Alaska’s U.S. senators brought Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas to Kodiak last week. Boozman, a Republican, is the ranking member of the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee and is on a tour to see what farming looks like around the country.
One of their first stops was the Kodiak Harvest Foods Co-op. They asked staff and volunteers some questions about how the co-op supports local farming and walked around the store to see what locally-sourced goods were available.
Sen. Dan Sullivan said visiting smaller communities keeps public figures grounded as they write policy from their offices in the Capitol.
“Co-ops and locally grown produce strengthens communities and helps us with our food security, which a lot of senators are unaware of how kind of vulnerable we are in a lot of ways with regard to food security,” he said.
Sullivan said one of his priorities is to add fisheries considerations to upcoming farm bills. He said he wants fishers to have access to programs in a similar way to farmers when markets aren’t in their favor.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said farming in Alaska looks extremely different compared to the contiguous U.S. – it’s usually on a smaller scale and the state has a shorter growing season. She said the Kodiak stop of the tour is their way of introducing Boozman to Alaska’s fisheries.
“When we’re talking about food, we should be talking about seafood, so what are we doing to incorporate seafood into the farm bill?” Murkowski said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to see firsthand what this means. We’re going to be looking at mariculture operations, kelp, oysters, and just the potential for growth across our state.”
Boozman said fisheries are a unique industry to serve and understands the Alaska delegation’s sentiment about providing more opportunities for fishers.
“We’re also going to be talking to the fisheries, they have lots of problems and fisheries are kind of unique – they don’t really have a home,” he said. “They’re divided amongst all of these committees and so we’d like to help out and see what we can do in regard to that industry.”
Boozman said his Kodiak visit was brief, but was glad to meet with so many people and try to relate with them in his tours.
“It’s very different than Arkansas but I think the people are very much the same – these are hardy people that are very individualistic,” he said.
The senator from Arkansas also met with seafood processors while they were on the island. Boozman even visited a farm in Ouzinkie, a village of fewer than 50 year-round residents, to show him what agriculture looks like in some of the most remote places in the state.