Times are tough for dairy farmers in the Last Frontier. Rather, times are tough for dairy farmer, because there’s only one.
Havemeister Dairy, located in Palmer, Alaska, has been in existence since 1935. Today, it is the last remaining dairy farm in Alaska. And a change by the state government may box Havemeister Dairy out completely.
Agriculture is a small and difficult industry in Alaska; the growing season is short, the winters long and brutal, and the soil itself is largely non-ideal for growing crops. Dairy has in the past been important to the state, but the added expense of keeping dairy cows in Alaskan conditions, along with dramatically dropping milk prices nationwide, has left Alaskan dairy farmers unable to compete.
Alaska’s governor, Mike Dunleavy, announced his state’s 2020 budget back in mid-February, and along with all sorts of budget cuts, it came with a change that directly affects Havemeister. Dunleavy proposed cutting funding for dairy regulation entirely, which he says would save the state about $180,000 per year.
But for Havemeister Dairy, along with two dairy farms currently being built, that would mean, probably, the end of operation. Havemeister is, like most dairy farms, a Grade A facility; that level is required for a producer to sell milk that can be consumed in liquid form. (Grade B, increasingly less common, is for milk due for processing.) Without an inspector to affirm Havemeister’s Grade A bonafides, the dairy would be unable to sell milk to stores.
The Anchorage Daily News notes that the $180,000 per year is only for one inspector’s salary, plus health benefits and a pension, which is a curiously high figure. Farm advocates, says ADN, are suggesting reduced costs, rather than slashing the entire department.
The budget will go to a vote in Alaskan state congress.