CFVGA conference addresses labor and water issues |

CFVGA conference addresses labor and water issues

DENVER — When it comes to his passion for the Denver Broncos, Robert Sakata, president of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, doesn't hide it.

Dressed in Broncos' colors — an orange Broncos' suit, a blue and orange facemask and a faux orange mullet — Sakata welcomed a crowd of about 150 to the fourth annual CFVGA conference Feb. 19.

While in his typical high-energy mood, Sakata mentioned a less energetic topic during his opening remarks: the farm labor shortage.

"(The government) is making a mess of the situation," he said, adding representatives from CFVGA talked with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Feb. 23.

Labor, as is normal in most agricultural sectors, is a big worry. In a quick audience survey, a majority said labor issues are the top priority they want CFVGA to focus on this year.

It's not the only issue produce growers are concerned with, water is another one.

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Kevin Rein, with the state engineer's office, and Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, discussed their roles and how that relates to, and how they can be utilized by producers.

The Colorado Water Conservancy Board is implementing a water plan the board drew up between 2013 and 2015. The plan is the result of an Executive Order from Colorado's democratic governor, John Hickenlooper.

Mitchell said the order came from the governor's office after there was a significant loss of irrigated agriculture land.

Right now, Mitchell said, the focus is on implementing the plan. She said agriculture was a key component in the plan, and will continue to be moving forward.

As to the state engineers' office, its involvement is focused on the regulatory side. Rein said two of the main areas where they work with water users is through water court and injury.

When it comes to water court, how active the engineer's office is depends on the individual cases, but it comes down to the impact of the case and law interpretation.

One piece of advice Rein had was to call the engineer's office whenever there is a question or before filing something in water court.

He said, in the long run, it can save a lot of time because water law in Colorado isn't something easily navigated, and the engineers office can help. ❖

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm. Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.