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Colorado Farm Bureau talks oil and gas, water at legislative conference

A oil/gas well rises into the air with the Rocky Mountains in the background at a site near Windsor.
JIM RYDBOM/jrydbom@greeleytribun |

Colorado Farm Bureau’s 2015 state legislative priorities

2nd Amendment

Wildlife

Animal welfare

Energy

Property rights

Water

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Country of Origin Labeling

One of the Colorado Farm Bureau’s national priorities is the Country of Origin Labeling law, or COOL.

At the end of the legislative session, Colorado Farm Bureau president Don Shawcroft spoke of the bureau’s hopes to encourage the state legislature to pass a resolution to urge Colorado’s national representatives to fix COOL, because of lasting animosity from Canada and Mexico in regards to the law. He pointed to the three rulings against the U.S. by the World Trade Organization, each saying COOL is in violation of free trade agreements.

The U.S. appealed the latest ruling late last year. The WTO will look at the appeal Feb. 16-17.

Continuing with COOL as is, Shawcroft said, could have a $500 million price tag for Colorado. Though he said that number is not all from the agricultural sector, he emphasized the importance of keeping Canada and Mexico as trade partners.

It’s a new era for agriculture’s relationship with oil and gas.

That was the message sent by the speakers at the Colorado Farm Bureau’s 2015 Legislative Conference on Thursday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The conference’s general session — an open discussion with legislators, bureau officials and members — looked at the legislative issues facing farm and ranch communities.



Energy is among the Colorado Farm Bureau’s top priorities at the Capitol. There haven’t been many bills introduced in the Legislature relating to oil and gas yet this session, but Director of State Affairs Nicholas Colglazier said the bureau will watch for them and take positions accordingly. He added that the Colorado Farm Bureau will continue to keep an eye on the proposals for legislation coming out of the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force. Colglazier also emphasized the importance of farm bureau members making sure their representatives know “agriculture and (the) oil and gas industry are working together now rather than against each other.”

Rayola Dougher of the American Petroleum Institute spoke at the session about the impact of oil and gas on ag.



Fracking was a game-changer in the U.S., she said, lowering natural gas prices and benefiting industries across the board, including agriculture.

State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who serves on the Agriculture Committee and the Transportation and Energy Committee, said affordable energy is among his top priorities.

“Low-cost energy is what made this country what it is today,” he said.

The other big item up for discussion was, as Colglazier said, “Water, water, water.”

There are many water bills in the Legislature that the Colorado Farm Bureau is watching, but none caused quite as big of a stir among the members in attendance as House Bill 1038.

The bill, which the Colorado Farm Bureau supports, would allow the owner of a specific water right more flexibility in selling the water on the open market, Colglazier said. Provisions in the bill would protect other water users and keep 50 percent of the water on the farm, he said, which allows farmers to benefit in both water use and profitability.

Brian Werner of the Northern Water Conservancy District also spoke at the session, highlighting the district’s current water projects and the benefits to agriculture.

He emphasized the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would create the Glade and Galeton Reservoirs and provide storage for 40,000 acre feet of water, which is enough to serve 160,000 households of four people per year. The Galeton Reservoir would be located northwest of Greeley.

“We think by providing an additional water supply it keeps some of the pressure off ag supplies,” Werner said, noting that it can’t eliminate the pressure entirely.

Though the legislative session is only about one-fourth of the way through, the Colorado Farm Bureau has taken a position on 54 bills. This, Colglazier said, is usually the average number of bills they address in an entire session.


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