Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act with two previously adopted amendments from Alaska Congressman Don Young. The first amendment will exempt Alaska from the Clinton-era Roadless Rule and the second amendment will enhance Congressman Young’s traditional foods provision that was included in the 2014 Farm Bill. After House passage of the legislation, Congressman Young issued the following statement:
“I proudly advocated for Alaska specific priorities in this year’s Farm Bill. I secured two amendments – one that that will serve Native communities through the use of traditional foods and one that will help revitalize the timber industry and local economy in Southeast Alaska,” said Congressman Young. “Ensuring that Alaskans are prioritized in this reauthorization process is my primary focus, and as the conference begins with the Senate, I will fight to ensure the final version of this legislation serves the unique needs of our rural and urban communities.”
H.R. 2 passed by a vote of 231-211. H.R. 2 amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023.
Amendments Congressman Young Secured:
This amendment will except National Forests in Alaska from the Roadless Rule. The 2001 Roadless Rule specifically set aside 9.5 million acres of the Tongass National Forest from road development, effectively prohibiting access to mature timber stands. The Roadless Rule limits harvesting to under 8% of the Tongass. Southeast Alaska has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the timber and support industries, damaging the local economy. Conservation within the Forest has become more difficult because locations with less tourism and conservation value often cannot be selected for timber. Conservation and logging interests directly compete for the same limited accessible acreage. The State of Alaska sued, and was granted a temporary exemption to Roadless in 2003. At that time, the Bush administration concluded that the social and economic hardships to Southeast Alaska outweigh the potential long-term ecological benefits because the Tongass forest plan adequately provides for the ecological sustainability of the Tongass. That exemption was lifted in 2011 and the issue is currently stuck in the courts. Watch Congressman Young’s Floor remarks about this amendment here.
This amendment enhances Congressman Don Young’s provision included in the 2014 Farm Bill that ensured that traditional foods can be donated to, and offered in, any public facility that primarily serves Alaska Natives or American Indians. The 2014 provision also allowed traditional foods to be incorporated into child nutrition and senior meal programs, but unintentionally limited this allowance to those programs implemented in Native facilities. Today’s amendment fixes this by allowing traditional food in all child nutrition and senior meal initiatives regardless of location, which is important given that many Alaska Natives and American Indians participate in programs housed in facilities that aren’t specifically designated as Native. Watch Congressman Young’s Floor remarks about this amendment here.
Alaska Specific Victories
- Rural Alaska Village Grant Program – Authorized at $30 million to develop better drinking water and sanitation facilities in rural Alaska.
- Education Grants to Alaska Native Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions – Authorized at $3.2 million to help the institutions to increase their self-sufficiency and capacity to serve students.
- Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program – Authorized at $25 million to provide technical assistance to rural water systems experiencing operations, financial, or managerial issues.