Followers

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Meeting Economic Challenges

 

Bridging Businesses and Customers 

with New Payment Options

(2021©donnliston.com)

Zofinancial.com


At some point the Southcentral Alaska economy damaged by Covid-19 will recover for businesses impacted by Anchorage Emergency Orders. Loss of both business and customer confidence may require new options to allow commerce between customers who cannot obtain financing due to deflated credit scores and businesses shocked by pandemic mandates.

 

You might ask: How might area businesses gain back market share while consumers try to obtain items necessary for return to normal living?

 

Buddy Bailey says his company, Zo Financial, strives to bridge this mutual need:

We are a virtual lease-to-own company, explained Bailey at his company’s booth at the recent Outdoorsmen Show in Palmer. We go into direct retailers who sell items typically between $150 and $5,000; a lot of furniture, electronics, rims and tires, auto accessories, music equipment, things like that. We arrange an agreement with the business owner to provide payment options for these kinds of items.

 

For Chugiak Eagle River this means businesses hurt by the pandemic can reach more customers. For consumers needing to purchase items they need, this payment option provides a stair-step means to repair bad credit and habituate making payments responsibly.

 


Currently two Chugiak Eagle River businesses have affiliated with Zo Financial: Cozy Interiors and Team CC Power Sports. 

Here is the best story I can relate, and I think it rings true for many people, said Bailey. A (hypothetical) single mom with two kids--in an apartment or townhome or wherever--is trying to make ends meet, and her washer-dryer goes out. What happens next? I guarantee she has not been able to save for such a problem. She cannot find credit, and we become the guys who say “yes we are going to help you make it happen.” We spread payments out over 12-months, and give her ways to make it affordable, to make sure her kid’s clothes are clean.

 

What’s the catch?

 

It is an interesting fact that that 53 percent of all credit applications submitted to traditional banks today in the United States are declined, replied Bailey. That’s not because people aren’t making enough money, it’s because we are living in a weird world right now. Many are declined because those banks are looking for a particular profile. Additionally due to the world we are in a vast majority of US credit scores have been downgraded, reducing buying power for consumers who have needs.

 

Our model says, “all the applicant must have is $1,000 going into their bank account monthly and no excessive overdrafts of the account,” continued Bailey. If they can say yes to that we will approve, and it is just a matter of how much. We are typically helping people who are sub-prime to deep sub-prime based on their credit scores. We are typically helping people buy the things they need, build their credit, with no interest—there are fees involved—but no “interest.”

 


Bailey explained: Our world doesn’t have an interest rate; it is called a Lease Factor. We accept that we are taking the bottom of the barrel of credit score risk—and we are the most affordable in the credit market—we have confirmed that, at 2.04. So, if somebody makes a $1,000 purchase and goes 12 full months, they will be paying over $2,000 for that item. Now, if the lease-purchase is paid off in 90 days, there are no fees at all. But one day past 90 days makes the borrower beholding to the whole amount. Even then  we give massive discounts for paying it off on day 91, day 96, day 120. We have automated calculations built in to encourage paying it off fast.

 

About a dozen Chugiak Eagle River businesses have potential for signing up for Zo Financial purchase options. Bailey estimates 30-40 Anchorage area businesses will qualify for this payment option under the current business model. He also sees the possibility of expanding that model.

Buddy Bailey is spokesman for his family business, Bailey's Home Furnisings.
 

How does it work for businesses?

 

Our system is pretty amazing, said Bailey. We can input a business into our system--they don’t pay us anything—and within 24-hours we will increase their business 10-20 percent. To me, that is a no-brainer. If there is a business out there that is not offering a service like this, whether with me or with one of my competitors, they are missing the boat.

 

Bailey first recognized the need for such a payment option as manager of his family’s business, Bailey’s Home Furnishings: 13 years ago I saw a company we were working with then—what they were doing and how their model worked—and I saw some things I thought could be improved. Over this time we have built a lot of software and we are a live company now helping businesses in Alaska, he explained.

 

Here is the dynamic: Think about it in this way: The typical retail owner spends about $150 to get somebody in the door; print, tv, radio, online advertising. In a Covid 2021 world can they afford for anybody to turn around and walk out the door after coming in it? Not a chance!

 


It is one thing if somebody walks out because you didn’t have the selection or didn’t carry the item, right? That is kind of uncontrollable, Bailey continued. But to have somebody walk through the door and want an item, and get declined by a bank, and not have a back-up option for them IS controllable. Otherwise, the potential customer just says: “well I’m just going to have to go to somebody who can help me with creative payment options.”

