Last Alaskan dairy farmer 'confident' legislature will find solution

 Heifers at Havemeister dairy.
Heifers at Havemeister dairy. (KTUU)
Published: Mar. 25, 2019 at 6:25 PM AKDT
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For the lone dairy farmer operating in Alaska, the month and a half since Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveiled his budget proposals has been 'a roller coaster.'

Among the widespread cuts proposed was eliminating funding for dairy regulation.

The administration said that would save the state around $180,000. For Havemeister Dairy, that cut would be the death knell of a business that predates statehood.

"We're a Grade A facility, so if we don't have someone to inspect our facility, we can't maintain Grade A," said Ty Havemeister, "Which means I won't be able to ship milk to the store, so that would be the end of us."

In a budget overview produced for the legislature by the administration, the state notes that "Alaska's dairy industry has declined from 65 dairies to one operating bovine dairy today," and the "Federally required program requires significant state subsidization."

The presentation also notes that "eliminating the program will not increase risk to public health, as dairies would not be able to sell milk products commercially."

Havemeister posted to the dairy's Facebook page when he learned what the budget proposal would mean for the farm.

"Within a week we had 32,000 views on our page, which I never expected and there was just an outpouring of letters and phone calls to lawmakers, which that's what we needed," Havemeister said.

Havemeister says he has spoken with Mat-Su lawmakers Rep. DeLena Johnson and Sens. Shelley Hughes and Mike Shower.

Last Monday. Sen.Hughes discussed the dairy in a Facebook live. She said she has heard a lot of concern about losing the dairy and said they were working on a solution.

The Department of Environmental Conservation House Finance Budget Subcommittee reviewed 17 budget action items proposed by the governor. It rejected 11 of them, including eliminating the dairy program.

"At this point in time, I'm pretty confident that the legislature's going to come through," Havemeister said. "They'll figure something out and this will all work out."