Advocacy & Current Issues

Through our consensus process, we are able to find the legislative priorities that will have the greatest impact on our farmers and food for all Alaskans. 

Every year at our annual meeting, our membership comes together to discuss the legislative priorities for that year.

We base much of our core issues based on the Resolutions that we’ve passed. View our position on livestock issues, renewable resources, regulatory issues, agricultural education issues and general agricultural issues.

2024 Legislative Priorities

Create a Department of Agriculture

  • Improve programs and services that help grow the agriculture
    industry
  • Streamline process for farmers and ranchers working with agencies
  • Increase educational materials and resources that assist farmers in
    all stages, from new to established
  • Increase the ability to secure more federal dollars to expand
    available programs

Increase Agriculture Research

  • FY25: $425,000 in Operating Budget for UAF Institute of Agriculture,
    Natural Resources and Extension: Ensuring Alaska’s Food Security     
  • Using “waste” products from the seafood & mariculture industry,
  • turning them into soil amendments
  • Need current research based on Alaska’s unique conditions: climate,
    day lengths, soils, and growing season
  • Up-to-date research will provide the information needed to operate
    more efficiently with fewer inputs

Improve Agriculture Land Leases

  • State lands need to be assessed to identify those suitable for
    agriculture
  • Review area plans more frequently to incorporate agriculture suitable lands more efficiently
    Streamline the leasing process to make it less cumbersome
    and time-consuming for farmers
  • Speed up the decision making process and allow for long-term
    leasing

IMPROVE ACCESS TO CAPITAL AND MEAT PROCESSING

Legislation passed in 2022 created the forgivable loan programs to help build the ag industry. One
for ag development to expand on farm production, the other is for meat processing businesses.
Access to capital is a major struggle for producers, funding the forgivable loan programs will give
necessary resources to agriculture businesses trying to expand and build infrastructure.

Increase funding for ffa

This past year, FFA had temporary funding to increase staff and program development. This has
increased opportunities for high school students to benefit and looking at possible middle school
programs. The funding for a second position should become permanent to continue program growth

ESTABLISH ALASKA GROWN MARKETING INSTITUTE

Access to markets is a limiting factor for more rapid growth in Alaska agriculture since individual
farmers have to build their own market base. Creating an entity that focuses on promoting all
Alaska Grown products will speed the process of developing markets, giving farmers and ranchers
some security in knowing they can expand and reach markets.

EXPAND AGRICULTURE REVOLVING LOAN FUND

Improve access to capital through expansion of the ARLF program. Review eligible applicants,
uses, and caps on loan amounts, update to be more inclusive to new and expanding farming
operations.

UPDATE FARM PROPERTY AND STRUCTURE TAX EXEMPTIONS

Criteria should be revised to streamline the process farmers go through when applying for
property tax exemptions and include farm structures in the exemption to keep more money for
investing in their operations, allowing more expansion.

CREATE & FUND A TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE OFFICER POSITION IN THE DIVISION OF AG

A full-time Technical Assistance Officer would assist producers in finding available funding
opportunities that are currently being missed as well as provide technical assistance with
applications and other business needs.

INCREASE AMOUNT OF ALASKAN GROWN PRODUCTS IN GROCERY STORES

State officials could assist in securing more shelf space for Alaska Grown products through regular
contact with grocery store executives urging them to work with Alaska’s farmers and ranchers.
This will provide a stable market so farmers can plan accordingly to expand production.

Issues We are Talking About 

Food Security

About the Issue

The goals of this Order are to increase food security, strengthen local economies, and lessen Alaska’s dependence on external foods and supply chains. The State of Alaska has a vested interest in promoting the health, safety, and wellbeing of its citizens. Other than water, heat, and shelter, a reliable, affordable, and sufficient food supply is the highest need of a society.

As an isolated State with limited infrastructure and tremendous dependency on imports, the State of Alaska has a duty to improve the local production, harvest, and growth of foods and increase access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food. Currently, approximately 95 percent of the food Alaskans purchase is imported, costing roughly two billion dollars annually. This is an enormous wealth transfer from Alaskans to outside entities. During the COVID-19 pandemic global supply chains have been stressed. Furthermore, Alaska is at the end of the supply chain for goods and food coming from the West Coast. At the height of the pandemic, the Port of Seattle was on the brink of closing, which would have drastically impacted the ability for shipping carriers to bring goods and food to Alaska. Most recently, the logistical shock has rippled into grocery stores and family homes across the State, with food and other essentials becoming difficult to obtain due to restrictions on overland trucking between Canada and the United States.

