Budget Woes Hurt Small Spuds

 

The legislative deadlock over next year’s state budget is no small potatoes. In fact, the Alaska Plant Materials Center in Palmer may soon have to look for alternative funding sources to keep it’s seed potato program going.

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Brianne Blackburn, a program manager at the Plant Materials Center, says it appears that the seed potato program is safe for this year, if the legislature finally decides on a budget:

“So we do have funding to keep that program running through this upcoming fiscal year starting July 1, but that funding is limited through just that fiscal year.”

Blackburn says a one time increment included in this year’s budget pays for one full time and one seasonal worker. She says the program could be in jeopardy beyond next year. But nothing is certain until the legislature decides on this year’s budget.

“Without a budget, everything is still up in the air, so we will be waiting for that final word.”

The Plant Materials Center grows first – year seed potatoes, which are sought by growers worldwide for commercial production, because they are certified disease free.

“Our seed potato program is the only place in Alaska where you can get certified seed potatoes in the state. And we participate nationally with the potato association of America and work with our partnerships all over the country, so, it’s an important program and one that we work hard to maintain. ”

Having to import seed potatoes into Alaska runs the risk of bringing in potato diseases.