Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

01/31/2018 01:00 PM House RESOURCES

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02:57:13 PM Start
02:57:43 PM HB217
03:40:12 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to Immediately Following Session --
Scheduled but Not Heard
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
          HB 217-RAW MILK SALES; FOOD EXEMPT FROM REGS                                                                      
2:57:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  JOSEPHSON announced  that the  first order  of business                                                               
would  be HOUSE  BILL NO.  217, "An  Act relating  to the  Alaska                                                               
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; relating  to the sale of milk, milk                                                               
products, raw milk,  and raw milk products; and  providing for an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  TARR, speaking  as the  sponsor of  HB 217,  provided a                                                               
PowerPoint  presentation entitled,  "House  Bill  217 The  Alaska                                                               
Food Freedom Act,"  undated.  Co-Chair Tarr said  food freedom is                                                               
a  growing  movement that  hopes  to  accomplish goals  that  are                                                               
appropriate for Alaska as evidenced  by support from the Division                                                               
of   Agriculture,   Department   of  Natural   Resources   (DNR),                                                               
indicating there  are opportunities in Alaska  for agriculture to                                                               
increase food production  and local food security.   The goals of                                                               
the food freedom movement are (slide 1):                                                                                        
    · increase direct producer to consumer sales, such as access                                                                
      to farmers markets                                                                                                        
    ·  support entrepreneurs through business opportunities for                                                                 
      local farmers                                                                                                             
    · create more opportunities for small-scale food producers                                                                  
      through financing                                                                                                         
    ·  strengthen the local food system:  food imports have                                                                     
      increased from 50 percent to 95 percent and currently                                                                     
      Alaska has just a three- to five-day food supply in                                                                       
      grocery stores                                                                                                            
    · grow local economies by increasing the purchase of local                                                                  
3:02:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR TARR  explained a  related bill  [SSHB 46]  was reported                                                               
from  the  committee on  [3/22/17]  and  a forthcoming  committee                                                               
substitute (CS) for HB 217 will  incorporate SSHB 46 into HB 217;                                                               
thus  the  forthcoming  CS  for   HB  217  would  accomplish  the                                                               
following:    add  in  statute  food  freedom  language  defining                                                               
farmers markets;  allow farmers  to sell products  through online                                                               
purchasing  mechanisms  such  as  food  hubs;  give  DNR  receipt                                                               
authority  for  the  Alaska  Grown   logo;  give  the  state  and                                                               
municipalities  more  freedom  to   purchase  more  Alaska  grown                                                               
produce at  a 7  percent to  15 percent  procurement differential                                                               
(slide 2).                                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR TARR further explained food  freedom acts are also known                                                               
as cottage  food laws, which  address issues related to  the sale                                                               
of homemade products.  The  bill requires homemade products to be                                                               
sold  directly by  the  producer to  consumers  who are  informed                                                               
about how  the product is prepared,  or that the product  has not                                                               
been  inspected.    Further,  the   bill  seeks  to  establish  a                                                               
consistent statewide policy  regarding the sale of  farm and food                                                               
products   and  to   ensure  there   is   support  for   economic                                                               
opportunities for  local products.  Slide  3 provided definitions                                                               
of "farmers market" and "farm  and food products."  Co-Chair Tarr                                                               
said the  number of farmers markets  in Alaska has grown  from 13                                                               
to 40  in the last decade  because buyers want to  know how their                                                               
food  is grown  and  by whom.   She  provided  sales numbers  for                                                               
farmers markets  in Fairbanks, Homer, Kodiak,  and Mountain View,                                                               
and a chart  that illustrated the general  benefits of purchasing                                                               
from farmers markets, such as preserving farmland (slide 4).                                                                    
3:08:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  noted the pasteurization of  milk affords a                                                               
level of  public protection and  asked whether aspects  of public                                                               
health are addressed by the bill.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR TARR said  she would return to concerns  related to milk                                                               
later  in the  hearing.   She advised  in 2015,  Wyoming was  the                                                               
first state to pass policy related  to food freedom, and bills on                                                               
this topic  have been  introduced in  Utah, Maine,  Colorado, and                                                               
Virginia.  Turning to the  impact of farming on Alaska's economy,                                                               
she said the $5 Alaska  Challenge program sponsored by the Alaska                                                               
Farm  Bureau, Inc.,  could  raise $180  million  for the  state's                                                               
