Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered the creation of a food security task force to help reinforce Alaska’s local food sources and positioning the state to handle future supply chain disruptions.
The Feb. 9 order establishing the new task force states that Alaska currently imports 95% of its food at a cost of $2 billion per year.
The 18-member task force will be charged with figuring out how to lower that number by increasing food production and natural harvests across the state. Part of the solution will be to look at any laws or state regulations that hinder or prevent Alaska from achieving greater food security.
“Over the past two years Alaskans have walked into grocery stores and been greeted by row after row of empty shelves,” Dunleavy stated in announcing the task force. “One of the lessons the pandemic taught us is how vulnerable Alaska could be if the regularly scheduled shipments of food shipped up from Seattle were to suddenly stop – even a few days.”
He noted, however, that Alaska has the potential to increase its food supply by expanding agriculture and fishing as well as encouraging more natural harvesting of fish and game.
“The recommendations from the task force will draw a roadmap for my administration, legislators and Alaska’s food producers to make Alaska more food secure the next time the supply chain is disrupted,” Dunleavy added.
The main duties of the task force include the following:
— Recommend ways to increase the procurement and use of Alaska-sourced foods within state and local agencies, institutions, and schools.
— Identify any administrative and statutory laws that need changing.
— Identify barriers that farmers, ranchers, fishermen and others face when starting a business or getting their products in to the Alaska market.
— Assess the levels of wild game and fish harvests in Alaska, and suggest was to increase the harvest of wild game, fish, and food.
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— Find ways to assist communities and households impacted by fishery shortfalls and disasters.
— Identify research needed to support and encourage increased consumption and production of Alaska-sourced food.
— Seek input from the public on the above issues.
— Examine the need for disaster food caches and how they can be developed with Alaskan-sourced foods.
The task force will be made up of 16 voting members with the chair regularly reporting to the governor. Twelve members will represent a cross section of the state’s farming, mariculture and seafood industries, and four others will be state commissioners (or their designees) from the departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Game, Environmental Conservation and Military and Veterans Affairs. Two ex-officio members from the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska State Senate are to be appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.
The Task Force will issue a report on its findings and recommendations by Sept. 1, 2022.