Dunleavy cuts on 'lower priority' agriculture inspections affect local farms
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s cuts to the Division of Agriculture could impact farmers’ abilities to get their produce into big box stores.
He vetoed $1.2 million and 17 full-time positions from the division. Dunleavy listed agriculture inspections as a “lower priority” program that was cut.
Gold Nugget Farms in the Butte was going to have its state audit on Monday but that never happened.
“A lot of the stores and the wholesalers are requiring that,” said owner Paula Giauque. “It is a voluntary program, but if you want to sell to the big box store and wholesalers you have to have your audit done.”
Giauque has been farming since the 1970s. She said growing produce in Alaska isn’t the easiest job but she loves to work outside.
A moose munching the broccoli crop is just one issue the farm faces.
“A lot of the challenges are the weather, getting good help, marketing,” Giauque said.
Dunleavy’s cuts are another roadblock. Giauque said farmers pay for their own inspections.
The 3,600 pounds of broccoli they picked on Monday are still headed for stores. In the meantime, Gold Nugget is in a holding pattern waiting for its audit.
“We’re hoping they can iron out all the issues so we can get the inspection and don’t have to bring someone in from out of state,” she said.
Hiring an out-of-state inspector would cost more time and money and that’s not what farmers need during the height of the harvest season.
KTVA has reached out to the Department of Natural Resources office several times over the past month but has not received a response.
The Division of Agriculture Director said he’s working with the Dunleavy administration to help staff understand the importance of the programs that were cut.
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