENATOR WILKEN moved on line 7 to  delete the last six words, "and                                                              
the  laws of  other  states". There  were  no  objections and  the                                                              
amendment was adopted.                                                                                                          
SENATOR WILKEN moved  to report CSSB 353(RES)  from committee with                                                              
individual  recommendations and  the attached  fiscal note.  There                                                              
were no objections and it was so ordered.                                                                                       

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