USDA program helps Alaska’s farmers

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, August 12, 2015 9:58pm
  • News

This year, Alaska’s commercial farmers and ranchers have the chance to receive a portion of nearly $2 million, appropriated by U.S. Congress, to offset the high price of rural agriculture.

About 90 Kenai Peninsula producers received reimbursements last year for 25 percent of all costs related to the transportation of equipment and commodities through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program. Operations of any size in Alaska, Hawaii and eight insular U.S. territories may apply to the program.

“Congress recognizes that farmers in these states have a tougher time, because of the high costs of materials,” said USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency Executive Director Daniel Consenstein.

Transportation costs factor into almost every agriculture-related purchase in Alaska, said Consenstein, who’s department handles the reimbursement program. The cost of shipping goods to Alaska is on average 25 percent higher than to states within the Lower 48, so even the purchase of a $10 store-bought shovel qualifies, he said.

Twenty-five percent of the $10 price of the hypothetical shovel comes from shipping, so 25 percent of the shipping, which equates to about 6 percent of the shovel’s total in-store cost — roughly $0.62 — will be reimbursed, Consenstein said. For example, a hay farmer who ordered and shipped a bailer directly to their farm in Soldotna for $1,000 would receive a straightforward $250, he said.

The program does cap the reimbursements at $8,000 per federal fiscal year per producer, according to the Farm Service Agency application period opening press release. Since its inception in 2008, there have been some years when the amount of money the program has to spend on reimbursements — which fluctuates year to year — does not cover the total amount requested by “geographically challenged” farmers and ranchers, according to the opening release.

In the case that there is not enough funding, each reimbursement will be prorated and every applicant will receive a percentage less than their total qualifying costs, according to the release.

Congress can chose to increase funding to the program, Consenstein said. He encourages all operators to apply because it will better illuminate the need for financial assistance.

Every dollar helps, said Abby Ala, who runs Ridgeway Farms in Soldotna with her husband, Harry.

The couple has applied for reimbursements through the program every year since it has been available.

“Everything is more expensive,” for Alaskan agriculture, Ala said.

Daily operations from buying fertilizer to nourish their hay field, to sending livestock to the McKinley Meat and Sausage Slaughterhouse in Palmer, can get pricey, she said.

“I want people to know you can farm in Alaska and every little break we get from the government we should be very happy for and bend over and get to work,” Ala said. “So much is worthwhile in this and so much is worthwhile more than the financial side.”

For some local farmers, however, the paperwork and minimal reimbursement will mean applying is less of a priority, Consenstein said.

Executive Director for the Alaska Farm Bureau Amy Seitz said, while she encourages everyone to apply, last year she and Jane Conway, co-owners of Lancashire Farms in Soldotna, finished the application but did not file their receipts.

“We just didn’t get around to it,” Seitz said.

“The amount we would get reimbursed was probably not as much as someone who purchased a tractor.”

The Alaska Farm Bureau has been trying to get the word out about the Sept. 11 deadline for application, for those that do want to take advantage of the program, Seitz said.

Once an application is filed, producers have until Nov. 2 to send the FSA all of their receipts, Consenstein said. Reimbursements are then mailed in late spring, he said.

“We really need this in Alaska,” Consentstein said. “We need more farmers, and we need to produce more of the food we eat up here.”

Of the produce that is consumed annually in Alaska, between 95-98 percent is shipped into the state, Consenstein said.

“To me, it’s a worthwhile program,” Ala said. “Any money spent by putting into agriculture, it’s benefiting on a whole lot of different levels — not just giving money to a farmer. That farm is benefiting the community at a lot of different ways.”

Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Brad Snowden and Julie Crites participate in a Seward City Council candidate forum at the Seward Community Library in Seward on Thursday.
Seward council candidates discuss issues at election forum

Participating in Thursday’s forum were Julie Crites and Brad Snowden

Cam Choy, associate professor of art at Kenai Peninsula College, works on a salmon sculpture in collaboration with the Kenai Watershed Forum during the Kenai River Festival at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on June 8, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna adopts arts and culture master plan

The plan outlines how the city plans to support arts and culture over the next 10 years

Architect Nancy Casey speaks in front of a small gathering at the Fireside Chat presented by the Kenai Watershed Forum on Nov. 30, 2022, at Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Watershed Forum’s Fireside Chats return Wednesday

The chats will cover a range of interesting topics, centered on knowledge, research and projects

Erosion of the Kenai bluff near the Kenai Senior Center. (Photo by Aidan Curtin courtesy Scott Curtin)
Kenai to sign bluff stabilization agreement Monday

A signing event will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Kenai Senior Center

Engineer Lake Cabin can be seen in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 21, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Public comment accepted for proposed rate increases for overnight fees at refuge

Campsites would increase $5 per night and cabins would increase $10 per night

Abigal Craig, youth winner of the Seventh Annual Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, is presented a novelty check by Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Shannon Martin, City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel, and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Samantha Springer at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Silver Salmon Derby nets fish, funds for river protection

116 fish were weighed by 79 anglers across the six days of competition

Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis talks about the Soldotna field house project during a Soldotna City Council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna awards field house contract

Anchorage-based Criterion General, Inc. will construct the facility

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly during a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to let borough mayors speak sooner during meetings

The mayor’s report will now be given after the first round of public comments and before public hearings and new assembly business

Assembly members Lane Chesley, left, and Richard Derkevorkian participate in a borough assembly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Haara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly asks state to allow term limits for school board members

Alaska Statute does not allow term limits to be imposed on school board members

Most Read