 

So, our model is a “back seat” option to the traditional lenders—those with super low interest rates who want borrowers with good credit, said Bailey. But, when potential buyers are declined, we say: “We can help them out, we’ll pick them up.” It’s called “waterfall financing” in which the best is direct cash or credit (card), then next is a commercial lender (bank/credit union), and we are what is known as the tertiary option; we pick up what is left in the marketplace.

 

Bailey continued: What that means to a business owner is, if they have never offered this option, they will see a 10-20 percent increase in their business overnight. That is a massive change in a world where covid has resulted in a 30-50 percent decrease in business.



 

Plenty of Anchorage businesses may need this option once the free government money is over, and Bailey says his team has researched a possible 400 or more businesses throughout Alaska that might get on the bailey band-wagon.

 

Right now we have 17 businesses in Alaska and just this weekend at the Outdoorsman show we added another 6. By next week we will have 23, he explained. By the end of the year—because we will be scaling outside of Alaska—I can justifiably say we will have 150-200 retailers on our system, offering creative payment options.

 

Buddy Bailey the man.

 


Some of us have watched Bailey as a student in Anchorage schools, and spokesman for the Bailey family business, and might remember he was a pretty good athlete.

 

I am a basketball nut; I’ve gotten to play a lot of basketball in my life. High school, college and a little bit of semi-professional, and I still mix it up at the local rec center when I can, he admitted with a hearty laugh. He has two children.

 

I am a very faith-driven man and my drive in life is to help people, and to love other people, Bailey concluded. I could be wrong about this but I believe we will be wildly blessed for taking care of our community and the people around us. I think we are going to do very well at this.

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

What kind of future do we want?

 A Vision For Chugiak Eagle River

(2021©donnliston.com)

Joe Wright and Donn Liston with Eagle River mountainscape in the background.
(Photo by Waneta Liston.)

Members of the EaglExit Board of Directors may have different visions for what they believe is best for the area now known as Assembly District 2 (AD2) but Joseph Wright looks at what is happening in today’s world and believes responsible residents should strive for the same values as were important to the founding fathers of the United States of America.

After all, Alaska is still the American Frontier.

https://eaglexit.com/


I look at it historically like the Founding Fathers looked at government. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Philadelphia was 40,000 people and that has shown to be a good size for a well-run city, explained Wright. Anchorage today is too large, the Anchorage School District is too big, We can’t even get adequate police support out here; they begrudgingly send officers here when it is needed. Obviously it is good that we have lower crime, but we are paying for that service.

 


Municipality of Anchorage Building Fees:

https://www.muni.org/departments/ocpd/development-services/codes-handouts/code%20archive%202018/ao%202020-085%20as%20amended.pdf

 



More autonomy will mean more control over costs and services.

 

I first came to Alaska at age 17, continued Wright. My family was in the (San Francisco, California) Bay Area; I came to Alaska with my aunt and uncle and we lived on Tanglewood Drive over in West Anchorage/Turnagain and Spenard. I went into the Navy as Alaska was going into the mid-1980s recession. On two Navy assignments I was stationed back here in Alaska, one of which we had a home on Campbell Lake, and in the other we had a home in Midtown Anchorage.

 

A pretty typical Alaskan story of having the option to live anywhere and choosing this state for reasons many people in other places will never understand.


My drive to live in Eagle River goes back to 1983-84 when my Uncle Jim, who was a police officer with APD was helping a friend the way Alaskans do, and was doing tongue and groove inside the house, continued Wright. I experienced Eagle River then; getting up on the mountains and seeing the vastness we wake up to every day out here. So when I retired from the Navy my wife and I were looking forward to returning to Alaska and she got picked up for the produce manager at the military commissary. She transferred up here while I was finishing up in Seattle, my final assignment in the military I was responsible for the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Washington, Montana and Idaho—and we knew Eagle River was the place we wanted to be. We have a place on the Deshka River as well. I am also president of the Deshka Landing Association. We knew what it was like on the South Side, we knew West Anchorage but Eagle River is a completely different community than Anchorage.



 
And, living here is a choice requiring initiative to locate here.

