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Alaska’s seafood industry could see boost from federal farm bill

Fishing boats moored in Kodiak. ( Photo by James Brookes/Flickr)
Fishing boats moored in Kodiak. ( Photo by James Brookes/Flickr)

Lawmakers in Washington D.C. are currently negotiating the detailsof this year’s farm bill reauthorization, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski says Alaska’s commercial fishermen could see a boost from the bill. The senator introduced legislation this week that would prioritize food security and small-scale food producers in the state – including Alaska’s seafood industry.

“Our seafood industry deserves to have some level of parity with our farmers,” Murkowski said, “As we’re looking to feed people in this country, let’s not overlook the extraordinary value of what comes from our oceans.”

The farm bill is a sweeping umbrella of laws administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It directs national agriculture and food policies, and is reauthorized every five years. The current version of the farm bill is set to expire this fall.

Both of Alaska’s senators have pushed for more provisions aimed at supporting Alaska’s seafood industry to be included in the newest version of the farm bill.

Murkowski’s legislation, called the Improving ARCTIC Act, would expand grant programs currently available for farmers and ranchers to commercial fishermen and shoreside processors. It would also add labeling requirements for genetically modified or lab-cultivated fish. The bill also creates a “Wild USA Seafood” label for fish harvested in U.S. waters.

Murkowski said the goal is to promote Alaskan seafood on the international market.

“People are willing to pay a higher premium for the wild caught fish that they get out of Alaska, they know that it is, quote, ‘the good stuff,’” she said.

This is the second time Murkowski has introduced Alaska specific legislation to the federal farm bill – the senator introduced a microgrant program to address food security in the state during the last reauthorization.

Murkowski was one of 13 senators that ultimately voted against the farm bill passed by Congress in 2018 – at the time saying the final version did not include “meaningful forest management reforms, a Roadless Rule exemption for Alaska, or other important state priorities.”