Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/13/1996 08:10 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 62 - FED PURCHASE SURPLUS '95 CANNED SALMON Number 2326 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAM K. "BILL" WILLIAMS accepted the gavel from Co- Chairman Green to preside over the testimony on HJR 62. He said his intent was move the resolution from committee today. Number 2348 CHERYL SUTTON, Legislative Assistant to Representative Bill Williams, read the sponsor statement for HJR 62 into the record: MS. SUTTON said, "The Alaska canned pink salmon industry is facing a serious crisis caused by record harvests in 1995. The record pack of nearly four million cases on a 48 tall basis is seriously affecting the industry's ability to move these surpluses. MS. SUTTON continued, "The pink salmon harvest forecast for 1995 was 76.1 million but actually turned out to be 128 million. This was 51.9 million over forecast. The strength is attributed to good ocean survival. MS. SUTTON proceeded, "USDA has traditionally required that canned salmon be processed under NMFS "Type 1" Continuous Inspection, even though neither the commercial marketplace nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes this requirement. The canned salmon industry does not normally contract NMFS inspectors to oversee the processing operation unless there is an indication that there will be a USDA purchase program. In 1995, a letter was sent by USDA to the salmon industry indicating that, based on the harvest level forecasts at the time, a purchase was not warranted. Consequently, the bulk of the industry did not assume the additional expense of NMFS inspection. When the size of the run became apparent, it was too late to bring inspectors to the plants. MS. SUTTON said, "The industry is prepared to have the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Inspection Services Division conduct lot inspections of product processed in 1995 to certify that the product meets the technical requirements of the Commercial Item Description for canned salmon. NMFS believes these assurances should be deemed adequate for USDA purchases for its various programs. MS. SUTTON said, "House Joint Resolution 62 requests the federal government to purchase 1995 Alaska canned pink salmon surpluses for their domestic and export programs. These programs, managed by the Agricultural Marketing Service, include school lunch programs, export programs, assistance to low income persons and the federal prison system. MS. SUTTON continued, "The resolution asks the Department of Agriculture to waive the National Marine Fisheries Service "Type 1" inspection requirement. The canned salmon industry operates under federal and State of Alaska regulations as well as the guidelines of the "Canned Salmon Control Plan and Container Integrity Program" which were developed in conjunction with the National Food Processors Association and FDA. Alaska canned salmon is traded internationally on the assurances of these programs. MS. SUTTON said, "At present, at least six major Alaska seafood companies have notified fishermen they will not be buying pink salmon for the 1996 season because of the surplus. This situation poses economic disaster for our fishermen and processors. MS. SUTTON concluded, "The canned pink salmon surpluses offer a highly nutritious and healthful product for the federal government's programs. It is imperative that USDA make a decision quickly. Operating plans and commitments to purchase cans and packaging material must be made now to be manufactured and shipped for the 1996 season." MS. SUTTON added that the committee's support would be much appreciated...(CHANGE TAPE) TAPE 96-32, SIDE B Number 0001 REPRESENTATIVE LONG questioned Ms. Sutton about the use of bagged salmon. Would that also require the "Type 1" inspections? Number 0023 MS. SUTTON felt that particular product had not been produced in any volume at this point for the marketplace. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked whether the sponsor had considered adding a resolve to include some specific reference to substituting the other marine fisheries inspections or the ADEC inspections so the resolve did not say that we were asking them to waive the "Type 1" inspections but to utilize the other information that was available in lieu of that requirement. Number 0058 MS. SUTTON replied that numerous industry people and Alaska's federal delegation and others have been working on this issue. She said the National Marine Fisheries Service who conducts both of these inspections, the "Type 1" continuous inspection and the lot inspection, has written to the U.S. Department of Agriculture expressing their concern with the "Type 1" inspection and asking them to waive that requirement and outlining what the lot inspection would cover and why it would suffice. These issues have been dealt with. She referred to page 2, line 10 of HJR 62 and stated she felt that Representative Davies concern was adequately addressed. Number 0108 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said if the federal government comes in and buys up copious amounts of excess canned salmon, what they do with that and what sort of price, is it a reduced or competitive price. MS. SUTTON replied that she did not know but informed him that canned salmon is now moving at a low price everywhere in the international and domestic marketplace. She said she expected it to be a comparable price to what is moving and being traded now. There is no doubt that people are going to take losses but it is more important to move that inventory, the costs of warehousing 1.7 million cases are astronomical. Number 0149 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN stated in the past, there was a concern about botulism, albeit a fake scare; he asked if relieving this kind of inspection would increase that possibility. MS. SUTTON answered in the negative, no it would not increase the threat of that kind of incident. She informed the committee that Janice Adair, Department of Environmental Conservation, would be addressing what the DEC requirements are for inspection. She said the state's canned salmon regulations are so strict that people who can salmon are not allowed to anything that is watermarked. A fish that is watermarked means a fish that comes late in the run or has been milling in area where there is fresh water. MS. SUTTON emphasized that this is wonderful product going into the can. It is not as some people think that because it is in a can it must be low in product. It is very high in product and the industry standards are extremely strict all the way through. She suggested that the regulations in place now exceed what the "Type 1" inspection would be. MS. SUTTON explained that all the "Type 1" inspection would do is have someone from the federal government, an inspector from the National Marine Fisheries Service physically present in the plant on the line when it is being processed. They would process in the same manner whether that person were standing there or not standing there. They do not change anything in their operation. Number 0221 JANICE ADAIR, Director, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, testified in support of HJR 62. She said she was encouraged to see canned salmon in the school lunch program. CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS closed testimony on HJR 62 and asked the wish of the committee. Number 0250 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN moved that HJR 62 move from the House Resources Committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. There being no objection, it was so ordered.