 


It has been almost 14 years that we have lived here in Eagle River since I retired, said Wright. What I have seen over this time--as an active member of the community council--I can tell you we don’t have the representation on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly or at-large elected Anchorage School Board for the distinct needs out here. Dealing with the Anchorage bureaucracy, it is obvious Chugiak/Eagle River is on its own. The more Anchorage continues to change in the direction it is going the more we realize our lifestyle here is in jeopardy.



Wright has seen the problem with changes in Title 21 and Title 23 for building codes and safety requirements.

 

Anchorage has established a Building Safety Area (BSA) in the original townsite, said Wright. So when the Municipality formed, Chugiak, Eagle River, Girdwood fell under State “land use.” Everything still has to be built to code but the question is how much additional oversite should we have to endure with the MOA? Around 2008-2009, which was about the same time I started working for Otis Elevator, we started seeing a lot of changes in Title 21 and in Title 23 creating a lot more building regulation. Regardless of how people may feel about that, it also led to increased permit costs.



Increased costs impact whether construction can happen.


 
The MOA has been developing its own building safety expectations from within, continued Wright. Places like Houston, Texas, don’t even have the level of code enforcement we have. It is a city that is comparable but what they have done here is look at the average cost of a project, costing tens of thousands of dollars more to build in the Anchorage, while that same house in the Mat-Su Valley would fall under the State code.



Wright continued: Another one of the problems of that is the amount of over-inspection. In the case of elevator inspections, which should take two hours, if you can do it in two then why not do it in eight hours?

 

He says the added costs translate to decreased development. A lot of construction contractors look at those costs and choose to build elsewhere; that is what we are seeing in the valley right now.

 


So an answer to those who ask how much more they can expect to pay if AD2 becomes its own city or borough, is that it will be up to free will people who are already paying for services previously done by the MOA, services moved out from under the statutory tax cap to accommodate other spending in other areas.


Wright concludes: When I got involved in EaglExit it wasn’t just for some personal interest. I looked at it as being a way to give to the community. I am now 55 and I want to do what I can to make our community better for those in the future—for our children and grandchildren. This takes a lot of time—the EaglExit Board meets weekly—so it is a heavy investment of time. I think if we don’t step up now and do something we are going to continue to go in a direction most people in this area don’t really want to go. Some may not realize it but we see things like Cancel Culture, and Wokeism, that are really tearing a lot of places apart in this country. If we want to maintain our Alaskan lifestyle we need to take action; that’s why I am participating in EaglExit.

Other Eagle River Business and EaglExit stories for informed citizens to consider:

Our Public Education Challenge

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/our-asd-public-education-challenge.html

 

Matanuska Brewing Company Innovates

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/challenges-from-anchorage_20.html

 

Looking Back, And A Vision for the Future

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-big-picture-of-eaglexit.html

 

What Happened to Anchorage Hospitality?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html

 

The Cozy Side of Eagle River

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

 

Pandemic Business Survivor ER Small Engine Repair

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-wonder-of-small-engines-john.html

 

Decentralize Anchorage. It Really is Our Only Solution

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/08/decentralize-anchorage-it-really-is-our.html

 

How Can Alaska Gain Food Security?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/how-can-alaska-gain-food-security.html

 

Eaglexit’s New Validation

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/05/eaglexits-new-validation.html

 

Eaglexit Overview

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2019/09/eaglexitoverview-whatis-eaglexit-all.html

 

Is Eagle River ready for a Divorce?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2019/05/is-eagle-river-ready-for-divorce.html

 

 


 





Tuesday, April 6, 2021

What if Alaska's 2020 Election was Hacked?

 Flawed Election Memories

(2021©donnliston.com)


Anybody who has ever been scammed online should be concerned about our last state election, but it appears our public officials in Juneau are not likely to do much about it before the first half of this Legislative session is over in a month or two. Juneau swamp reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, James Brooks reports that change in Alaska election laws are driven by national politics, but that is not true. Alaskans know something is fishy. [1]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

SB 39 by Sen. Shower has a hearing scheduled April 8, Thursday 3:30 p.m. at Butrovich 205 or by Teleconference. It provides penalties for election crimes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

 

Flawed elections lead to strong man chaos in Third World Countries. We should be concerned about it. Some Alaskans have taken steps to document the problems and have been dismissed as conspiracy theorists. So let’s let the skeptics make their case here and now.

