NEWS: Food Freedom Bill Put Forward to Increase Food Security in Alaska

Recent 7.0 Earthquake is a Wake-up Call to Increase Access to Locally Produced Foods

Anchorage – In the wake of the recent large earthquake in Alaska, Representative Gera Tarr (D-Anchorage) plans to pre-file legislation to increase access to locally produced food. Alaska is especially vulnerable to food shortages and supply interruptions because around 95 percent of food consumed originates from outside Alaska.

“The recent earthquake should serve as a wake-up call that we need to improve food security in Alaska so that we are prepared for future disasters.  Alaskans were lucky this time to not have a significant supply disruption, but what many Alaskans learned is we all need to be more prepared,” said Rep. Tarr. “Improving food security is good for our state, good for local businesses, good for our economy, and good for health. These efforts are truly a win for our state.”

Rep. Tarr’s Food Freedom Bill seeks to increase access to Alaska Grown products by expanding opportunities for direct consumer to producer sales. These sales can be regulated for safety while also expanding small business opportunities. Currently, Alaskans spend almost $2 billion a year on food, but very little is spent on Alaska Grown items. A recent report estimates that if every Alaskan spent just $5.00/per week on Alaska Grown items, it would add $188 million to the Alaska economy. 

 “Governor Dunleavy announced he wants to review all regulations, and this is a good place to start,” said Rep. Tarr. “We worked on this bill last session and all summer through our House Resources Food Security Subcommittee. After significant research and consultation with national experts, we identified ways we can ensure safety while also expanding opportunities.”

Rep. Tarr’s proposed legislation would expand sales of a variety of agricultural products including milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, meats, and other prepared goods. The Food Freedom bill is modeled on successful efforts to allow more value-added products to be sold directly by producers to consumers in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Maine.

“Alaskans have a right to know what’s in their food and how it is prepared. This bill requires labeling to let consumers know what product they are purchasing and how it was prepared, thus providing for informed consumer choice,” said Tarr.  “Direct producer to consumer sales with informed consumer choice by requiring appropriate labeling should be legal.”

Interest in locally produced food continues to grow in Alaska. In 2005 there were only 13 farmers markets in Alaska. Now there are nearly 50 farmers markets with direct sales increasing by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012, which is 13 times the national average. Currently nearly one out of every three farms in Alaska sells direct to household consumers, placing Alaska among the top states in direct sales, along with New Hampshire and Vermont.

Rep. Tarr’s Food Freedom Bill will be pre-filed for introduction when the 31st Alaska State Legislature convenes in Juneau on January 15, 2019.

For more information, please contact Rep. Geran Tarr at (907) 360-4047.