Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/25/2004 01:07 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 35-MAD COW DISEASE/COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELS                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO. 35, Relating  to mad  cow disease                                                               
and country-of-origin labeling for meat products.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MASEK   noted  that   CSHJR  35(L&C)  was   before  the                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA, speaking  as  sponsor,  noted that  her                                                               
staff would be presenting the  resolution, and she remarked, "The                                                               
ex-director of agriculture,  who was also the  ex-Senator we just                                                               
heard about,  was evidently a  better farmer than he  was lawyer,                                                               
so I can  tell you that he's worked very  hard on this particular                                                               
piece  of legislation,  and it's  basically a  labeling piece  of                                                               
legislation ... supporting that."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK inquired  about the changes made  in the committee                                                               
substitute (CS)  and asked  that Representative  Kerttula's staff                                                               
speak to those changes.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 2553                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
AURORA HAUKE,  Staff to  Representative Beth  Kerttula, presented                                                               
CSHJR  35(L&C) on  behalf  of  Representative Kerttula,  sponsor.                                                               
Ms. Hauke explained that  bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE),                                                               
"mad cow  disease," and the disease  humans can get from  it, the                                                               
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease  (CJD), are very  scary.   The diseases                                                               
are  invariably fatal  and  there is  no cure,  but  they can  be                                                               
prevented, she  said.   This resolution  supports efforts  of the                                                               
USDA  [United States  Department of  Agriculture] to  prevent the                                                               
disease and  also encourages  earlier implementation  of country-                                                               
of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef,  she said.  Turning attention                                                               
changes made in  the CS, she directed attention to  page 2, lines                                                               
1-2, and  she said the  language in the [original  resolution was                                                               
changed to reflect  the actions of the USDA].   Language found on                                                               
page 1, line 16,  through page 2, lines 1 and  2, of the original                                                               
resolution read:                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     WHEREAS  the United  States  Department of  Agriculture                                                                    
     has  taken steps  to identify  and destroy  cattle that                                                                    
     are from  the same herd  as the infected cow  and other                                                                    
     animals that may have been exposed to that cow; and                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HAUKE explained  that the  USDA stopped  searching for  more                                                               
cows from that herd, so the language was changed to read:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
      WHEREAS the United States Department of Agriculture                                                                       
          has taken steps to control bovine spongiform                                                                          
     encephalopathy; and                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. HAUKE said another change made  to the CS was the addition of                                                               
"bovine spongiform encephalopathy" into the title.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 2628                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM, noting  that  she  appreciated the  changes,                                                               
asked what  other states  are doing  to implement  regulations or                                                               
anything pertaining to the same subject.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HAUKE explained  that eight  other  states have  legislation                                                               
pending.   One  state  has passed  a  resolution encouraging  the                                                               
opening  of  international beef  markets.    Four states  already                                                               
require the  labeling of imported  beef.  The other  eight states                                                               
have various  legislation that  mostly have  to do  with tracking                                                               
and identification,  and there  are a couple  of bills  that deal                                                               
with meat  processing and  rendering regulations,  she explained.                                                               
There is  a bill that  would make it a  crime not to  test animal                                                               
feed  or not  to ensure  animal  feed is  safe, and  there is  an                                                               
appropriation for an identification system.   She said Iowa has a                                                               
resolution to  support the implementation  of [COOL]  labeling by                                                               
2004, and  last year, it  had a resolution to  support postponing                                                               
that, but after  the discovery of the "mad cow"  [in the state of                                                               
Washington]  "they changed  their  minds, I  guess."   Ms.  Hauke                                                               
remarked, "New  York has  had legislation  since 2002,  so that's                                                               
not new."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 2710                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK asked  what Congress is doing with  regard to this                                                               
issue.  She turned attention to page 2, lines 17-19, which read:                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     FURTHER  RESOLVED  that  the Alaska  State  Legislature                                                                    
     supports  any  efforts   by  the  Alaska  congressional                                                                    
     delegation to implement  country-of-origin labeling for                                                                    
     meat  products sooner  than the  current implementation                                                                    
     date.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. HAUKE  said in the  omnibus appropriations bill,  the country                                                               