 

Overview of Election Results

 

Not long after Alaska certified its election results and published those numbers online, I downloaded the files and quickly scanned through them myself looking for anomalies as already being reported in the six key states that swung the 2020 election, explained Mike Armour, in an email to this writer. Intuitively I knew the numbers didn't add up but the single text file that the State published containing all 441 districts vote tallies made it difficult to see exactly what was going on.  With the aid of an associate, Troy W. Swanson, who has expertise in large scale data manipulation in a few hours we managed to sort out the data into a coherent Excel file format and confirm my earlier suspicions.

 

This writer has downloaded Division of Elections results and reviewed them myself for every Alaska election since 1978. It is a way to see how certain communities think and try to understand how some people are elected to public office. I believe the voters deserve exactly who they elect, if the election is fair.

 

 

All Alaska election results are available at the Alaska Division of Elections website. [2]

 

Armour continued: What became glaringly obvious was that Alaska had more votes cast than people to cast them and almost without exception each district reported a surplus vote tally over 100%. In a small number of districts those percentage figures rose to anywhere from 115% to in one case over 300%. Throwing in a formula that would calculate an average for all 441 districts we determined that Alaska experienced an Average of 107% over vote statewide. These figures were later confirmed by an independent analysis that placed Alaska at the top of the nation in "Over Votes" with 108%.

 

But what can Lt. Gov. Kevin 

Meyers do about it?

 

Eight different ideas—two from Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Administration, three from legislative Democrats and three from legislative Republicans—are percolating in the state capital, according to Brooks’ ADN piece. His story goes on to let one house Democrat, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Thompson of Sitka opine on the equivalent of Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing. Then, in his vacuum of objectivity, Brooks compares the Alaska situation to something he calls controversial in Georgia.

 


ADN as usual wants us to do it the way they do it Outside. I subscribe to ADN strictly for entertainment.

 

An overview of introduced bills related to Alaska election is in the References. [3] Further details can be found at akleg.gov.

 

This is the first half of the 32nd Alaska Legislature. 160 House bills have been introduced and 117 Senate bills. We have all seen how the circus has been conducted to date with a majority of Republicans elected by voters but a minority of Democrats able to seduce two Republicans to assure more of what we have all come to expect from Juneau.

But the Scam May be Bigger than this: What are the possibilities of Electronic Voting Manipulation? If you have ever lost any money from someone who convinced you to contribute to something online, you know how helpless you feel when that person disappears into the ether. Once the money transfers the former “friend” is gone and you don’t want to accept that you have done something so stupid. Perhaps that is the reason our elected officials have not taken meaningful steps to deal with the election calamity we have experienced—they are in denial.

 I was one of the Alaskans who received the pathetic letter from our Lt. Governor declaring that the voter database was hacked. [4]


The mere fact that any person with physical access or remote access via the Internet can alter vote counts should scare the hell out of everyone, continues Armour. To compound the problem there are NO security features built into the system to prevent this type of action, and NO encryption techniques or restricted access methods employed to prevent them from altering or deleting the log files that would normally capture this kind of illegal activity.


In the 2020 election an initiative to change the primary election system passed. Could The Jungle Primary with Ranked Choice Voting lead to one-party rule?

 

Dominion software uses fractionalized vote counts, whereby vote tallies are stored as fractions rather than whole numbers, explains Armour. Fractionalized vote counts enable use of a feature known as Ranked Choice Voting or RVC. Anyone can set the weighted percentage that a vote receives; for instance a single vote for a particular candidate can be assigned a 1.25 value while that candidate’s opponent is assigned 0.75. The number of votes reported will remain true, but the count will favor a chosen candidate over their opponent by whatever margin is pre-selected. The operator's manual describes this as a "predetermined outcome" that allows manipulators to "pick the winner."

 

2020 Alaska Election results are color-coded on Excel spreadsheets, to show over vote numbers for all 441 Alaska precincts, in research done by Armour and Swanson. 

But there is more to the problem, according to Armour: The entire adjudication process within the system is designed to allow an individual to alter or delete a single ballot or a group of ballots as they see fit. There is no auditing feature contained within the adjudication function to track these changes and the resulting ballot images will only reflect the outcome of any alterations that were made. This is why the Georgia Secretary of State has petitioned the courts to withhold the paper ballots from the auditors and ONLY allow inspection of the ballot images.

 


In the meantime Armour has put information gleaned from Division of Elections data out there for Alaskans to consider. He believes the computer system used to count Alaska votes is flawed and has been for a while. He has set up a petition for Alaskans who also think something should be done.

