Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Alaska Ag: The Godfathers

There is no story relating to the deep and troubling issues surrounding Alaska's agriculture, without hearing or reading the same names. Over and over, they pop up in conversation, are cited in history, quoted in the present, and known by all whose livelihood relies upon the pitiful remains of Alaska Ag. To the newcomers, the novices, the folks just starting out, they are presented and held up as icons of industry, or respectful successes. Since the majority of residents will be clueless as what it all means, and who really holds the reins on the throttle of food production in this state, it is simple matter to just....ask around.

It is only later that you will hear about their corruption, their power and their ability to exercise that power firmly. The CBC had nothing on these guys. Back room hand shake deals, taking down the upstarts and more......it's all business as usual for the Godfathers.

Pundits say that the mega projects of the past died in committee, and that's mostly true...but the survivors of state benevolence are jealous of their position, indeed. Others watched askance as the cheechakos tried, and failed, leaving the state with many thousands of cleared acres and a bewildering array of programs, agencies, and all around failure in their wake. Today's newcomers to agriculture are facing the same struggles as previous generations. A state which does not actively promote farming-from banking, to insurance, to taxes, to the land itself.

And then there is the unseen hurdle of the godfathers of Alaska Ag. They will outright lie, misrepresent, and conspire to run off anyone who has the nerve to encroach upon their chosen path to what passes for success in the farming industry here. (Yes, this actually happens, ask around about this too)  Some of the names predate the great state agricultural boondoggles of the past (Delta Barley, Pt McKenzie, Mat Maid Dairy) and some were enticed here by promises of frontier farming and inexpensive money to get going. Others have bulldozed onto the scene, earning peer respect by quashing competition, joining advocacy groups, and schmoozing the anointed.  The anointed, of course, being the Godfathers of Alaska Ag.

Just like the mafia of the movies, these Godfathers all have their crews, their minions, and their business interests infect all sectors of agriculture.

Woe to those who dare to farm here, a truth so bitterly accurate that many a would-be farmer has learned and left......and whose fault is that?

Ask around, and you'll find out. 

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