economy (slide 5).                                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR  TARR returned  attention to  the question  raised about                                                               
raw milk  and noted her intent  to "pull that section  out of the                                                               
bill,"  because  further work  is  required  to address  concerns                                                               
raised by  the Department of Environmental  Conservation (DEC) on                                                               
how to  contact consumers  if necessary.   Also, the  Alaska Farm                                                               
Bureau Inc.,  supports inspections  of raw  milk producers.   She                                                               
said she  wants to bring  all the interested parties  together to                                                               
discuss safety  concerns and inspection issues  [before proposing                                                               
legislation related to milk products].                                                                                          
3:13:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  questioned the necessity of  increasing the                                                               
[state] procurement differential from 7 percent to 15 percent.                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  TARR said  in  2014  an audit  was  requested from  the                                                               
Legislative  Budget and  Audit Committee  to  review the  state's                                                               
policy  on  product  procurement   preference.    The  audit  was                                                               
released  in  2016 and  she  offered  to  provide copies  to  the                                                               
committee.   The  audit looked  at  the major  contracts held  by                                                               
Alaska institutions  and compared  the availability and  price of                                                               
imported  products with  those  of Alaska  Grown  products.   The                                                               
findings  were that  the procurement  rule,  which limits  paying                                                               
more than 7  percent over products from  Outside, prevented state                                                               
institutions  from   purchasing  Alaska   Grown  products.     By                                                               
increasing the limit from 7 percent  to 15 percent the bill would                                                               
provide more flexibility for procurement  officers, but would not                                                               
require  that they  spend more.   She  related that  once farmers                                                               
have  a greater  market and  contracts for  their products,  they                                                               
will  produce more  and  prices for  Alaska  Grown products  will                                                               
decrease, and  she gave an example.   Also revealed by  the audit                                                               
was that the  Department of Administration (DOA)  will update its                                                               
request for proposal  (RFP) form to include  Alaska Grown product                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH  stated his  concern  adding  a 15  percent                                                               
surcharge to the cost of doing business is unreasonable.                                                                        
CO-CHAIR TARR  pointed out institutions  would not  receive extra                                                               
money;  however,  the  total  cost   of  a  product  to  a  large                                                               
institution may  be reduced by  better meal planning and  the use                                                               
of  fresher   and  healthier   products,  or   locally  available                                                               
products.   Further, state dollars  would be directed  to support                                                               
local  economies and  farmers, and  to improve  the state's  food                                                               
3:19:14 PM                                                                                                                    
[CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON opened invited testimony.]                                                                                  
3:20:24 PM                                                                                                                    
DEBBIE SPEAKMAN,  Executive Director, Homer Chamber  of Commerce,                                                               
informed the committee Homer has  over 1,000 high tunnels and the                                                               
community  enjoys an  abundance of  produce.   She advised  Homer                                                               
also  has  many young  entrepreneurs  who  are excited  to  found                                                               
businesses,   and  food   freedom  legislation   will  streamline                                                               
business  that  is  conducted   by  cottage  industries,  farmers                                                               
markets, and  food hubs.  She  said local jams and  jellies can't                                                               
be  purchased   online  because   of  various  state   and  local                                                               
restrictions.     Ms.  Speakman   spoke  in  support   of  making                                                               
regulations  clean  and  concise  to  help  young  entrepreneurs,                                                               
thereby  diversifying the  state's  economy.   Further, the  bill                                                               
would ensure  institutions and municipalities can  purchase local                                                               
foods in Homer and in other communities.                                                                                        
3:22:27 PM                                                                                                                    
BRAD ST. PIERRE, Manager, Tanana  Valley Farmers Market, and Vice                                                               
President,  Alaska  Farmers  Market Association,  said  he  farms                                                               
vegetables and hay  near Fairbanks.  He provided  a brief history                                                               
of the farmers  market in Fairbanks that was founded  in the mid-                                                               
1970's  and which  has grown  to house  over 100  vendors on  its                                                               
improved property.  Mr. St.  Pierre said hundreds of thousands of                                                               
pounds  of vegetables  have been  sold at  the Fairbanks  farmers                                                               
market.   The  Alaska Farmers  Market Association  has nearly  40                                                               
members who work  to help all its vendors  become strong economic                                                               
drivers for  the state.   In fact,  the Fairbanks  farmers market                                                               
sold  $1.2  million  of local  Alaska  Grown/Made  products  last                                                               
season.  Mr. St.  Pierre said most of the money  from the sale of                                                               
