ANCHORAGE - State Senate President Lyda Green said she would support using part of a $600,000 state grant to assist dairy farmers affected by the closure of state-owned Matanuska Maid.
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The Wasilla Republican previously said the money should be used only to pay debts left by the Anchorage-based dairy.
"I've since reviewed the appropriation language," Green wrote last week in a letter to natural resources Commissioner Tom Irwin, "and because of its nonspecific title in the bill, the $600,000 appropriation can be used to assist the dairy farmers through this time of transition."
Green's new viewpoint is encouraging, said Ben Vanderweele, a member of the creamery board.
"I hope some of this money will end up in the hands of dairy producers," he said Sunday. "These guys don't have a home for their milk, and they're not getting any income."
Green's letter came a week after the creamery board decided to ask the state for $200,000 to help the four Matanuska-Susitna Borough dairy farmers as they await a new buyer for their milk.
"I hope that you can find ways to fund the farmers in their time of need without requesting additional funds from the Legislature," Green wrote.
Farmers recently said they might have to dump as much as 1,600 gallons of milk a day because they don't have storage room. The state's only other dairy, Northern Lights Dairy of Delta Junction, bought and picked up some milk last week, but it doesn't know when it will need more milk.
A cooperative being developed by farmers and former farmers aims to start production in March and might be able to start taking milk in January, but it, too, doesn't know when or how much it will be able to buy.
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