Alaska and Hawai’i Congressional Delegations Introduce Bill to Expand Opportunities for Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiian in Agriculture

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska) and Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska)  joined Representative Jill Tokuda (HI-02) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i) in introducing the Parity for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Students in Agriculture Act. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), and Representatives Ed Case (HI-02) are also original co-sponsors of the bill.

The bill would reauthorize the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program for another five years and increase the authorized funding level of the program from $10 million to $15 million. The bill would also ensure grant awards could be used over multiple years to reduce administrative burdens on institutions.

The program promotes the ability of institutions like the University of Hawai‘i and University of Alaska to improve and expand their capacity to provide supplemental educational services to  Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students. Grant funds can be used to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs and to address educational needs within food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. Priority is given to projects that enhance educational equity for underrepresented students; strengthen institutional educational capacities; prepare students for careers related to the food, agricultural, and natural resource systems; and maximize the development and use of resources to improve food and agricultural sciences teaching programs.

“The potential of Alaska’s agriculture industry continues to grow —and it’s critical we ensure young Alaska Natives take an active role in its growth. This bill will invest in Alaska Native students, preparing them for future careers that will strengthen food security and feed communities in the state. I’m proud to join my colleagues in the Alaska and Hawai’i Delegations on this effort that will not only support Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students in the agriculture field, but also enhance traditional Indigenous farming practices that will feed communities for generations to come,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. 

“I am proud to introduce this legislation to support our Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native students in food, agriculture, and ecosystem stewardship education and research,” said Rep. Tokuda. “This is especially important for rural and remote areas like Hawai?i and Alaska where food costs are higher and fresh produce and food are hard to access. By increasing educational equity and investing in our students, we are promoting indigenous and traditional farming techniques and systems and providing economic opportunities for the next generation.

“At a time when people in Hawaii and across the country lack access to healthy and affordable food and produce, it is important that we invest in institutions that are working to address these issues,” said Senator Hirono. “This grant program provides essential funding for institutions that support Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students pursuing these issues. By investing in our students, we are also investing in the future of our communities and economies—helping to strengthen long-term food sustainability.”

“Our bill is about investing in Hawaii agriculture and our next generation of farmers. This federal program will give students the chance to learn more about indigenous farming practices and food production, engage Native Hawaiian perspectives, and will help grow Hawaii’s agricultural economy,” said Senator Schatz.