Murkowski Works to Support Food Security, Alaska’s Fisheries, and Rural Development

Feeding and Protecting Both Alaskans and Consumers Abroad, Requires Labeling of GE Salmon

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week unanimously approved the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. The bill contains a number of priorities U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) secured for Alaska, including provisions that will both protect American consumers and support Alaska’s vital fishing industry. These provisions include a labeling mandate for genetically engineered (GE) salmon, recommendations for nutritional advice on seafood, and support for critical food assistance programs.

“In listening to Alaskans, I continued this year to prioritize provisions that help increase Alaskans’ food security, help farmers grow more crops, support our fishing families and communities, and address the severe need for housing, water and sewer in rural communities. Through a number of initiatives funded by this bill, grants will allow institutions to continue agricultural innovations to feed and support Alaskans, including protecting wild salmon and consumers. Seafood is vital to our state’s economy, and Alaskans will not accept that GE salmon, or ‘Frankenfish’, be sold to anyone without clear labeling. Consumers deserve to know what they are eating, especially when it’s not the wild-caught, healthy, sustainable real thing.” said Murkowski. “I thank my colleagues on the Committee for recognizing the importance of these issues, and how our food and resources not only affect Alaskans, but those who enjoy our fish throughout the world.”

GE Salmon: Since the FDA’s decision to approve GE salmon for human consumption, Senator Murkowski has continued her fight for the health of both consumers and Alaska’s fisheries. Senator Murkowski secured language that requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate labeling of GE salmon and that continues the current import ban until final labeling guidelines have been set by the FDA.

Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski discussing her GE salmon labeling amendment.

Click here to view press release on Senator Murkowski’s GE salmon labeling legislation.

Murkowski also gained the cooperation of her colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language addressing:

  • Seafood Advice: Murkowski secured language which directs the FDA to review its January 2017 seafood advice and to make necessary technical corrections to ensure that pregnant and nursing women receive consistent and understandable nutrition advice, based on the most recent and complete science, on what seafood is safe and healthy to consume.
  • WIC Fish: Senator Murkowski included language to encourage USDA to allow more fish in more WIC food packages, to prioritize the health and cultural benefits of fish, and allow states to prioritize fish over legumes and peanut butter in implementing the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommendations. 
  • Summer Food Service Program: Understanding that in many rural areas, children who rely on school meals to avoid hunger are unable to access locations at which Summer Food Service Program meals are provided, either due to lack of transportation or lack of actual sites in their area, Senator Murkowski convinced her colleagues to express support for allowing innovative ways to ensure these children do not go hungry during the summer and school holidays.
  • Frontier States Rural Food Security: Murkowski inserted language strongly encouraging Food and Nutrition Service to finalize and implement plans to focus on locally-designed initiatives to increase food security in rural Alaska.

In addition, she continued to advocate for programs that have a specific, positive impact for Alaskans, such as:

Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions: Funded at $3.194 million to help these institutions improve and expand their ability to prepare graduates for the food and agricultural sciences.

Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (1994 Institutions): Funded at $1.801 million to help institutions prepare students studying at institutions like Ilisagvik College in Utqia?vik (formerly Barrow) to contribute to and strengthen their communities.

Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA): Funded at $4.06 million for Extension outreach activities related to forestry and natural resources. Alaska RREA grants support educational activities of foresters; the Alaska Wood Energy Conference in Ketchikan, whose cooperative efforts with the Alaska Energy Authority uses biomass to heat community buildings; and foster education to teachers through the Project Learning Tree program.

Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP): Funded at $3.039 million to build tribal capacity in the areas such as youth development, agriculture and natural resource management, and business development.

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment: Funded at $6.5 million to provide incentives to veterinarians to work in shortage areas. Alaska has a great need for veterinarians, especially those who specialize in large animal care.

NRCS Soil Survey: Funded at $80.802 million to support the expansion of soil maps and surveys to inform farming and conservation planning.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS): Senator Murkowski secured language to encourage the USDA Agricultural Research Service to provide direct, placed-based assistance to land grant universities in states like Alaska without ARS facilities, to help them address agriculture research priorities such as invasive species that damage crops and aquaculture and to help small farmers increase food security and expand their markets.

Food and Nutritional Services:

  • Hatch Act agricultural research: $243.701 billion
  • Smith-Lever cooperative extension: $300 million
  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiatives (AFRI): $375 million
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $73.612 billion to fully meet the needs of food-insecure working poor, seniors, military families and others
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP): An increase over the FY17 level of $1.357 million
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC): $6.350 billion to fully meet the needs of low-income women and children
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Commodities: $288.75 million
  • Child Nutrition Programs:
    • National School Lunch Program: $13.01 billion
    • School Breakfast Program: $4.776 billion
    • Child and Adult Care Food Program: $3.919 billion
    • Summer Food Service Program: $639.789 million
    • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program: An increase over the FY17 level of $297 million 
    • School Nutrition Equipment Grant: $30 million

Housing and Water:

  • Water Systems for Rural and Native Villages in Alaska: $65.5 million
  • High Energy Cost Grant Program: $10 million
  • Rural Utilities Service Rural Water and Waste Disposal: $550.383 million
  • Grassroots Source Water Protection: $6.5 million
  • Rural Housing Service Section 523 Technical Assistance Grants: $368,000 million
  • Rural Housing Assistance Grants: $33.701 million
  • USDA Rural Development Under Secretary: $896,000 

Related Issues: Alaska's Fisheries