Alaska  Grown/Made products  stays  in Alaska.    The bill  would                                                               
align  Alaska's value  of local  products and  show the  state is                                                               
supporting its  farmers.   He pointed  out implementation  of the                                                               
federal  Food Safety  Modernization  Act means  that farming  has                                                               
advanced from a zero-regulated to  a strictly regulated industry,                                                               
but states that have food  freedom legislation support the direct                                                               
sales  of  unadulterated  farm products  to  educated  consumers.                                                               
Further, the  absence of  statewide regulation  inhibits emerging                                                               
food production,  and contributes  to the lack  of new  and young                                                               
farmers who need a clear path through state regulation.                                                                         
3:25:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. ST.  PIERRE opined  the increase  in the  allowed procurement                                                               
preference within  HB 217  is an  economic initiative  that would                                                               
make local  products more  attractive to  state entities  and the                                                               
profits  would be  earned by  Alaska companies.   Also,  the bill                                                               
would  enable the  Division of  Agriculture, DNR,  to market  the                                                               
Alaska Grown  logo and earn  revenue.   He reported the  bill has                                                               
support  from  the  Fairbanks  Chamber   of  Commerce,  and  gave                                                               
examples of businesses that originated  at the farmers market and                                                               
transitioned to  permanent locations.   Mr. St.  Pierre clarified                                                               
that  the  Alaska  Farmers Market  Association  supports  HB  217                                                               
without the provision related to milk.                                                                                          
3:29:21 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBBI  MIXON,  Director,  Homer Farmers  Market,  the  Kenai  and                                                               
Anchorage Food  Hub, and the  Alaska Farmers  Market Association,                                                               
informed the committee  she has been an Alaska  resident for nine                                                               
years.   She  advised online  farmers markets  are also  known as                                                               
food  hubs, and  are  increasing in  popularity  nationwide.   In                                                               
Alaska, there are three food hubs:   one in Homer, serving Homer,                                                               
Soldotna, Seldovia,  and Anchorage, one in  the Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
valley, and  one in Southeast.   She explained a food  hub offers                                                               
growers  and value-added  producers a  virtual stall  for posting                                                               
information  and their  products; customers  place orders  online                                                               
and collect  desired products  from a  designated location.   Ms.                                                               
Mixon  further described  the growth  of food  hubs that  benefit                                                               
clients of the private sector  and federal programs.  She pointed                                                               
out  the bill  would allow  cottage foods  to be  sold by  online                                                               
farmers markets, which  is currently not allowed  by DEC; cottage                                                               
foods are made  in nonregulated kitchens and are  products with a                                                               
low  probability  of  bacterial  growth like  jams,  breads,  and                                                               
pickles.   Ms. Mixon  urged support  for HB  217 and  assured the                                                               
committee the  issue of traceability is  addressed by information                                                               
recorded by online sales and labeling requirements.                                                                             
3:34:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MIXON continued  to explain the Kenai and  Anchorage Food Hub                                                               
does not  own the products  it offers but provides  virtual space                                                               
for vendors,  and collects operational  costs as  farmers markets                                                               
normally do.  She pointed out  in Alaska an online farmers market                                                               
is allowed to market a  limited amount of home-processed poultry;                                                               
however, marketing homemade bread or  jam is not allowed, and she                                                               
urged for  a loosening  of regulations  in Alaska.   Furthermore,                                                               
the bill would  not preclude an investigation by DEC  of any food                                                               
borne  illness.   She urged  for support  of a  more secure  food                                                               
system by  expanding cottage foods regulations  to include online                                                               
farmers   markets,   and    to   provide   small-scale   business                                                               
opportunities.    Ms.  Mixon  also   expressed  support  for  the                                                               
provisions in HB 217  that allow DNR to charge a  fee for the use                                                               
of the popular  and valuable Alaska Grown trademark,  and for the                                                               
increase in the procurement preference.                                                                                         
[HB 217 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB217 Ver A 4.7.17.PDF HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 New Sponsor Statement - Alaska Food Freedom 1.30.18.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Fiscal Note - DEC-EHL 1.26.18.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/16/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Fiscal Note - DEC-EH 1.26.18.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/16/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Supporting Document - Alaska Chamber Endorses Food Freedom 10.12.17.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/16/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Supporting Document - Article Natural News 4.16.17.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Supporting Document - Benefits of Farmers Markets 2017 1.30.18.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217
HB217 Supporting Document - Sponsor Presentation - Alaska Food Freedom 1-31-18.pdf HRES 1/31/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/7/2018 1:00:00 PM
HRES 2/14/2018 1:00:00 PM
HB 217