Palmer’s Meat and Sausage fights to stay open

The state’s Board of Agriculture and Conservation (BAC) today Thursday heard public comments on a new proposal that could keep Palmer’s Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage open.

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Todd Pettit raises bison at Little Pitchfork Ranch in Palmer (Photo by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA - Anchorage)
Todd Pettit raises bison at Little Pitchfork Ranch in Palmer (Photo by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage)

The state-subsidized meat packing plant faces closure at the end of June if the legislature does not approve funding for one more year, and local meat producers fear that if the plant shuts down, they will be out of business because Mt.McKinley is the only facility in Southcentral that can slaughter animals under USDA regulations.

One option the BAC is considering for saving the plant is privatization. The board is looking at a potential sale or lease arrangement for Mt. McKinley. Thursday, Todd Pettit, a bison producer from Palmer, told the BAC that his company, Denali Meat Company, is ready to offer a bid to operate the plant.

“We are very enthusiastic of working with every farmer in this state and every industry that has to do with the production of meat and the multiplier effect of what raising livestock in this industry can do for this state. This isn’t about one person running one set of animals through that plant, this is about state-wide industry expanding.”

The state has operated the plant since 1986. Last year, the legislature approved money to keep it in business for one more year. Pettit said that it is not likely the legislature will approve more funding, considering the state’s fiscal outlook.

“We want to ensure the fact that this plant goes from government to privatization in a smooth transition, without it shutting it down,” Pettit said. “So I am enthusiastic that the BAC is starting this process.”

State funds for operating the meat packing plant come from interest on Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund loans, not the state general fund.

Denali Meat Company is a new partnership among four Alaska producers. Pettit, processor Nate Burris, Ernie Dimond, a former slaughterhouse manager, and Terry Van Wye, [van WHY] a Kenny Lake pork producer.

APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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