Export program spared from budget cuts

For growers in the Kenai Peninsula’s developing agriculture industries, exporting internationally is still an option.

A Division of Agriculture inspector position that issues phytosanitary certifications, or phytos, which are required by some importing countries, has been restored indefinitely, after it was on the table during this year’s budget cut discussions.

“I put it forward because we had to make cuts,” said Division of Agriculture Director Franci Havemeister. “I had to make hard decisions. Everyone was looking at cuts across the board.”

Talk of cutting the position sparked concerns with some local producers who are in the middle of developing or considering supplying to international markets.

Peony growers are one of the most established exporters based on the Kenai Peninsula, said Kenai Peninsula Farm Bureau Executive Director Amy Seitz.

Wayne Floyd, who runs Cool Cache Farms in Kenai with his wife Patti Floyd, is a peony producer out of Kenai and member of the Alaska Peony Growers Association, a statewide cooperative that facilitates a more competitive and viable industry.

In 2014, roughly 150,000 stems were sold, Floyd said. Within five years, millions of Alaska’s peonies may be purchased annually, he said.

That kind of large-scale production takes planning, marketing and knowing what a buyer wants, Floyd said.

Peonies are perennials that take up to three years to develop strong, well-established root systems.

“Some outlive the grower,” Floyd said. “There are some flowers in the Lower 48 that are 100 years old.”

In China, red colored peonies are highly desired for weddings, Floyd said. In the Lower 48, which is where the majority of Alaska’s peonies are shipped at this point, light pinks and whites are preferred at weddings.

For most peony growers, 40 percent of their annual yield is red peonies, because they planned to appeal to an international market, Floyd said.

Other industries such as the Rhodiola, which is still in its infancy, are working toward international viability, Seitz said.

Steve Albers, who runs Dandelion Acres with his wife Linda Albers, has roughly a half-acre of Rhodiola planted, which equates to nearly 500 plants. The flowering plants are cultivated for the root and used to combat fatigue.

The Albers’ plants are four years old. Rhodiola, like peonies, take years to establish — up to five years to reach maturity.

Right now, less than one acre is being harvested in the state, said Al Poindexter in a previous Clarion interview. Poindexter owns and runs Anchor Point Greenhouse in Anchor Point, which is one of the largest operations in Alaska.

Currently, his plants cover four acres, which he will double by the end of the summer.

The Kenai Peninsula’s potato growers may eventually sell tubers abroad, but that is a long ways off, Seitz said. Alaska’s potatoes are particularly clean, and lack many diseases that are well established in other regions of the world, which may make them favorable to foreign markets, she said.

Alaska’s unsullied spuds are largely a result of the Plant Materials Center’s Potato Program through the Alaska Division of Agriculture, which was also on the table as a potential cut during budget discussions this year. Certified breeders propagate seed potatoes and sell them locally so there is a constant supply of disease-free crops.

The position that was originally cut and then restored equates to $96,200 annually, Havemeister said. She could not say if cutting the position may be a possibility again next year, but she does expect she will be asked to further cut division programs.

More in News

Teaser
Then Now: Looking back on pandemic response

Comparing messaging from 1918 to 2021

Damage in a corner on the inside of the middle and high school building of Kachemak Selo School Nov. 12, 2019, in Kachemak Selo, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Repair costs rise as school facilities deteriorate

About $420 million worth of maintenance is needed at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District buildings.

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State Parks to hold meeting on Eastland Cottonwood unit

Meeting will include update on Tutka Bay Hatchery bill

Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller presents information about solar power during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Company looks to build solar farm on peninsula

It would be roughly 20 times the size of the largest solar farm currently in the state.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna Trooper arrested for multiple charges of child sex abuse

He has been a State Trooper in Soldotna since June 2020.

This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol. An Alaska state lawmaker was cited for driving with an open can of beer in his vehicle that another lawmaker said was actually his. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Lawmaker cited for open beer fellow legislator says was his

Republican Sen. Josh Revak plans to challenge the $220 ticket.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
This 2011 photo shows the Taku and Malaspina ferries at the Auke Bay Terminal.
Costs add up as ferry idled nearly 2 years

Associated Press The cost to the state for docking an Alaska ferry… Continue reading

The Federal Aviation Administration released an initiative to improve flight safety in Alaska for all aviation on Oct. 14, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
FAA releases Alaska aviation safety initiatives

The recommendations, covering five areas, range from improvements in hardware to data-gathering.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
The Alaska Capitol is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. There is interest among lawmakers and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in settling a dispute over the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend program, but no consensus on what the program should look like going forward.
Alaskans get annual boost of free money from PFD

Checks of $1,114 are expected to be paid to about 643,000 Alaskans, beginning this week.

Most Read