Murkowski Introduces “Arctic” Farm Bill
Increases Food Security, Opportunities for Trade, Rural Development & Research Supports Alaskan Fishermen, Farmers, Herders, and Communities
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced S.3080, the Food Security, Housing, and Sanitation Improvements in Rural, Remote, and Frontier Areas Act of 2018. This legislation includes a wide range of Alaska specific initiatives based on the input of stakeholders throughout the state. Provisions address priorities such as increasing food security; maintaining conservation efforts; expanding opportunities for trade; improving rural development, and bolstering research initiatives. The bill encourages local agriculture, and supports Alaska’s fishermen, farmers, and herders.
“Every five years, Congress updates the nation’s Farm bill, legislation that covers everything from agriculture to water and wastewater projects. In many ways Alaska’s priorities can be unique. In crafting my “Arctic Farm Bill,” I have worked closely with Alaska’s food security stakeholders, our farmers and ranchers, fishermen, reindeer herders and agricultural researchers, as well as with tribal leaders, housing experts, and internet providers to highlight their priorities,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill will help meet rural and urban food challenges, increase the quality and quantity of home-grown produce, help communities and individuals respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by a changing climate, and support those who grow our food. It highlights our need for greater access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation and housing. It recognizes that in addition to the rich soil tilled for carrots, barley, and peonies, in Alaska our waters are often our farms. I am also proud that my legislation recognizes fishermen as ranchers of the sea and requires the FDA to mandate labeling of genetically engineered salmon or “Frankenfish,” which protects our wild salmon and ensures consumers know what they’re feeding their families. All in all, this bill addresses many of the unique challenges in Alaska and will help ensure Alaskan families are strong, healthy, and never hungry.”
(Click image for video of Senator Murkowski discussing her bill.)
Click here for bill text.
Note: All reauthorizations listed below are for 2019 through 2023.
- Micro-Grants for Food Security: To increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food in food insecure communities, including through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations, the bill authorizes grants up to $5,000 to individuals and grants up to $10,000 to tribes, religious organizations, food banks, and other non-profits and federally-funded educational facilities, and local governments in Alaska, Hawaii, and insular areas.
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR): Amends a provision currently requiring the Agriculture Secretary to purchase, subject to appropriation and availability, bison meat, blue cornmeal, and wild rice for the FDPIR by adding reindeer meat and wild salmon from Native-owned producers and Alaska CDQ holders. Also increases the authorized funding for FDPIR from $5 million to $10 million.
- Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities: Amends current law to allow donations of traditional foods to schools, hospitals, child care facilities, and other federally-funded agencies regardless of whether or not they “primarily serve Indians.”
- Market Access Programs: Reauthorizes market access programs and increases funding authorization from $90 million to $200 million to support efforts to build, maintain and expand overseas markets for U.S. food and agricultural products.
- Satellite Projects and Rural Broadband: Directs USDA rural broadband service programs to award funds to projects that utilize satellite technology. Satellite broadband is a cost-effective and viable service to connect areas, similar to many in Alaska, that are not currently served by broadband cables and are unlikely to be in the near term.
- Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information: Allows the producers of peonies, reindeer, and wild salmon products to create “check off” programs to fund marketing efforts.
- Agricultural Research Support: Encourages USDA to provide direct, place-based assistance to land grant universities and state agricultural agencies in states that do not have Agricultural Research Service facilities to address the research priorities such as invasive plants and insects. The bill also aims to increase food security and economic opportunities by assisting development of specialty and horticultural crops.
Horticulture and Organics
- Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program: Reauthorizes the program and changes to a block grant, funding direct-to-consumer marketing strategies and development, improvement, and expansion of local and regional food businesses. Also increases the funding authorization from $10 million to $50 million.
- Specialty Crop: Increases the small state block grant minimum from $100,000 to $500,000 to better assist small states to enhance the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, floriculture and nursery crops.
Other Agriculture Support
- Requires the labeling of genetically engineered salmon.
- Requires the country of origin labeling for king and tanner crab, closing the loophole for Russian crab to enter our markets unlabeled.
- Amends the definition of “fish” to include wild fish, as well as farmed. Also includes fishermen under the definition of “farmers” for the purpose of accessing agricultural credits.
- Allows wild caught seafood to be labeled as organic.
- Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance: Adds reindeer, commonly raised for food by members of Indian tribes, to the Supplemental Disaster Assistance program in order to make these products eligible under additional USDA programs.
- Geographically Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers: In order to maintain offsets for the high cost of farming in non-contiguous states, such as Alaska, due to transportation costs, the bill authorizes $15 million.
- Federal Meat Inspection Act: Adds reindeer to the list of livestock for which USDA is authorized to provide voluntary, fee-for-service meat inspections.
- Tribal Uninhabitable Housing Improvement Program: In an attempt to address overcrowding and prevent homelessness in rural tribal communities, the bill allows tribes to evaluate existing housing resources and prevent them from deteriorating or becoming uninhabitable.
- Commodity Distribution Program: Maintains authority for the Agriculture Secretary to receive customs duties to purchase agricultural commodities for distribution to food banks and FDPIR communities.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program: To stimulate innovation, maintains initiatives such as high tunnels, organic farming, air quality, energy, and conservation.
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program: Maintains financial and technical assistance to tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to conserve agricultural lands and wetlands.
- Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program: Reauthorizes the program to create, expand, and maintain long-term export markets for U.S. agricultural products.
- Value-added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants: Assists socially-disadvantaged and small or medium-sized farmers and ranchers to generate new products and create and expand marketing opportunities.
- Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants: Continues funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas for state, local, and tribal governments.
- Emergency and Imminent Community Water Assistance Grant Program: Assists state, local, and tribal governments recover from emergencies that threaten the availability of safe, reliable drinking water in low-income communities.
- Water Systems for Rural and Native Villages in Alaska: Remedies dire sanitation conditions and provides safe drinking water in Alaska villages.
- Household Water Well Systems Grants: Helps nonprofits and tribes create revolving loan funds to access clean, reliable water for households in rural areas.
- Locally or Regionally Produced Agricultural Food Products: Helps facilitate the production, processing and distribution of locally and regionally produced food products.
- Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. Provides microloans to help start up and grow non-profit, tribal, and university microenterprises.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education: Assists scientists, farmers, ranchers and others to conduct and disseminate research based practices for sustainable agriculture, increase profits, and improve production methods.
Horticulture and Organics
- Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP): Provides federal reimbursements for farmers to assist with the cost of receiving and maintaining organic certification.
- National Organic Program: Develops and enforces national standards for organic agricultural products.