 

The intended purpose of my petition was to have the state decertify Dominion Voting System based on the deficiencies of its nonexistent security systems, its lack of any real auditing functions and the ease with which it can be hacked by any interested third party, explains Armour. Not one of the proposed bills in either the House or Senate addresses these issues, and so far as I can tell none of them provide a solution to a major problem that we know exists within the election infrastructure. At best some of those bills criminalize an already illegal act and will do nothing to stop a criminal from committing that act. At worst some of those bills will only enable even more voter fraud with more mail in ballots and even preregistering underage teens. Alaska has enough problems with bloated voter rolls and the solution is to make it even worse?

 

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ban-dominion-now


I wrote and published online back in Nov. of 2020 demanding that Alaska decertifies and ban Dominion Voting Systems from use in Alaska and listed the reasons why those steps should be taken
, Armour explained. Not one of the several letters I wrote to the Lt. Gov. or the Director of the Division of Elections, explaining the petition or the facts surrounding its claims, ever elicited a single response from any government official. To the best of my knowledge every fact I listed in that document as reasons for decertification still holds true today and has never been refuted or disproven. Given what we knew immediately following the election Alaska should have never certified its results without performing a complete forensic analysis to determine if in fact anything untoward happened in our election.

Gov. Dunleavy has proposed legislation to allow Alaskans to challenge election irregularities for investigation by the Alaska Attorney General. But as the elected officials in Juneau are now preparing their itineraries for return to their districts this is probably out of their reach before they go home.

 

With elections coming up in 2022 maybe they will remember before then.

 

References:

[1] Anchorage Daily News, James Brooks, “Proposals emerge to change Alaska’s election laws,” April 3, 2021 https://www.adn.com/politics/alaska-legislature/2021/04/03/alaska-lawmakers-are-considering-a-range-of-proposals-to-change-the-states-elections-laws/

 

[2] Division of Elections Primary, General and Statewide Special Election Results

https://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/info/ElectionResults.php

 

[3] Current bills dealing with Alaska Elections pending in the Legislature. 

HB 23-Raucher, McCabe, Vance—Short Title: BALLOT CUSTODY/TAMPER; VOTING; VOTER REG; "An Act relating to elections and voter registration; relating to ballot custody, retention, 2 and destruction; prohibiting possession of another voter's ballot; requiring signature 3 verification; establishing an election offense hotline; and providing for an effective 4 date." Introduced 02/18/21. It has been referred to four committees. Status: In State Affairs, then Judiciary, Finance.

 

HB 39—Hopkins—Short title: VOTER PREREGISTRATION FOR MINORS; "An Act relating to voter preregistration for minors at least 16 years of age." Introduced 01/08/21. Referred to three committees. Status: In State Affairs, then Judiciary.

 

HB 96—HOUSE RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR—Short Title: ELECTIONS; VOTING; BALLOT REQS; "An Act relating to elections; and providing for an effective date." Introduced 02/18/21. Status: In State Affairs, then Judiciary and Finance.

 

HB 138—Kreiss-Tomkins—Short Title: VOTING BY MAIL; "An Act relating to elections; requiring a risk-limiting audit of selected election results; requiring state elections and local elections conducted by the state to be conducted by mail; requiring certain vote-by-mail ballots and election materials to be provided in certain written languages other than English; establishing an online ballot tracking and registration verification system; establishing vote centers, ballot drop boxes, and ballot tabulation centers; eliminating the use of precincts, polling places, absentee ballots, and questioned ballots in certain elections; establishing new elections offenses; and providing for an effective date."

Introduced 03/17/21. Status: In State Affairs then Judiciary and Finance.

 

SB 39—Shower—Short Title: BALLOT CUSTODY/TAMPERING; VOTER REG; MAIL;
"An Act relating to elections; relating to voter registration; relating to ballots and a system of tracking and accounting for ballots; establishing an election offense hotline; designating as a class A misdemeanor the collection of ballots from other voters; designating as a class C felony the intentional opening or tampering with a sealed ballot, certificate, or package of ballots without authorization from the director of the division of elections; and providing for an effective date."

Introduced 01/25/21 with hearing scheduled April 8, Thursday 3:30 p.m. at Butrovich 205 or by Teleconference. Then to Judiciary.

