Saturday, August 20, 2005

Should fishermen's groups have management contracts with other groups?

This article concerning farmers in the Mid-West may or may not give folks in Alaska some ideas. It has to do with efficiency in marketing and product development, two things the new Alaska Regional Seafood Development Associations will be looking to accomplish.

The other aspect of this movement is the ownership of the plants.
"Now that the farmer-owned plants are running, Minnesota will become the top U.S. producer of biodiesel, the alternative fuel that already is sold at more than 200 service stations in the state." I'll repeat, "now that the farmer-owned plants are running."

The Farmers Union Marketing & Processing Association annually is making 3 million gallons of biodiesel from soybeans but also plans to make the fuel from rendered animal fats supplied by a sister company, said Chuck Neece, new business development director for the association.

Some of the products of the RSDAs are unique to their area, like Copper River sockeye. There's no other sockeye like them. And troll king salmon from Southeast Alaska. But a lot of the products will be the same across the board such as pink salmon.

There wasn't a provision made for joint marketing at the outset of this program. Just the theory that the fish from different regions are varied like the varietal wines from France. The question will become whether the pink salmon producers in Kodiak want to go head to head with the pink salmon producers in Prince William Sound or Southeast. Or should they work together to form a Pink Salmon Board for example and just pay for one management team like the corn and soybean farmers are doing.

Some of these ideas may make the difference whether fishermen vote this year to judge the RSDAs as a waste of time or the savior of the industry.

Nevertheless, some fishermen are getting together now to do processing and marketing and not waiting for someone else . The floater concept continues to flourish. If the shore plants don't cooperate with the fishermen's groups now, it may be too late later, when the bulk of the good fishermen are processing their own fish.

I didn't mean to get into the whole thing about floaters, but community leaders wouldn't want these floating factories to float south with all the processing wages and tax revenue either. This is the kind of stuff local economic development people should be thinking about, not individual projects that they are not qualified in.


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