Resolution calls for Alaska food working group

The House Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Committee unanimously moved a resolution out of committee Thursday that would call on Gov. Sean Parnell to create a state food resource development working group.

 

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, who introduced the resolution, said he wants to bring together state agencies who dabble in food system-related issues — nutrition programs, research, ecology and beyond — and establish a “point person” in the governor’s office for a coordinated approach to Alaska’s food system.

“I’m just trying to get all of the agencies that do have a little piece to communicate and talk and do a lot more,” said Stoltze after the resolution advanced.

Stoltze brought carrots he said were from Vanderweele Farms in Palmer to the committee meeting. Legislators munched on the vegetables as they briefly discussed the resolution, which is House Concurrent Resolution 1.

“I’ve been working with farmers in Alaska for the last 15 years that I’ve lived here,” said Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, “It’s exciting to see more work happening on food issues, and I was enthusiastic about supporting this and signing on as a co-sponsor. So I’m excited that we’re going to move it today and keep it going.”

The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, responded, “I’m happy that we share that common interest. That’s great.”

There was no objection to a motion by House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, who also sits on the committee, to move the resolution to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Stoltze said afterward that he believes organic produce and other agricultural products in Alaska can fill market niches. He described himself as “passionate” about agriculture.

“I have an ag district,” remarked Stoltze, who represents part of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. “I lost some farms in redistricting, but they’re still my constituents.”

Among the co-sponsors of H.C.R. 1 is Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

Kreiss-Tomkins said he hopes the resolution “raises the profile of the issue.”

“I think local food is a good thing,” said Kreiss-Tomkins, whose Southeast district has a prominent fishing industry. He said schools in Sitka use locally caught fish in student meals. “There’s a certain poetry that communities are eating the food that those communities harvest, and they’re not eating fried chicken sandwiches from Kentucky or whatever.”

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, is also a co-sponsor of the resolution. She was out of town Thursday and was unavailable for comment.

The resolution has Parnell’s “full support,” according to his press secretary, Sharon Leighow.

“The governor strongly supports local, sustainable food sources,” Leighow wrote in an email Thursday.

 

Mark D. Miller can be reached at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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