Dear Alaska Legislators,
As we hope you are aware, stubborn self-reliant farmers and young entrepreneurs from Homer to Sterling to Nikiski and Tyonek are producing more food for citizens of all ages, on all sides of the political spectrum, with each passing year. At last count, Kenai Peninsula farms produced nearly $2 million in crops and livestock per year, and 34 percent of all Alaska farms producing food for direct sale to consumers were on the Kenai Peninsula.
In recent years, the State has placed food security front and center in Alaska’s view of the future. The creation of the Alaska Food Policy Council, as well as proclamations from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have underlined our population’s vulnerability in terms of the availability of sufficient food. Our small and specialty farmers, as well as our commodity farmers, are an important reservoir of foodstuffs for Alaskans. They need to be supported to be effective.
Beyond our immediate food needs, the growth of industries such as peony farming and seed potato farming are promising to be a valuable component of Alaska’s export economy. This kind of diversification is set to bring money to the State in a sustainable and reliable way far into the future. These industries are young and vulnerable, and it would be a shame to cut them off at the knees when they have so much to offer.
We, the undersigned, believe that more food security and increased export opportunities are key to a healthy, self-reliant and prosperous Kenai Peninsula future. We appreciate that you are working hard to make sensible choices to balance the state’s budget. Keep in mind that Alaskans spend $2.5 billion per year on food, and more than 95 percent of that money goes out of state. The agencies that support agriculture are a tiny sliver (about two hundredths of 1 percent) of the state budget, but they are essential to the continued growth of an industry with huge potential to diversify the economy and increase food security, while reducing the cost of health care by increasing access to healthy, local food.
We urge you to maintain state funding for the agencies and programs that provide critical support for this fast-growing segment of our economy: UAF Cooperative Extension research and education services; Division of Agriculture, including Farm to School and Alaskan Grown programs; Alaska Plant Materials Center, including the seed potato and inspection programs; and Soil & Water Conservation Districts which, although not included in FY16 or FY17 budgets are critical nonetheless.
Further, we urge you to maintain one year of operating funds for Mt. McKinley Meat & Sausage while it transitions from state to private management.
Everyone eats — thankfully, this is a non-partisan issue. The future of all Alaskans is in your hands. Please don’t burn down the last decade of hard work in the agricultural sector in order to save us from this season’s bills. We need to live and thrive here in our home, on the Kenai Peninsula, and grow ever more food secure.
Thank you very much for your hard work.
Kenai Local Food Connection, Alaska Natural Fiber Business Association, Abundant Blessings Farm, Alaska Perfect Peony, Alaskan Homegrown, Anchor Point Greenhouse, Captain’s Coffee, Central Kenai Peninsula Farmers Market, Cook Inletkeeper, Cook Inlet Gardens, Cool Cache Farms, Conscious Earth Farm, Dandelion Acres, Eagle Glade Farm, Fireweed Fiber Guild, Flora Borealis, Homer Farmers Market, Ionia Inc., KPB Land Management Division, Kenai Feed, Kenai Peninsula Farm Bureau, Kenai Peninsula Food Hub, Kenai Peninsula RC&D, Lancashire Farms, Matti’s Farm, Oceanside Farms, Ridgeway Farms, SecondWind Farm, Shepherd’s Moon Keep, Sustainable Homer, Swift Creek Ranch, Synergy Gardens, TNT LLC Organic Compost, Totally Radish Market & Deli, Where It’s At Café, Heidi Chay, Mark and Maria Dixson, Sarah Donchi, Sharon Gherman, Willow King, Kerry Nelson, Marion K Nelson, Ryan Rice, Rupert Scribner, Renae Wall, and all of the Kenai Peninsula