JUNEAU – Today, Senators Shelley Hughes and Scott Kawasaki, and Representatives George Rauscher and Geran Tarr announced the formation of the Alaska Grown Caucus, with the mission of promoting Alaska Grown products.
All members of the legislature are invited to join the Alaska Grown Caucus and the first meeting will be held Wednesday, January 26th, from 5-6 pm.
“The agriculture industry needs to be promoted and expanded in our state. Alaskans are more aware than ever of our need for increased food security and are worried about the bare shelves we’ve had lately. Back in the day, 50% of what we ate was produced in state. Now it’s less than 5%. We are too reliant on sources outside. We need a concerted effort to change this; the Alaska Grown Caucus is the beginning of that effort,” said Senator Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer).
“The University of Alaska Fairbanks began in 1917 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines because these both showed huge potential. Agriculture in Fairbanks and Alaska has seen a recent rebirth with the popularity of farmers markets and cooperatives, a conscious desire to buy locally and a new, youthful movement to start small business. The Alaska Grown Caucus is set to bolster and facilitate this future growth,” said Senator Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).
“As truckers experience access problems at the Canadian and US borders, the rising cost of imports, and other logistical and regulatory challenges we face here in Alaska, this Legislature will work together to understand the challenges and the opportunities needed to move us toward food security for Alaskans,” said Representative George Rauscher (R-Sutton).
“We have tremendous opportunities in our agriculture industry, from increasing food security for Alaskans, to providing new economic opportunity across the state to exports from Alaska, we have so many exciting efforts underway and more that can be done. By working together, we know we can accomplish more,” said Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).
The Alaska Grown Caucus will work together to address issues including:
· Food security;
· Market access for farmers;
· Availability of local foods and direct farmer to consumer policies;
· Agriculture education in the K-12 and UA system;
· Sustainably managed fisheries, mariculture, and access for Alaskans;
· Community Gardens;
· Support for nutrition programs, especially for vulnerable populations;
· Availability of agriculture lands;
· Farmer’s Markets;
· Indoor agriculture and opportunities for smaller communities;
· Financing for food related businesses;
· Value added products and export opportunities;
· Wild harvested products; and
· Infrastructure to support Alaska Grown products.
The Alaska Grown Caucus will host monthly meetings during the legislative session to receive updates from appropriate policy and Alaska Grown groups, hear about current legislative proposals related to our mission, and meet with agency staff.