 

Solution

The Task Force will review and provide recommendations to the Governor of the State of Alaska regarding food security goals and policies, and guidelines for state initiatives which, to the maximum extent possible, increase local production, harvest, processing, storage, and use of food products. Once the report is received, there may be further clarification and deliverables identified that would require additional work by the Task Force.

Nuisance Wildlife

About the Issue

Wildlife causes an estimated $1 billion in damage to agriculture operations in the U.S. annually, wildlife also transmit parasites and pathogens to livestock and humans.  Farmers and ranchers are already expected to foot the bill for damage or disease caused by wildlife on their farms as well as keeping their livestock from getting out into the wild.  

From predators killing livestock to moose eating crops to bison wrecking barley fields, it’s a constant battle and expense for farmers to protect their livelihood from wildlife.  On top of this, there is not a clear answer from ADF&G on farmers taking game in defense of life and property.  Farms have attractants, but this doesn’t mean the farmers are trying to attract wildlife.  Many farmers are fearful of getting in trouble if wildlife comes around, and definitely if they have to take game in defense of life & property.  

Solution

ADF&G needs to define more clearly that farmers can defend their life & property without getting in trouble.  Normal farming practices (feeding livestock, growing crops) should not be considered improper handling of attractants to wildlife populations. Without this type of legislation, farmers will continue to be in direct conflict with Alaska’s dynamic megafauna as we continue to share the same space with wildlife. 

Where the Bill in Is Process: Looking for a bill sponsor or regulation change 

Call to Action: Language to get you started is coming soon. 

Who To Reach Out To: Governor Dunleavy: Feedback (state.ak.us), ADF&G Commissioner & your personal legislators

M. ovi

About the Issue

Domestic sheep and goats have been bearing the brunt of blame for pneumonia outbreaks in big horn sheep.  M. ovi is the pathogen that is primarily being focused on. This pathogen exists in both wild and domestic populations. Because of the possible risk of transmission between domestic and wild populations, attempts over the past several years have been made to place expensive and burdensome regulations on Alaska’s sheep and goat owners; testing livestock imports from outside the state is just one piece.

Science and data do not support required testing of M. ovi as a solution to pneumonia outbreaks. 

  • M. ovi is endemic in North American small ruminants.
  • M. ovi positive does not mean diseased; some M. ovi positive big horn herds have had pneumonia outbreaks while others are thriving.
  • M. ovi is not limited to sheep, goats and muskox as assumed; testing in Alaska has found M. ovi in deer, caribou and moose. 
  • Alaska has had no die-offs associated with M. ovi.
  • Testing showed similar prevalence of M. ovi positive wildlife as domestic animals, around 4-5%.
  • M. ovi found widespread across Alaska in wildlife, including remote areas where there is no interaction with livestock.
  • M. ovi is not new to Alaska; wildlife test samples dating back to 2004 have tested positive for M. ovi.

More information on science and studies involving M. ovi can be found here.

With M. ovi currently in Alaska’s wildlife populations (across the state and in multiple species), testing imported sheep and goats will have no impact on M. ovi being in Alaska’s wildlife populations, it will increase the cost to our farmers to do business.  It will increase costs to maintain healthy flocks by bringing in new genetics.  It will increase costs to the consumers who get meat, dairy or fiber from these farms.  It will increase costs to our 4-H and FFA kids.

Solution

We need to continue research to better understand M. ovi and respiratory issues in wildlife and livestock.  We would like to see increased education & outreach from state agencies to sheep/goat owners including good herd health management plans, proper protocol for wildlife coming onto farms, etc.

Where is this in the Process: Draft regulations proposed by Dept. of Environmental Conservation that would require M. ovi testing for all sheep & goat imports which is still in review process. 

Call to Action: Here’s some language to get you started: 

Wildlife organizations continue to push for unreasonable regulations over domestic sheep and goats, including required testing for M. ovi.  This would be expensive and burdensome to Alaska’s farmers and ranchers, limiting the ability to grow and succeed in their business without benefiting Alaska’s wildlife.  

