Farm Bureau weighs in on Colorado legislative session | TheFencePost.com
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Farm Bureau weighs in on Colorado legislative session

The 2014 Colorado legislative session has finally come to a close, and the Colorado Farm Bureau worked throughout the session to protect agriculture and rural Colorado.

"We have worked very successfully with both Democrats and Republicans to create the best possible outcome for our members. This is a credit to our grassroots, nonpartisan policy development process," said Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau.

Prior to the general assembly convening, Colorado Farm Bureau set priority areas including water, property rights, second amendment rights, animal welfare, energy and wildlife.

Bills were introduced, which affected most of these areas, and with the guidance of the policy implementation committee and the board of directors, Colorado Farm Bureau staff worked diligently through these bills.

Rural Broadband Development

Within the last few weeks of the legislative session, Colorado Farm Bureau member leaders worked with elected officials to pass HB-1327 and HB-1328, both of which promote and create funding for rural broadband development in Colorado.

"Rural citizens should have the same access to educational, medical, business and government services. Sadly, this is not the case across much of Colorado," said Shawcroft.

Agritourism

Agritourism has become a major industry in Colorado, contributing $2.2 billion to the state's economy, and Colorado Farm Bureau dealt with one bill increasing liability protections for this sector.

"The growth of the agritourism sector in Colorado has a profound impact on the state's economy, and it invites the consumer and general public to experience rural Colorado and agriculture firsthand," said Shawcroft.

Water

Water was the hot button issue during this year's session, and Colorado Farm Bureau proved to be a leader on this issue.

"Throughout the session, Colorado Farm Bureau was the leader on discussions regarding water issues," stated Shawcroft. "We were able to prevent legislation that would have diminished private water rights, added tools to keep water on the farm, and still found a way to meet the growing demand for water from the urban sector."

Property Rights

Colorado Farm Bureau has also worked to keep landowners at the table for any conversation involving property rights.

Late in the legislative session, legislators met with select group of stakeholders, but not agriculture, in an effort to find a compromise on local governance of oil and gas development to head off potential ballot initiatives on the subject.

On May 5, Colorado Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Chad Vorthmann sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, pertaining to farm and ranch property rights when it comes to oil and gas development.

"Farm and ranch lands are often gathered over many years, sometimes several generations. Because of this, many landowners coordinate a variety of circumstances where they own all, some or little of the mineral interest. This creates some unique dynamics that emphasize the need for a landowner voice in this conversation. As a state who listens to the concerns of all of it citizens, discussions cannot be limited to a few legislators, congressmen, oil and gas companies and the Governors office," Vorthmann stated.

He continued, "As the state's largest organization of farmers and ranchers, we would request that if discussions move forward landowners must be at the table. Local government, oil and gas development and agriculture can and do coexist; we all have a vested interest in our communities and safely developed natural resources"

The Colorado Legislative Session met for 120 days, beginning in January and ending on May 7.

"Even though the Colorado session is over, Colorado Farm Bureau will continue to work with legislators, regulators, and others, as the important midterm elections and ballot initiatives move to center stage in our efforts to preserve our family farms and protect our Colorado way of life," Shawcroft stated. ❖