of  origin  labeling,  which  was  supposed  to  take  effect  in                                                               
September  2004, was  pushed back  to September  2006.   She said                                                               
there were several  reasons for that and there was  also a lot of                                                               
opposition.   She  said  there  has been  talk  about moving  the                                                               
implementation date back  up.  Ms. Hauke said a  member of United                                                               
States  Senator  Ted  Stevens' staff  said  Senator  Stevens  was                                                               
involved in discussions.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 2764                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked Ms.  Hauke if the Canadian government                                                               
is cooperating with the United States and to what extent.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HAUKE said  the  [the Canadian  government] implemented  the                                                               
feed ban at the  same time as the United States.   She stated her                                                               
belief that  the [Canadian government] is  being very cooperative                                                               
with the  United States, and said  it had shut down  some borders                                                               
from [allowing  in] beef shipments  from the United  States, even                                                               
those going through.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE pointed  out that  last spring,  [Canadian                                                               
customs] were stopping [vehicles] at  the border for having items                                                               
such as  beef broth.  She  asked if [the resolution]  will affect                                                               
this in any way.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA  said  she   had  heard  that  [Canadian                                                               
customs] had even  taken dog food.  She said  she didn't know the                                                               
current situation  at the border,  but this  [resolution] doesn't                                                               
impact that except in terms of  recognizing that issue.  She said                                                               
this  [resolution] is  "going more  toward" the  labeling of  the                                                               
animal product.   Representative  Kerttula, noting  it is  a good                                                               
question,  offered  to check  to  see  [what products  are  being                                                               
stopped at the Canadian border].                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 2764                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO, directing  attention to  page 2,  lines 11                                                               
and  13,  noted  previous  discussion in  the  [House  Labor  and                                                               
Commerce Standing  Committee] about  the language  "deserve", and                                                               
he said he didn't remember [what outcome of that discussion].                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA clarified that  there had been discussion                                                               
in  the  previous  committee about  whether  the  word  "deserve"                                                               
should stay  in the legislation.   She  said she didn't  have any                                                               
particular belief on  it, but the previous  committee really felt                                                               
that it was  something that Americans did deserve to  know and it                                                               
wanted to keep the stronger language in the resolution.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO noted that he  was uneasy with the word, and                                                               
said he didn't think it  properly described what "we were after."                                                               
He  suggested [it  read] "Americans  have the  right to  know" or                                                               
"Americans should be advised" because  he said the word "deserve"                                                               
is so compelling and so focused  that "there isn't any way out of                                                               
it."  He remarked, "Everybody deserves  to know, and I thought, I                                                               
know that's  not going  to change  the effect of  the bill."   He                                                               
said  he  still  likes  the alternative  terminology  because  he                                                               
didn't think "deserve" was the  right word.  Representative Gatto                                                               
said he  felt he had to  bring that up,  and he was not  going to                                                               
object to it.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2933                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG  said he  thought what happened  in the                                                               
House Labor and  Commerce Standing Committee is  it couldn't find                                                               
something  that better  fit what  was felt  or a  substitute that                                                               
actually  met   that.    Addressing  a   previous  question  from                                                               
Representative Heinze,  he said  he had  dog food  confiscated at                                                               
the border and  he knew of a  staff member that had  also had dog                                                               
food confiscated  at the border but  the manufacturer compensated                                                               
her for that.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2961                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH noted that he liked the word "need."                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-8, SIDE B                                                                                                             
Number 2978                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
PHIL KASPARI,  Agricultural Agent, Cooperative  Extension Service                                                               
(CES),  testified.    He  said  in general  he  agreed  with  the                                                               
resolution but he  was concerned by one item in  particular.  Mr.                                                               
Kaspari  directed attention  to page  2, [line  4], the  language                                                               
"nonambulatory disabled cattle", and he  said the USDA has a made                                                               
the decision  to ban those  animals from  slaughter.  He  said he                                                               
was  not an  expert  but  he felt  like  that  was a  reactionary                                                               
maneuver on  the part of the  USDA to calm the  public's concerns                                                               
regarding the  safety of the  meat being purchased.   Mr. Kaspari                                                               
