Food for Thought
I intend to make food production and food security a focus of my administration. Alaska's ranchers and farmers can put more Alaskan grown and harvested food on our tables. When Alaskans eat Alaska grown it's good for our health, good for our economy, and good for our independence.
Alaska's remote location, the high cost of transportation, limited agricultural infrastructure, and shrinking farm acreage all pose major challenges for the agricultural economy and our state's ability to become food secure. At any given time, Alaska has only a three-day supply of food on our shelves. However, with strong leadership, targeted investments, and community outreach and education, we can protect and strengthen Alaska's agriculture and food supply and help make farming and ranching an attractive way of life for the next generation.
We grow a fraction of what we are capable of producing here in Alaska. Experts believe we supply less than five percent of food consumed by Alaskans. That leaves us too vulnerable.
We also have to remember that one in ten Alaskans don't know where their next meal will come from, and the right policies will help make sure our friends and neighbors don't go hungry when we can do something about it.
In addition, there is a pending development on the national horizon that could create opportunities for Alaska's food production. National legislation addressing climate change, particularly the likely adoption of a carbon-cost capture mechanism (such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system) will result in increased costs of imported food, making Alaskan-produced food that much more economically competitive. That potential development underscores the need to develop in-state infrastructure (including cold storage and greenhouses) and personnel (such as state meat inspectors).
I believe the state's agricultural strategy must make Alaska more food secure. Developing local low cost energy resources, securing available agricultural funding, and expanding agricultural research is at the heart of this vital effort.
Cold food storage facilities here in Alaska
We need to construct regional cold food storage facilities that allows us to relocate Alaska's emergency food supply to the state. It defies logic that Alaskans could be cut off from our food warehouses during an emergency because they are thousand of miles away out of state. Creating cold storage facilities would also create a non-emergency, year-round, Alaska-grown food supply, by providing the facilities needed to store the summer's harvest throughout the year.
Better market our local food sources
My administration will work to create local food marketing and education plans modeled after the seafood and wild salmon marketing plans. Alaskans should be able to purchase foods from local farmers, year-round.
Protect Alaska farmland
We must work to protect prime Alaska farmland by participating in existing federal farm and ranch lands protection programs. Alaska must work to maximize the state match, to ensure we get as much federal funding as possible, and make it easier for land trust groups like the Alaska Farmland Trust to access the resources necessary to carry out their goals.
Farmers and the University working together
We need to better promote and expand the relationship between the University of Alaska and Alaskan farmers to research and adopt innovative techniques to increase yield and achieve maximum food processing potential.
Make state government responsive to the needs of the agriculture community
My administration will ensure that state agricultural policy and governing boards respond to the needs of farmers and ranchers all across the state, including community supported agriculture.