Frontiersman: “There’s so much potential for agriculture” Senators Sullivan and Murkowski welcome Senator Boozman, discuss future of Alaska agriculture
During the Opening Day of the 2023 Alaska State Fair, Alaska Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski welcomed Arkansas Senator John Boozman to the state as part of a national tour to gather input from farmers and other agricultural communities with a stake in the future of farming.
Senator Boozman is the senior ranking member of the Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Committee in the Senate and has been visiting a number of states ahead of the next legislative session, in which Congress will begin drafting the next Farm Bill.
The purpose of his visit to the Last Frontier was to discuss farming and agriculture, something critical to ensuring Alaska’s agricultural needs are brought to the table.
“This is a huge bill, and he (Senator Boozman) has only chosen 15 states,” said Senator Sullivan before the Farm Family of the Year award ceremony last Friday. “It’s a real honor that he’s here because I guarantee you every state in the union wants the senator and his staff to learn about their states as the senate writes the Farm Bill.”
Every five years, Congress passes legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy, commonly known as the “Farm Bill,” addressing agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including nutrition assistance, crop insurance, commodity support, and conservation.
“We’re not on the committee, I’m not on the committee. Don Young wasn’t on the committee, Mary Peltola isn’t on the committee. The number one guy writing the Farm Bill is him,” Senator Sullivan said of his fellow senator.
The stop at the state fair came after the senators held a roundtable discussion with the state director of Agriculture, David Schade, along with farmers, groups concerned about food nutrition and security in the Mat-Su Valley, and members of the Palmer Future Farmers of America (FFA).
“Let’s face it, we’ve got a lot of issues, a lot of potential, but we’re not known as a giant agricultural powerhouses, so the fact that he came here to learn about Alaska, see our challenges, see our potential is fantastic,” Senator Sullivan remarked.
When asked what he thought of the agriculture here in Alaska, Senator Boozman said:
“I think the thing that has struck me about Alaska is there’s so much potential for agriculture.”
“We’ve really seen a wide variety here. I think that, traveling around the country, it’s about regions of the country, and they’re all so different. In fact, so many states are like Alaska, it’s not only a different state, but it’s different within the state. You’ve got distinct regions that have unique problems and opportunities.”
One area that both Senators Sullivan and Murkowski are addressing as they work with Senator Boozman on the Farm Bill is Alaska’s fishing and seafood industry, not something that might immediately come to mind when people discuss agriculture.
“What we’ve been trying to show the Senator is that a key part of the Farm Bill needs to be the fishing communities we have here in our state,” explained Senator Sullivan.
“We’ve been talking a lot about fishing here in Alaska, and how it’s an important source of protein for people everywhere, and how we can be of help to the fishing industry going forward,” said Senator Boozman.
“We’re trying to visit states and hearing what’s going on within each state, but also learn about the different commodities. Raising cotton is different than raising flowers, and we need to see it.”
He said it is important for him to visit Alaska and the different regions firsthand and getting a real sense of the different aspects of agriculture the state has to offer.
“You can talk about this stuff in Washington, you can look at charts and things. But to really understand it, you have to go through the process and see it, see what’s going on specifically in the state, see what’s of huge importance to the state.”
While the Ag Committee formally kicked off its process for the 2023 Farm Bill with field hearings in both Michigan and Arkansas in 2022, and have continued throughout the early parts of 2023, Senator Boozman was invited to tour the agricultural bounties to be found in Alaska.
The Senate is currently on recess and is expected to put forth a first draft of the 2023 Farm Bill when they are back in September.
The current farm law, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act), was signed on December 20, 2018, and will remain in force through 2023, although some provisions extend beyond 2023.
By: Katie Stavick