 

SB 43—Hughes—Short Title: ELECTIONS, VOTING, CAMPAIGN FINANCE; "An Act relating to campaign finance and initiatives; relating to elections and voting; and relating to unlawful interference with voting." Introduced 01/15/21 and referred to two committies State Affairs and Judiciary. It was heard in State Affairs on 02/22/21 where Sen. Holland and Sen. Shower voted for it and Sen. Reinbold voted No Recommendation. This bill was referred to Judiciary and Finance by Sen. President Mich

 

SB 82—Senate Rules by Request of the Governor—Short Title: ELECTIONS; ELECTION INVESTIGATIONS; Described in part: “Sec. 15.56.140. Civil enforcement of election laws. (a) A person may file with the division a written complaint alleging that a violation of an election law or rule adopted under this title has occurred, the factual basis for the allegation, and any related evidence. A complaint filed under this section must be filed within 30 days after the election at which a violation of an election law or rule is alleged to have occurred or within 30 days after the date of the violation of an election law or rule is 10 alleged to have occurred, whichever is later. Introduced 02/12/21 and referred to Judiciary, State Affairs, and Finance Committees.”

For Fiscal Note Analysis of this bill go to References.

 



SB 83—Senate Rules by Request of the Governor—Short Title: ELECTIONS; VOTING; BALLOT REQS; "An Act relating to elections; and providing for an effective date." Provides for security of information and procedures for qualified voters. Introduced 02/12/21, this bill is currently in State Affairs Committee and next goes to Finance.

 

SB 83 Fiscal Note analysis: “This bill includes permissive provisions that would allow the division to conduct elections in a way that ensures confidence and integrity in the election process and its results. The bill allows for increased post-election audits, by-mail voting in communities under 750, and stronger requirements for absentee ballot voter certificates. Additionally, it requires the division to determine the costs of recounts in regulation instead of statute. Passage of this legislation will have no financial impact on the division.”

 



[4] Division of Elections Press Release RE: data breach

https://ltgov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2020/12/state-of-alaskas-online-voter-registration-system-victim-of-data-exposure/

Previous observations of the 2020 Alaska Election are here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/alaska-election-questions.html

 


 

 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Steps to Food Security for Alaska

Are Alaska Agriculture Efforts Working?

 (2021©donnliston.com) 


Do more farms mean more production for Alaskans?

In his self-satisfied memoir—written after serving two terms as Alaska’s fifth governor--Jay Hammond, in his book Tales of Alaska’s Bushrat Governor, reflects on …major disappointments in my second term. One, deemed by many the biggest blunder of my administration, was an attempt to promote Alaska agriculture. [1]

 

A knee-jerk reaction to what Hammond felt was the perception by critics that he was opposed to all development, agriculture development was his effort at a political counter-punch.

 

In Hammond’s words:  Tourism and fishing were both successful examples of efforts that paid off handsomely. But with agriculture, I concurrently violated and proved the wisdom of a basic rule I had previously tried to follow: You can’t make the desert flower simply by dousing it with dollars. Money my administration sowed in agriculture reaped little but bitterness and frustration.

 

Hammond describes the mechanism to develop Alaska agriculture under the direction of Bob Palmer, himself a former Kansas farm boy, played blacksmith for this project, slowly forging then hammering together, link after link of this chain.  In the process, he sometimes showered sparks on nay-saying critics peering over his shoulder.

 

During its first term, the Hammond Administration identified almost 22 Million acres of arable land in Alaska, …more than many so-called “farm belt” states combined, writes Hammond. He says he was skeptical of agricultural potential unrealized at Delta but, I was finally persuaded by the almost unanimous support of Alaskans who knew anything at all about farming. An Agriculture Action Council compromised of university experts and already successful farmers convinced me and later demonstrated that because of our long daylight summers, unique soil and climatic conditions, it was possible to grow crops such as barley and rape seed of extraordinarily high protein content and yield per acre.

 

Detailed information about Alaska agriculture is collected by the US Department of Agriculture.

This was the genesis of the Delta Barley Project. It was part of a plan described by the late governor as including: 1) Preparing a massive amount of arable land to produce crops of commercial quality. 2) Attracting people able and willing to farm. 3) Building grain storage facilities for crop collection. 4) Establishing rail transportation to a seaport. 5) Building a grain terminal at the rail/shipping port of Seward, and finally, 6) Attracting a Pacific Rim market.

Reliability of the census data depends on response. In this report Anchorage includes the Mat-Su Valley and 62.1% of identified farmers responded.


When we went out of office in 1982 each link was in place except one: The Seward grain terminal, reflects Hammond.

