Attendees learn about upcoming water legislation at the annual Colorado Farm Show in Greeley |

Attendees learn about upcoming water legislation at the annual Colorado Farm Show in Greeley

Olivia Reinsvold, 4, enjoys a little popcorn as she walks among the massive treads and tires at the Colorado Farm Show on Tuesday in the Island Grove Events Center in Greeley.
Joshua Polson/ | The Greeley Tribune

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To learn more about the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s annual conference, go to

Water seeped into several presentations Jan. 26 at the annual Colorado Farm Show at Island Grove Regional Park for Colorado Produce day.

Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs for Western Growers braved east coast storms, trudged through the snow and caught a plane to tell attendees how congressional action could affect them this year.

“Trying to do something around water is a big thing,” Nuxoll said. “Every producer can benefit.”

Robert Sakata, president of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and owner of Sakata Farms in Brighton, moderated the presentations. Here’s some of what they discussed:

What’s working?

Sakata said he believes protecting the current system of water rights is instrumental to maintaining inter-industry order and cooperation.

“The key is to protect the prior appropriation system because we have a long history of that, and it would send the whole thing into turmoil if we got rid of that,” Sakata said.

What’s next?

“Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet have been working to identify and push for ideas to benefit Colorado,” Nuxoll said.

The senators are working to facilitate a multi-state water package to bring to the floor in 2016. Any water legislation will be finished within the first three months of the year, Nuxoll said.

The problem is that people forget drought quickly when snowpack is decent, Nuxoll said.

A combination of short-term memory and a presidential election year will create a tumultuous climate for water legislation. Once presidential candidates are chosen, Nuxoll fears issues that don’t draw a crowd will fall by the wayside.

“You talk to farmers, and they remember the difficulties of recent drought,” Nuxoll said. “We’ve got to make our politicians remember. It won’t be on TV.”

Colorado is a focal point for water discussion as all aspects of heavy water users — urban, agriculture, energy and recreation — coexist.

“Colorado is a good spot because it has good advocates and a well-vetted water plan,” Nuxoll said.

What’s possible?

Mike Bartolo, director of Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Station in Rocky Ford spoke on water research.

Bartolo expects research in efficient drip irrigation and high-selenium water usage to be explored in 2016.

Integrating quality water with crop production links the more abstract concepts of water to the consumer.

“The quality aspect is something new and exciting,” Bartolo said. “We’ve got a health-conscious population in Colorado. We’ve got consumers becoming more engaged in how their food is produced. They want to understand, and they’re asking about farmers.” ❖

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