Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
04/16/2018 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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CSHB 197(FIN)-COMMUNITY SEED LIBRARIES; AGRICULTURE 3:33:24 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced consideration of HB 197 [CSHB 197(FIN), version 30-LS0493\L, was before the committee]. 3:33:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE JENNIFER JOHNSTON, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of HB 197, said this measure came from members of her community as a way to legalize the sharing of a small amount of seeds. Currently, a seed cannot be sold, shared, or exchanged without going through costly testing and labelling. Seed sharing in libraries has a potential to contribute significant value to the health and heritage in Alaska's communities by providing a place to share regionally adapted heirloom seeds as an alternative to outside genetically-modified seeds and help increase bio-diversity and plant resilience in the state. She said seed libraries are sprouting up throughout Alaska and this bill will allow them to operate legally without burdensome and unnecessary government regulation. This bill will help grow an organic sense of community and increase Alaska food security. 3:34:53 PM ELIZABETH REXFORD, staff to Representative Johnston, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, explained that the newest version of HB 197 reduces labelling and testing regulations for the exchange of small batches of non-commercial seeds. This bill will permit Alaska gardening and farming communities the opportunity to continue expanding seed sharing without breaking the law. She said that Alaska currently has very onerous seed labelling requirements; currently, any seed that is used at any capacity within the state has to go through the commercial process of extensive testing, germinating percentages, and labelling. The new requirements would be limited to only a few sections: the seeds' common name, name and address of the seed library, and if treated with a toxic substance the labelling would require the statement: "treated seed not for consumption." Signage in the library to state: "not authorized for commercial use in not classified, graded, or inspected by the State of Alaska." MS. REXFORD said the new fee requirement for labelling is far less than the two pages of current requirements. As stated before, Alaska has been experiencing a severe food security challenge where residents spend close to $2 billion annually buying food produced from outside of our state. By passing this bill, Alaska's community seed libraries will be able to confidently exist and grow into the future. 3:36:52 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said this is a good idea and asked if genetically modified seeds have any special requirements and if there are concerns about that. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON answered that in taking testimony from the seed libraries, he found that some operate through donations and they didn't want their donated seeds to be too severely limited. 3:37:42 PM SENATOR BISHOP joined the committee. SENATOR MEYER joined the committee. SENATOR STEDMAN said he was curious about how this measure interacts with the commercial issue. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON replied she purposely left that out of the seed bill, because it's taken care of with other statutes. SENATOR STEDMAN said so, it's excluded from the community seed library. REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON answered, "yes." 3:38:50 PM AMY SEITZ, Executive Director, Alaska Farm Bureau, Soldotna, Alaska, supported HB 197. She said interest in food security is increasing in Alaska, and it is an issue that has been very important to the Alaska Farm Bureau for several years. She said increasing our food security can be done through expanding agriculture with our farmers, but it can also be achieved through encouraging members of the public to grow their own food. HB 197 would allow personal growth of food by easing restrictions on labelling requirements for the non-commercial seed exchanges. CHAIR GIESSEL said the "purple vetch" on road perimeters ended up in Alaska because it was mixed in with the seeds that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) seeded the rights-of-way with. It is an invasive species that is now choking off our native plants. She asked how it can be ensured that no weeds are in the seeds that are being put into these seed libraries. ROB CARTER, Alaska Plant Material Center, Division of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Palmer, Alaska, answered that the seed that is collected, harvested, maintained or shared non-commercially is in relatively small quantities and in this legislation is defined as under 100 pounds. A lot of the seed that has been shared from gardener to gardener has been tested and meets the commercially standardized labelling laws and testing requirements. The seed that is grown and collected on a farm or within a community, remote or on the road system, is done by hand in a non-mechanized fashion, and in very small quantities and so, the genetics of seed individuals have been maintained for years, or even decades. The chances of collecting an invasive or non-native species would actually not be very probable since seeds are mostly vegetable, flower, and garden seeds that are unlike commercial scale seeds that are collected by machines harvesting hundreds or thousands of acres at a time where the chance of catching those invasive or non- native species is very likely. CHAIR GIESSEL thanked him and finding nor further questions, she closed public testimony. SENATOR COGHILL moved to report HB 197 [CSHB 197(FIN), version \L,] from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.