suggested  that  the  [USDA]  was  not  necessarily  using  sound                                                               
science.  He said there are  so many questions regarding BSE that                                                               
scientists and researches  have not yet been able  to answer that                                                               
he felt  like things might have  to be slowed down  just a little                                                               
bit to  let sound  science rule the  decision making  rather than                                                               
politics.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KASPARI said  the number  of "downer  animals" that  do come                                                               
into a slaughter  generally have very obvious problems  such as a                                                               
broken leg  or what is  referred to  as "hip lock,"  which occurs                                                               
when the animal experiences problems  during the calving process.                                                               
Generally,  he said  producers  look upon  downer  animals in  an                                                               
ethical  manner, rather  than wasting  that commodity,  producers                                                               
would  just as  soon use  it in  an ethical  manner and  have the                                                               
animal  utilized.   He  said  if the  use  of  downer animals  is                                                               
banned, then  a couple of  things happen.   For example,  he said                                                               
there  is a  certain  amount of  economic  hardship imposed  upon                                                               
producers, and it  also [causes] a certain amount  of paranoia in                                                               
producers.   He  said he  knows that  this whole  issue is  being                                                               
discussed on  a national  basis and is  evolving, and  he thought                                                               
user groups are talking to USDA representatives.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. KASPARI  said he hoped  the committee  would add a  line that                                                               
would  mention  supporting  specific  research  on  BSE  animals,                                                               
because  scientists are  currently  allowed  to research  chronic                                                               
wasting disease (CWD),  which is basically the  same disease that                                                               
occurs  in the  deer  family  such as  Elk.    He mentioned  [CWD                                                               
occurrences  in] white  tailed deer  in Michigan,  Wisconsin, and                                                               
parts of  Minnesota, and  he said wild  herds are  suffering with                                                               
this disease.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2774                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
PAUL  KNOPP, Dairy  producer, began  by saying  he has  some real                                                               
concerns with  this resolution.   He said he wonders  where these                                                               
statements come  from because they  haven't all  necessarily been                                                               
proven by  science.   Mr. Knopp asked  if the  state veterinarian                                                               
has  been contacted  about this  statement.   He  said he  really                                                               
thought this  should be  taken further, which  he thought  is why                                                               
the USDA has  initiated a two-year moratorium, to look  at it and                                                               
get some scientific evidence "of where they're trying to go."                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  thanked both  Mr. Kaspari and  Mr. Knopp                                                               
for testifying and  she told them she was really  open to talking                                                               
more with them about their concerns  after the meeting.  She said                                                               
the   Department   of   Environmental  Conservation   (DEC)   was                                                               
contacted,   and  that   she   had   thought  about   introducing                                                               
legislation to  "require inspection"  coming into Alaska  but she                                                               
felt  satisfied  after speaking  to  DEC  that it  wasn't  really                                                               
necessary, and  she decided  instead to  go with  the "resolution                                                               
route."  She  said a lot of the information  in the resolution is                                                               
taken  directly from  the Federal  Register, the  USDA, and  also                                                               
from information and  research that was put out at  the time that                                                               
BSE was  found in the cow  in [Washington], and in  articles from                                                               
The  New York  Times.   She said  Mr. Kaspari  made a  good point                                                             
about a cow that breaks its leg,  but the idea is when there is a                                                               
nonambulatory  disabled  cow, which  is  defined  in the  Federal                                                               
Register as dead, dying, disabled,  and diseased.  Representative                                                               
Kerttula said Mr. Kaspari is talking  about a cow that she didn't                                                               
think any  farmer "in their  right mind" is  going to put  into a                                                               
food strain.   She  said maybe  that language  could be  a little                                                               
more specific but generally she thought that was the idea.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA  said  she  didn't  disagree  that  care                                                               
should be  taken with regard  to factual information, but  all of                                                               
the things in  the resolution have been researched  back to fact,                                                               
which is the  reason for the nonambulatory  disease cattle phrase                                                               
that  was taken  directly from  the Federal  Register.   She said                                                               
this is not  [intended] to do something radical or  that may hurt                                                               
the  industry  and  is  really much  more  about  protecting  the                                                               
industry and ensuring "we know what we're getting."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 2585                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM   moved  to  report  CSHJR   35(L&C)  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection, CSHJR  35(L&C)  was                                                               
reported out of the House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK passed the gavel back to Co-Chair Dahlstrom.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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