AFPC’S Letter to the to governor Mike dunleavy
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Subject: Constituent Budget Concerns
Dear Representative/Senator ____,
My name is _______. I’m a [member, supporter, etc] on the Alaska Food Policy Council [and feel free to include other affiliations, info about you]. I am very concerned with Governor Dunleavy’s proposed cuts to programs that support Alaska’s food system. Some programs and funding streams that should be protected include:
Programs that Support Alaska Agriculture
Programs slated for reduction or elimination from the State Division of Agriculture (Division) include: the Alaska Grown program, the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund, the Farm to Institution program, and nearly all of the services of the Plant Materials Center (PMC). In addition to providing marketing and promotion, access to lending, development of new markets, and research on varieties and diseases, these programs also bring in millions of dollars in federal funds. While the entire Division budget is ~$1.3 million State dollars, programs are supported and matched with between $2 and 3 million fee-for-service and federal dollars annually. Without the Division team to provide support however, these dollars will be turned away and growers will not have access to essential programs.
The proposed cut of the Department of Environmental Conservation, Dairy Sanitation position would eliminate Alaskans access to grade A milk and put at least one multi-generational farm out of business.
Services provided by the Division should be considered “core” services. Not only are the dedicated staff incredibly knowledgeable about Alaska agriculture issues, they are highly efficient, budget conscious and committed to supporting the industry as a whole. Alaskans have benefited from a Department or Division of Agriculture since Territorial Days; industry members are dependent on the knowledge, expertise and unbiased support that Division staff provide.
The PMC provides vital services for continued resource development within Alaska. The PMC is tasked with protecting the State from invasive species of plants, insects, animals and disease. Their efforts support natural resource development statewide, for example, “Canada thistle” was recently discovered along the roadway north of the Alaska Range, 100 miles south of Prudhoe Bay. This invasive species is a threat to native plant vegetation and wildlife as well as a potential problem for future natural resource development. It is noteworthy that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually treating “Canada thistle” in the lower 48; this is only to keep it at bay, as eradication is now considered impossible. The PMC staff treated the Alaskan outbreak of “Canada thistle” with the intent to eradicate it from the North Slope, maintaining Alaska’s pristine environment.
Alaskans import 95% of the food they purchase, but have demonstrated their support of Alaska Grown products through their commitment to shopping at farmers markets, participating in the $5-a-week Alaska Grown Challenge at retail grocery stores, and encouraging growers of all products to increase production. To cut off the valuable services provided by the Division now, during this time of incredible momentum, would be devastating to our immature but thriving industry.
Programs that Reduce Food Insecurity and Support Access to Food
The Senior Benefit Program funding of $24.4 million will be eliminated and the Governor is seeking a full repeal of the program altogether. This program provides cash assistance to more than 11,000 low-income Alaskan elders so they can afford necessities specifically food, heat, and medication. The loss of this funding combined with other proposed cuts, like those to the PFD Hold Harmless Fund or to Adult Public Assistance, means that some low-income seniors could be receiving multiple cuts.
The Human Services Community Matching Grant funding of $1.38 million will be eliminated. This is one of the only funding streams to support operations for basic needs services, specifically food and shelter. Many emergency food providers, including Food Bank of Alaska, Catholic Social Services, Covenant House Alaska, and many others, receive this funding. The loss of these funds to the anti-hunger network would be compounded by the decrease in other benefits for low-income Alaskans, which creates additional need and pressure on their network.
There is an overall $35.4 million cut to public assistance, including cuts to Adult Public Assistance (for low-income seniors and disabled individuals), tribal assistance program, and the PFD Hold Harmless Fund, which will likely reduce eligibility and benefits for many public assistance programs.
While child nutrition programs weren’t cut directly, the massive 25% in reductions to public education will result in the reduction of the school meal program in many districts. Some rural districts have already cut this critical program because of insufficient budgets, and this is of huge concern to us, given the critical role of school meals in addressing childhood food insecurity. The State of Alaska Child Nutrition Programs are reporting that several districts are not committing to operating a school meal program for fear of school budget cuts.
I hope that you will work to protect these important programs that support Alaska’s food systems. Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you for your consideration.