ANCHORAGE -

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is hailing this year’s second large-scale federal purchase of Alaska pink salmon for food banks, saying it helps both the state’s fishermen and those in need across the nation.

According to Murkowski’s office, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack authorized the purchase of $13 million in pink salmon as part of The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP. Last month, Gov. Sean Parnell asked the USDA to consider buying $37 million in salmon, citing concerns echoed by Murkowski about a collapse of prices for the fish.

“As Governor Parnell pointed out in his letter, USDA’s prior Section 32 purchase of Alaska pink salmon slowed price declines, but prices remain 23 percent lower than last year and the remaining unsold inventories have reduced the 2014 season’s advance price paid to fishermen by 33 percent,” Murkowski wrote in a July 29 letter to Vilsack. “Experts predict a serious value crisis without another Section 32 purchase.”

Food Bank of Alaska Executive Director Michael Miller also expressed his appreciation for the purchase Wednesday.

“We're so happy to see Secretary Vilsack understands the value of Alaska's nutritious and tasty salmon as a source of much needed protein for our struggling neighbors,” Miller said in the statement.

Murkowski’s communications director, Matthew Felling, says the program is an intelligent use of existing federal funds to alleviate hunger.

“I think it’s a fiscally responsible approach to dealing with food surpluses when millions of Americans are trying to do more with less,” Felling said. “It doesn’t add anything to the deficit, and helps people in need.”

The second purchase follows a January decision by Vilsack to buy $20 million in pink salmon using TEFAP funds, in response to a query from Murkowski. That deal bought an estimated 5,000 tons of salmon, which was distributed across the U.S. four to six weeks later.

While the purchase may indicate that federal officials are amenable to future pink salmon purchases, Felling says the fluctuating nature of salmon supplies precludes scheduling regular TEFAP purchases.

“We can’t predict surpluses, so we have to review it on an annual basis,” Felling said.