Collaboration key to success of the ag industry
DENVER — Farm operations can’t work alone. It takes collaboration to make them successful.
That was the main theme of the 26th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture, driven home by many of those who spoke at the forum, including Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper, Gardner and more than a dozen others spoke to a group of 425 farmers and ranchers from across the state at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel on Feb. 22.
The speakers said that with growth and the changing desires among consumers, the industry’s economic outlook and the unpredictable nature of agriculture, collaboration is key.
That rings true for all of agriculture, but especially in Colorado, where the industry is one of the largest in the state, said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown.
It’s a lesson not lost on Hickenlooper. Though the governor doesn¹t have a background in the agriculture industry, Brown and former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden both attested to Hickenlooper’s ability to advocate for the industry.
For his part, Hickenlooper credited the industry with helping the state recover from the Great Recession.
“When almost every industry was on its back (agriculture’s) inflow of money made all the difference between a small and slow comeback to a quick one, which we were able to do,” he said.
Still, Hickenlooper said, with the current U.S. political climate, there is uncertainty about what will happen to the agriculture industry if markets are not available for producers outside the nation’s borders.
According to Hickenlooper, about 50 percent of Colorado¹s agriculture exports are to Mexico, so collaboration through open communication with elected leaders is important when it comes to trade.
“Isn¹t it time for Congress to settle down and work together?” he asked rhetorically about relationships with Mexico, regarding trade and immigration.
Gardner, who grew up in an agricultural family in Yuma, shared Hickenlooper¹s sentiments.
“Trade in this country is important, and we have to make sure trade opportunities are open and stay open,” Gardner said.
Gardner reminded farmers collaboration with those outside the industry also is important because it helps bridge the gap between myths and realities in the industry.
“I don¹t think people are as focused as they should be on agriculture,” he said.
Brown told those at the forum agricultural collaboration can happen at different levels, too. He pointed out that Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., work together to help out the ag industry, regardless of their political party.
“We have two U.S. senators who care about agriculture,” Brown said.
But having politicians who will advocate for the industry isn¹t enough for producers, according to former Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Tom Kourlis.
“Perception is important,” he said, “and we have to be careful on how we are perceived by the public.”
According to experts at the 26th Annual Governor¹s Ag Forum in Denver, Colorado¹s agriculture industry has a $40 billion impact on the state’s economy.
Fox has been a reporter for The Fence Post since February 2016. She’s a University of Northern Colorado alumna, who grew up in Weld County, Colo. She can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm. ❖