ANCHORAGE – The state of Alaska continues to search for a new owner for the Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage (MMM&S) plant located near Palmer, Alaska. The state’s Board of Agriculture and Conservation (BAC), which is overseeing the process, recently rejected a bid for the facility and equipment.

Currently, the plant is an asset of the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund, a program that supports development of agriculture in Alaska by providing moderate interest rate loans. However, the state wants to return the plant to private ownership on the condition that the facility continues to operate as a slaughter and meat processing plant. The MMM&S plant is the only US Dept. of Agriculture-approved slaughter facility in south-central Alaska.

In a request for proposals (RFP), the state said, “This facility is critical to Alaska’s agricultural industry. While some limited slaughter/processing facilities are located elsewhere in Alaska, they cannot replace MMM&S in terms of availability to livestock producers, capacity and location.”

The state is offering the plant and related equipment for a lease of five years with the option to purchase, according to the RFP. A minimum lease rate of $1 per month has been set for the first 24 months. The lease rate for the remaining 36 months is $1,600 per month.

“The lease payments include the equipment currently in use by the facility,” the RFP said. “ARLF believes that a low initial lease rate is desirable in order to assist prospective bidders to make the time consuming and potentially expensive transition from State ownership to private ownership.”

The purchase price of the facility will be fair market value established at the time of the purchase request based on an appraisal by an approved Dept. of Natural Resources appraiser.

The plant currently employs inmates from the Dept. of Corrections under the Alaska Correctional Industries program, in addition to three state employees — two production managers and one plant manager. USDA provides meat inspection and grading.

The BAC held a public hearing in March to receive citizen questions and address concerns. The BAC adopted a lease with the option to purchase plan out of concerns that the plant could be converted to a non-agricultural use.

Individuals and organizations participating in the public hearing had their own ideas about ways to make the best use of the plant. Some comments called for development of new markets and a stronger focus on raising production of meat produced in Alaska.

Elizabeth Bluemink, communications coordinator at the Dept. of Natural Resources, said the BAC is planning a new RFP. In the meantime, state funds for plant operations are slated to run out on June, 30, 2017.