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Don't fall into the Palin trap

Fri, Oct 17th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

My family recently returned to Minnesota, the home of our birth, after nearly 13 years of dairy farming outside of Wasilla, Alaska. The straw that broke the camel's back - our Alaska Governor Sarah Palin!

It's a long story how we got to Alaska, but the main message I want you to focus on is not to let Sarah Palin mislead you and our country like she did us and the dairy industry in Alaska!

The State of Alaska owned and operated the only dairy processing plant in South Central Alaska, through a repossession back in the 1980s. The State kept operating the plant because of the traumatic effect it would have been to close it. Closing the plant would not only affect dairy farmers, but grain farmers, the elevators, the equipment and repair shops, and the work force from the farm helpers to the truck drivers, and beyond. So the State kept the dairy processing plant open.

Somehow along the way, the C.E.O. was allowed to reign over control of the plant, and while he did a great job at saving the plant and turning it into a profit making business, the business and its employees became the center of attention over the dairy farmers making a profit. Hence the price paid to dairy farmers remained stagnant and the dairy industry began to crumble. Even a decades-old University dairy closed its doors!

Despite the outcry to the state to take back control of the business, and its original intent to be the infrastructure to the dairy industry, each successive governor continued to lack the foresight to do something about this problem, choosing to create 'boards and commissions and audits and studies' to determine what to do! So, the plant continued to grow,, expanding into water bottling, and orange juice, yogurts and various milk drinks, but due to the growth of the sales, the plant was now processing more Washington State milk across its assembly line than Alaskan milk because it was cheaper to purchase (the plant could buy a lesser value milk - 2% and skim - as Alaskan milk supplied all the higher butterfat product needed, purchased from a milk handler versus farmers).

Then came the increase in Washington milk prices, a law disallowing purchase from milk handlers, and the dramatic increase in fuel costs! The plant all of a sudden needed more Alaskan milk than 'outside' milk, but guess what? It was nearly gone, with only 5 local dairy farms remaining in operation.

So along came Sarah Palin! She just came from being Mayor of Wasilla, and looked good when she challenged the oil & gas board 'big boys'. So, when she began running for Governor she led us all to believe she would 'save the dairy industry' and 'keep Matanuska Maid Creamery (the name of the State owned plant) open'! We all believed her, and worked hard for her, and I even got on the State Creamery Board and offered my assistance in any way I could help her! But guess what....She Lied!

She didn't listen to us after she was elected Governor, when all the dairy farmers told her we wanted to move the creamery back to its roots, into a smaller scale version of what it had become, and to use State funds until it was up and running and then they could sell the monster plant in Anchorage to recapitalize the funds used in the transition. (We even wanted to take over the operations of the plant as a dairy farmer cooperative, to hire a plant manager that would truly serve the dairy industry!) This would have been a 'win-win' situation, but Sarah touted her need to 'save the state money' and closed the plant down, and we were the sacrificial lambs that were slaughtered to show how great she was!

So, with my vote being the only dissenting vote on the board to close the plant, our family sold our cows for $400 per head and leased our farm to a family who wanted to try and last until the new milk plant opened.

We then left the State of Alaska in 2007 and have now made a new life back in Minnesota, land of our roots, and are very happy to have left Alaska.

This would have been fine, but you all know what happened next - Sarah Palin is now the VP candidate of the Republican Party. We just can't seem to be rid of her!

So I tell you all, do not fall into the same trap as we did! And to hear the truth as we know it and have lived it!

Vicki Trytten lives on a beef and dairy farm near Mabel.

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