Saturday, August 13, 2005

"A Partnership between Farmers and Consumers"

Now that's what I'm talk'n about. That's how you get high quality products and product forms that sell for decent money. They figured it out a long time ago in the contiguous states. Only a portion of the fishermen think of any possibilities beyond unloading their catch and washing down the boat, though. When fishermen voted to be partners with consumers in the Cordova, Alaska area, it turned out to be a landslide, in Presidential election terms. And it passed in Bristol Bay.

The title of this post came from the banner of the Ohio Farm Bureau. But it struck me as to how poingant that slogan is and the ramifications for fishermen everywhere. Remember the old Granges? They have old Grange Halls all over Oregon where I'm at right now. They evolved a long time ago to represent farmers' interests. During most of my career in Alaska I never saw an organization of fishermen anywhere close to the likes of the above refenenced web site. And I didn't know what farmers were doing, because living in Alaska makes it impossible to make the connection.

I did work on the connection between fishermen and farmers while working in Fisheries Infrastructure Development for the state of Alaska. I was introduced to the concept by the President of the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank while I worked there, though. I do a lot of research on bottlenecks like this because that's what I like to do . But where does that leave fishermen who need to make the connection?

That's the 64 dollar question. Under Alaska law now, only 30% of the fishermen in a region are needed to organize a production association and tax themselves. A 1% tax isn't much to start up something like this. Maybe someone set this limit because it wasn't known if fishermen would ever have the business savvy to pull this off. And this small amount wouldn't hurt anyone if they went out and blew the money.

Notice it's not just the mega-processors I needle. No, it's just that fishermen are so darned busy already. 1% might be just enough to hire professional help, but they might not see that that's what they need. They eventually will though. But while they are organizing and learning, they might get boxed into a corner by processor quotas, new products made out of farmed salmon, and any number of land mines laid down by folks that would just as soon "keep them down on the farm."


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