M.ovi is an incompletely understood pathogen that is already widespread in Alaska, including areas without domestic animals.  Instead of overregulating our sheep and goat farmers, the state should be working with sheep and goat owners on improving education and outreach around wildlife/livestock interaction issues.  Working on cost-effective and efficient strategies that maintain separation and continuing research on M. movi and respiratory pathogens.

Support Alaska farmers and ranchers by working with them instead of regulating them.

Who To Reach Out To: Governor Dunleavy: Feedback (state.ak.us), Dept. of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Jason Brune, Jason.Brune@alaska.gov 

Confidentiality

About the Issue

In order to comply with state and federal laws, farmers are required to provide certain information to DEC or DNR; importing livestock, testing of certain pathogens or diseases, etc.  There are also situations where a farmer may want to participate in a voluntary testing program, whether it’s to determine prevalence of newer pathogens or things like maintaining Alaska’s scrapie free status. 

Currently, there is no protection over personal or business information on records that go through DEC or DNR.  Records that identify a particular animal, crop, business, individual’s name and address, or specific results from testing are subject to the Public Records Act.   

Alaska’s farmers and ranchers should be afforded the same protections other industries have in protecting personal and business information.

Solution

Give DNR and DEC confidentiality over certain information to protect our farmers. 

Where the Bill in Is Process: Looking for sponsors. 

Previous legislation that supports this policy: In 2018, HB315 was a Governor’s bill to support this. Read the full bill language. {Link to Leg Page} Alaska State Legislature (akleg.gov)

Call to Action: Here’s some language to get you started.

The Governor’s office should sponsor this bill: support giving the DNR and DEC confidentiality over animal and crop records to protect our farmers personal and proprietary information. 

Who To Reach Out To: Send feedback to Governor Dunleavy’s Administration at Feedback (state.ak.us)

Where Our Advocacy Has Worked 

When farmers win, everybody wins.

2021 – HB 22 – Free the Cheese

In 2021, HB22 was successfully passed through the Alaska legislatures for small herd-share dairies to be able to sell value-added products, like cheese, into the Alaska Market.

#freethecheese

2019 Budget

Over the years agriculture programs (already minimally funded) have been drastically reduced in state funding.  In 2019 agriculture programs (Division of Agriculture, Dairy Inspections, etc.) were essentially eliminated from the budget. Alaska Farm Bureau worked with many other organizations to reinstate funding for these programs.

2018 – HCR23 – Protect Wildlife From Foreign Pathogens

Introduced at the request of the Alaska Wildsheep Foundation to send a message to agencies to “enhance efforts to protect the state’s wildlife” from things like M.ovi.  The Alaska Farm Bureau worked with legislators to amend language making it more livestock friendly and focused on science-based management.

2018 – HB 217 – Local Food Procurement; Farm Tours; Fees

This bill has multiple aspects that can assist Alaska’s farmers and ranchers in their operations through marketing assistance, access to markets and improving protections.

  • Institutional purchasing is an underutilized market for Alaska’s farmers that would keep dollars in the state to be recirculated in the economy.  There are multiple pieces to this program that need improvement; HB 217 addresses the preference amount.  Increasing the option to give up to 15% preference could make this more attainable to farmers as they expand their production and we work on the other pieces of the procurement puzzle.  Increasing the allowable preference does not increase the overall budget for these grocery contracts.
  • Participants of the Alaska Grown program are proud to display that their products are Alaska Grown.  Being able to use marketing tools like stickers, twist ties, etc. when selling their products is a great tool that tells consumers they are getting a quality product.  Giving receipt authority to Division of Ag will enable them to continue purchasing these in bulk and providing them to Alaska Grown participants.
  • Agritourism is an increasingly popular way to expand farming businesses, it’s also a way to educate consumers about farming and where their food comes from.  There are inherent risks being on a farm, this does put our farmers in a precarious position when they invite people onto their farms.  Adding agritourism (“farm touring”) to the civil liabilities statute will add some protections for farmers who opt for incorporating agritourism to their business/educational plan.

Becoming a Successful Farm Advocate 

It can be intimidating to contact your local representatives and have your voice heard. Your voice is important and your thoughts, opinions, and expertise have a huge impact in helping educate and influence our local, state, and federal decision makers in helping build a stronger agricultural system in Alaska.