 

Both site and materials for this facility had been purchased by the state, but before construction could start, the oil-flush Port of Valdez offered to build a grain terminal there. The new (Steve Cowper) administration and legislature, persuaded they could save money with the Valdez site, arbitrarily cancelled the Seward terminal, to the dismay of almost everyone involved in the Delta project.

 

Ultimately, Valdez–unconnected by railroad—built its terminal, and the state sold at enormous loss, both the Seward Terminal materials and the grain hopper railroad cars. I am told the loss exceeded the $3 million required to finish the Seward terminal. To date, not one bushel of grain has gone to the Valdez facility and moose browse has reclaimed most of the acreage cleared near Delta.

  

Alaska has seen an increase in farms and amount of land in agriculture endeavors from 558 farms on 881 acres in 1997 to 990 farms on 849 acres in 2017. The average size of Alaska farms has gone down by -21.8 percent.

Alaska was nouveau riche[2] then, with a hick governor. Money was the center of every political decision whether he wanted it to be or not. We didn’t need to worry about feeding Alaskans because farming was too much work and we were now getting big box stores that drove costs for everything down and traditional Alaskan businesses out.

While the number of farms in production has generally gone down in the United States, Alaska is gaining farms.

 

Ironically, I went to Juneau around this time to serve as aide to an Anchorage legislator when our current Director of Agriculture, David Schade, was also working there for another legislator. We weren’t familiar then but we have had similar experiences, which I learned during a recent interview with Schade, to talk about food security.

Director of the Alaska Department of Agriculture, David Schade has a photo of his family’s farm as a backdrop in our zoom conversation.




Is the Department of Agriculture interested in Food Security or just in helping farmers succeed?

The two are not mutually exclusive, explained Schade. For food security our farmers are going to have to be the solution. First we must define what is food security? The question is do you really have enough food or are you worried about it? Either way you look at it we are in serious situation right now. It is not theoretical, we are food insecure right now. If we didn’t have the Food Box program going on we would be in really big trouble. [3]

The majority of Alaska farms are less than 10 acres in size with 43 larger than 1,000 acres—down from 49>1000 acres in 2012.

Mike’s Meats in Eagle River, and Mat Valley Meats in Wasilla, both have food box programs too. I have witnessed the constant calls received for boxes of meat sent to virtually every corner of the state, paid for by consumers themselves.


 

But the State of Alaska in this case again defaults to needs of rural Alaska, and the great dependent unorganized borough where nobody is taxed for any government services. For every question of Alaska public policy the first answer is to defer to circumstances of people who choose to live in the bush.

In terms of the size of our state, Alaska has very few acres of land in agriculture.


 Who is the Director of Agriculture?


 

Schade grew up on an Alaska homestead and intimately knows the plight of Alaska’s rural farmers: If we didn’t grow it, we didn’t have it to eat. So I come from the viewpoint that If it didn’t come in on the ship in the fall you didn’t have it for a year. You had to know how to make it work. That is still how it works in a lot of Alaska. When we lost Ravn Air (from bankruptcy during Covid) we lost a food delivery network. For the last year we have been trying to determine how to get that food distributed.

Once Schade got an education, he developed a vision for Alaska agriculture.

 

I am an ag economist, that was my undergrad degree, from the University of Idaho, explains Schade. I grew up on a farm and wanted to figure out how to make money on a farm. My master’s degree is in public administration so I am probably the only person who has sat in the director’s chair who spent probably half of his career in the private sector, less in the public sector. I come at this from both viewpoints. I know what it takes to make it work on the farm, but you must be able to have consumers buy produce at a price that can make money for the producers.

 

Schade continues: We aren’t dealing with food security as the Food Bank of Alaska deals with it. Our approach is How do we grow it out there? We have 85,000 acres of cleared cropland in this state as of 2017. We are only using 35,000 acres of that productively. If we start growing on the other 50,000 acres we put that food into the food chain.

 

On the other hand we do have some success in the agriculture sector of the economy.

 

Alaska agriculture is producing $40 million per year by US statistics, according to Schade. 


We have at least one farmer who makes more than $5 million per year in sales, 12 farms that make over $1 million per year, 66 making between 250,000 and a million, and 101 who make between $50,000 and 250,000, said Schade. But of the 990 farms in the state, 582 of them make less than $10,000 per year. So I am not disagreeing with your assertion that we need more large commercial producers, but there is opportunity—the pie is huge!

Alaskans eat $2 Billion per year worth of food. We have an extremely small amount of red meat being produced. We are hoping in the Nenana Totchaket to get 50,000 acres into production so we can also build the red meat industry in this state.

