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Minutes

Meeting with Joe Hardenbrook Chief of Staff from Senator Thomas’ office (Dec. 17, 2008)

Present were Gary Currington, Suzy Fenner, Sharon Alden, Dave Lacey and Lela Ryterski.

Joe mentioned and Elk rancher’s co-op in Whitehorse we could check out.

In order for beef to be organic, it needs to be outdoors 280 days. Not possible in Alaska. We’d need an Alaskan exemption to about 180 days.

Gary discussed a commercial kitchen we could rent out or do barter. It’s a service the community needs (ie: crop production, blanching, etc.).

The purpose of the meeting was to propose the idea of introducing or combining with legislation that exists (ie: for Farmers) extended to FCCM.

Greenhouses get federal funding. (Jay Ramras has received funding for his greenhouses at Pike’s). Seed bank–Palmer Plant Material Center–Co-op Extension and Resource Center for seed varieties. The university develops seeds hardy to Alaska but they cost more than seeds coming from outside.

Agricultural revolving loan–food fund. Loan to find and purchase property to convert to agriculture. Loan to fund machinery and seeds.

We mentioned no interest or low interest loans and agricultural revolving loan funds for the co-op to be eligible.

Joe said there’s fierce competition for the little funding from the state budget available. It mostly goes to schools.

Tax credits for solar panels are possible. Deduct from property tax (work out with owner). The co-op may have this option available.

Gary suggested a Voided Cost System meaning avoiding costs (transportation, bring own bag, etc.) as a way to run the co-op. A move toward green activities.

In order to propose a bill we need to ask a question, ie: What state laws would prevent a food-based cooperative from receiving grants because now one must be a 501c3 to be eligible for grants. Legislative process: research answers–legal dept. reviews and amends–committee hearings.

State: These are the problems, this is what we’d like to do, these are the possible solutions. For example: promote bulk, less packaging, recycling, composting. Change State law to have fewer taxes for co-ops. Add FCCM to PFD under donate to a charity.

Joe’s willing to be a resource. He’s supportive. He bought a Founding Member ticket.

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The state Division of Agriculture has just released its draft strategic plan for public comment until 15 December. The plan, “Challenges and Opportunities for the Future While Meeting the Needs of Today” (PDF), covers ten strategic goals and means:

• Agricultural development and marketing
• Board of Agriculture & Conservation
• Plant Materials Center: facilitating the development and sustainability of appropriate plant materials for Alaskan agriculture
• Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund
• Sustainable agricultural resources and services
• Outreach, education and recruiting
• Planning: encouragement of best practices
• Existing and emerging technology and research
• Energy
• Infrastructure

This is your opportunity to comment on community-based local production, sustainable practices, alternative energy supply for agriculture, policy on genetically modified organisms, food security and supply vulnerability, etc. Send comments to: Lora.Haralson@alaska.gov

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