Pork project good for peninsula

Posted: Sunday, April 07, 2002

President Bush recently spoke at a town meeting in California. The president said that we have the technology available to develop ANWR in an environmentally safe way. He went on to say that unemployment benefits needed to be extended and would be for those who needed them. However, we all need to work together to create jobs, "unemployment checks are no substitute for paychecks."

More recently, the president's comments came to mind when I learned that our working Alaskans between the ages of 25 and 35 are leaving Alaska in order to find jobs. A state's positive business climate should be led by a structurally diverse economy, because a diverse industry mix can balance negative impacts faced by some industries during economic hard times.

The more diversity we can generate in our economy, the more jobs there will be for Alaskans, the more business there will be for our main streets, and the more revenues there will be for our local, borough and state governments.

The Alaska Port Project is a good example of an opportunity to diversify our economy. The Alaska Pork Project can and will be built in an environmentally safe manner. It will adhere to the same stewardship principles to which U.S. farmers and ranchers adhere and for which they are awarded.

According to Dr. Ron Miner, Ph.D., P.E., bioresource engineering department, Oregon State University, the scale of the project presents the opportunity for environmental safeguards that cannot be achieved in smaller concentrated operations. (See related opinion piece below.)

"Manure management is the key to both odor and water pollution control, and technologies and management measures are available to insure these levels of performance."

Disease control is crucial in pig production. It is absurd to think that dead animals, and other disease-causing contaminants, would be allowed to exist in this environment. A healthy and safe environment for the producers, their staff and animals comes first, and the science and technology to accomplish this is available and will be implemented. The pork industry continues to support new research in our agricultural universities and the private sector in an ongoing effort to improve what is already a healthy and safe industry.

The Alaska Pork Project will maintain the pork industry tradition of responsible animal care through applying scientifically proven sound animal care guidelines. U.S. pork producers take pride in providing animal care to the swine on their farms, and the Alaska Pork Project will be no exception.

I have enjoyed watching the moose, caribou and other animals for more than 22 years, and it would appear that homes, businesses, schools or any structure for that matter seems not to affect them. Others in the state have to keep the bears away and the moose off their roofs, when the snow gets too deep. We should thank God for factoring in their ability and our ability to adapt to one another.

Our reasons are varied for coming to Alaska. Possibly we were drawn here for the opportunities that Alaska offers -- the mystique of the state, the smell of fresh air, or a permanent fund dividend check, natural resources, etc. Whatever reasons brought us here, we are not able to stay if we aren't able to support our families. In order to do so, we must continue to develop Alaska.

Think about it. Using the science and technologies available today and with new science and technologies being developed almost daily, Alaska's industries can and will be developed in an environmentally safe way.

Alaska farmers simply do not have the capabilities at this time to produce enough food to feed Alaska. Therefore, most of our food is imported. Keep in mind, Alaska is a state of more than 600,000 inhabitants, and we can't feed ourselves. It is estimated that Alaska has approximately a three-day food supply on hand at any one time. This is an important consideration for us since the events of Sept. 11.

My point is that we can produce safe food in Alaska for local, national and international markets. That will diversify our economy and reduce our dependency on imported food.

The Dutch company Agriment has said the opportunity for creating an integrated system of agriculture and horticulture in which pork production is the core is possible on the Kenai Peninsula. All horticulture products would be grown in glass houses. Imagine the Kenai Peninsula participating in the Dutch flower industry, growing, harvesting and shipping our flowers from the peninsula to Amsterdam, where they pass through the auction, are further processed, and then sent to markets around the world.

In creating personal wealth and growing Alaska, I suggest that a "First Time Farmer Law" be considered. Offer a set loan amount, at a low interest rate, with certain guidelines and educational courses. To effectively develop Alaska, it is important to create legitimate opportunities for Alaskans to not only be able to go into business, but to offer the tools required to help them become successful.

Economic development is good, and the Alaska Pork Project exemplifies this with knowledge, facts, information, science and technology, not fear and outdated cliches. In developing Alaska's industries, it will be important for us to maintain a good command of common sense, in order to get through the nonsense we will encounter along the way.

Dick Metteer is president of the Alaska Pork Project Inc. Questions can be addressed to him by calling 260-3075 or by e-mail at akport-inc@gci.net.

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