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Grain Grant Aims to Boost Alaska Agriculture

Barley Grains Ready To Be Milled
Jennifer McGovern
Alaska Public Media
Barley Grains Ready To Be Milled

(Fairbanks, Ak)  The state is putting a million dollars toward bolstering the in-state supply of feed grain. “The Alaska Feed Grain Reserve Program” aims to ensure availability of livestock feed by establishing a stable market for barley in Delta Junction.

Division of Agriculture director Brian Scoresby announced “The Alaska Feed Grain Reserve Program” at last weekend’s Alaska Food and Farm Festival in Anchorage. Scoresby signed a contract with Alaska Farmers Coop manager Zack Knight and presented the Delta based organization with a big check.

Alaska Farm Bureau president Scott Mugrage says his organization has long advocated for such a program and emphasizes that the state money will exclusively be used to purchase grain from Alaska farmers.

“And have it on hand for use in years of shortages or natural disasters the like that causes us not to have enough grain.”

Mugrage says the program is primarily focused on barley, the majority of which is grown in the Delta area, where it will be stored at an existing coop facility to be sold as feed to livestock farmers statewide. He says the program will stabilize Alaska’s grain market, which has recently fallen short of demand due to poor growing seasons, forcing costly state subsidized imports from outside.

“This should protect us from very high price costs in the future when we have these shortages.”

Mugrage says the new program will provide a one stop, price stable, quality-controlled grain market.

“They can pull loaded grain into the elevator at the Delta coop, unload them and receive a check for them without having to do all their own marketing.”

And he says it will be self-sustaining.

“Once any of this grain is used, those dollars go back in the bank to purchase grain with again, when there’s better years.”

Mugrage expects the program to increase Alaska’s grain production.

“There will be step ups to the number of acres planted, and you know I look for some of those farmers that aren’t even growing grain right at the present, to be able to plant grain now, knowing they have a market when it's grown.”

Mugrage adds that the reliable feed source will also have a stabilizing effect on in state livestock production, noting that recent year’s shortages resulted in liquidation of animals, including breeding stock.

“We shouldn’t have to see things like that ever again in our future. We’re trying to increase food security and we took a step back, so this will keep us moving forward hopefully.”

It will take time to ramp up the Feed Grain Reserve Program and looking at this winter, Mugrage says some grain may again have to be imported from outside. ###