10,000 acre commercial spreads are needed with incremental increases over coming years as producers are successful.

 



 

Remember, Gov. Hammond reported 22 million arable acres in the early 1990s. Those were raw acres requiring a lot of work to put into production. Over the decades of mostly benign neglect for Alaska agriculture, increasing ag land for food security has not been a priority until an earthquake and pandemic revealed how vulnerable Alaskans are to food supply lines.


Before somebody calls "BS" lets recognize aquaculture skews the numbers we are talking about, with half of the reported sales and only 54 farms. Sales for traditional agriculture endeavors are closer to $40 million.

Gov. Dunleavy’s Division of Agriculture Director describes the challenge with Alaska’s Food Security as follows:

 

The problem right now is three-fold: 1. We don’t have food storage for the food that we have. Step One has to be to build storage. The question is can you store what you grow and what you can ship in? We found out with the food box program that we do not have adequate storage in our villages and small communities as we go out.

We don’t have any bush communities that can adequately supply all of their food. When you go to supplement them they don’t have the storage capacity to build it up. We are working on that.

Phase 2 is how do we get people to grow locally in every community? The more that they can grow locally, the less we have to ship in. How do we help people grow their own gardens--how do we leverage subsistence? For instance, if you have a berry patch and you can put a little fertilizer on it and gain a greater output then our microgrant program includes subsistence, and we are asking: What do you want to do? Do you want to do a community garden? Do you want to do your own garden? How do you want to increase your food production?

The third component is education. How do we help people learn to do this?  Once you learn how to do this you can do it again. A lot of people don’t realize the amazing opportunities we have to grow things even in our far-flung communities.



The Division of Agriculture is also active in promoting Alaskan Grown products into local grocery stores. The argument is something like, increased cost of locally grown products means selling more Alaska Grown food makes more money for the store than cheaper and less fresh Outside products. A whole campaign is available for retailers to promote this.

 


A lot is invested in producing Alaska’s agriculture products.

 

In the shadow of oil development, Gov. Hammond believed Tourism and Fishing were examples of efforts that paid off handsomely. Developing an agriculture sector of the economy to feed Alaskans after the oil boom ended never crossed anybody’s minds. During his two terms as governor Hammond reports that $15 billion flooded into Alaska’s coffers through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In retrospect it seems we had an opportunity to become self-sufficient and food secure if we had wanted to do that.

Again, the aquaculture piece distorts this data. We don’t know what the percentage of 2012 aquaculture production was but overall agriculture for food has been treading water with increasing numbers of small operators making a little money selling to Farmer’s Markets. The good news is net income is up.

 
Schade continues:

 

The new Microgrant Program is all about food security. Right now we are looking to create food security. The feds say the Division of Agriculture gets to decide where we are food insecure.

There is excitement here; we have 2,500 applications. I expected to get 500, and we have $1.8 million. The rough number is $45 million worth of requests. We have years to do this but we are automating it now and getting it going as a long-term program. It looks like we will have about $2 million in grants annually so we need to figure out priorities and help people grow out their resiliency in each of these communities.

Oh, praise the Lord! The ultimate solution to food insecurity for Alaskans is manna from Washington.  BUT, maybe a bit more wisely this time!

 

References:

 

[1] Tales of Alaska’s Bush Rat Governor, Jay Hammond, Epicenter Press, 1994 p 262-263

 

[2] Definition of nouveau riche

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nouveau%20riche

 

[3] AHFC Food Box Program

https://www.ahfc.us/blog/posts/food-assistance-programs-alaskans


 

Go to these links for additional stories about the pursuit of Alaska Food Security:

 

Kodiak Island Area Beef Production

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/kodiak-island-area-beef-production.html

 

Addressing Alaska's Heirachy of Needs:

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/alaska-has-food-security-options.html

 

Food for Thought for Alaskans

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/alaskas-food-security-options-2020.html

 

Who is Making a Difference? (Alaska Food Security)

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/who-is-making-difference.html

 

Our Economic Sweet Spot; The Mat-Su Valley

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/10/alaskas-economic-reality.html

 

Feeding Alaskans (Alaska Food Security)

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/10/feeding-alaskans.html

 

Who Dares to Farm in Alaska (Alaska Food Security)

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/09/who-dares-to-farm-in-alaska.html


How Can Alaska Gain Food Security?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/how-can-alaska-gain-food-security.html

  






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