Colorado officials celebrate ag at the state capitol |

Colorado officials celebrate ag at the state capitol

Story and Photos by Robyn Scherer, M. Agr.
Kiowa, Colo.
John Salazar, Colorado's commissioner of agriculture, speaks to attendees about the importance of agriculture and exports.

Cowboys and Cowgirls on the Range

An enduring image of Wyoming is one of cowboys and cowgirls on the range.

They are on horseback, taking care of the livestock and the land. An historic ranch building may be sitting nearby. In the distance, there are mountains, forests, or splendid open spaces as far as the eye can see. The cowboys and cowgirls are dressed for the job, with cowboy hats, boots and rugged outdoor wear.

On the range, the cowboy hat protects against the elements. In other settings, for example, at stock shows or around town, it shows what the wearer does for a living. Beyond that, though, ag producers feel at home in their hats and use them for nearly every occasion. Cowboy hats are a symbol of the West, to be sure, but they are much more than symbolic headgear. They are comfortable and practical for our work, which is often outdoors in all kinds of weather. They are like another appendage. Wearing a cowboy hat says louder than words, “I’m an ag producer and proud of it.”

I have learned not to underestimate the value of a cowboy hat. This past summer I had the honor to travel to Asia looking for new trade opportunities for Wyoming companies, for the people of Wyoming. In Taiwan, I attended the Taipei International Travel Fair. This was an enormous event with well over 200,000 people passing through it. It was an event filled with potential for our state, and folks from the Wyoming Office of Tourism made the trip with me. The United States had recently signed a new policy allowing the 23 million Taiwanese citizens to visit our country without a visa. We would love to host lots of visitors from Taiwan in Wyoming and we said so.

While I was at the Taipei Fair, I donned one of my cowboy hats for the occasion and walked through the dense crowd. I stood out. Let me say up front the cowboy hat made a big difference. It was a warm reception as people heard I was from Wyoming, a state most know. Reporters approached to ask about the Cowboy State, and I posed for many pictures and heard only glowing reviews of our state, people and reputation.

Half a world away our way of life, culture and heritage are recognized and revered. The cowboy and the cowgirl are icons; the chance to meet one in the flesh is unique; and a cowboy hat is an invaluable asset - it says something important about what we stand for and people are drawn to it.

Of course, the men and women who work in agriculture every day and over many years have built the great reputation Wyoming agriculture enjoys. Wyoming has 11,000 farms and ranches, each with a special story and each preserving a way of life esteemed in the United States and across the globe. Wyoming ag producers supply food for the nation, add to the state’s economy as Wyoming’s third largest industry, and preserve centuries-old history and traditions. And there’s more. They provide habitat for wildlife, places for hunting and fishing, and vast open areas that improve the quality of life. The incomparable views, as well as the sight of working farms and ranches, are sought out by travelers from other states and from around the world.

I couldn’t help but notice the interest in American ag products during the Asia trip. One stop was a supermarket. In the meat department, an entire section was devoted to American beef. In the most populated continent, I saw that there is intense demand for U.S. beef, which is sold at a premium. This bodes well for our future, and I am committed to highlighting Wyoming’s agricultural products whenever and wherever I travel.

Success does not come by accident nor does it come easy. Those of us in agriculture have had to overcome adversity and many challenges. We have a proven record of adaptation and of using our resources in a conservative manner. We are good stewards, and centennial farms and ranches are a testament to the staying power of Wyoming ag. We build on our successes, educate the next generation, and run operations keeping the past, present and future in mind.

In particular, I believe now is the time to focus on water. Water is the most vital resource in our state. Those of us in agriculture live with this reality every day, every season. So, I am asking that you help me create a Wyoming water strategy. Already hundreds of people from across the state have given us input about how to approach water development, management, conservation, protection and restoration. A water strategy is needed to safeguard our water for present and future generations. Thanks to all those who are engaged, and I have heard the call to push for more water storage projects of every size. Water storage projects can protect Wyoming water, and they will be a great legacy.

Forests are another significant resource for those in agriculture. We have seen forests ravaged by beetles and overall forest health has deteriorated. In response, I have asked a diverse group of individuals representing many backgrounds and interests to develop strategies to make sure our forests are sustainable and safe. This is another way to plan for the future.

Exporting more products, healthier forests, new water storage projects – these are major undertakings, not easy endeavors. Encouraging and rewarding private land ownership is also critical for the future. But Wyoming ag is worth every effort. We always want to see that iconic image of cowboys and cowgirls, not just in our memories or the history books, but on the open range.

A tip of my cowboy hat to Wyoming ag producers and all you do!

­— By Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, written in honor of National Agriculture Week, which was March 23-March 29.

Each year, agriculture producers, chefs, legislators and consumers come together to celebrate Colorado Agriculture Day, as part of the National Ag Day festivities.

This year’s Farm to Fork Culinary Competition at the state capitol in Denver featured chefs who cooked and prepared Colorado products for legislators and the general public, and competed for top honors for the best dish.

For the second year in a row, Colorado Bison earned the title of Best in Show. The chef was Klaus Krebs. First place was awarded to Colorado Pork and chef Rhett Montague. Second place was awarded to Colorado Dairy and chefs Peter Dolan and David Davis. Third place was awarded to Colorado Lamb and chef Michael Long.

During the event, several dignitaries spoke to attendees. The first was John Salazar, Colorado’s commissioner of agriculture.

“Agriculture is the cornerstone of our great state. The Colorado Proud products that are being shared here today include beef, pork, lamb, potatoes, egg, dairy, onion and many other products. That means that you are getting locally grown, fresh, quality food. Colorado farmers and ranchers help feed you, your friends, your family, and the entire world. Colorado agriculture is actually one of the largest economic sectors of the state,” he stated.

He then began to talk about exports, and the importance Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has had in increasing those exports.

“Agricultural exports are becoming an increasingly important part of our state’s economy. Gov. John Hickenlooper has been instrumental in furthering the development of Colorado agriculture. He understands being a part of agriculture makes you a part of something that is extraordinary,” Salazar stated.

Next, Gov. Hickenlooper spoke, highlighting the impact agriculture has on the Colorado economy.

“This is always one of the best events we have at the capitol. I want to thank all the ag producers, all the chefs that are out here, and hope you had a chance to taste what Colorado is all about,” he said.

He continued, “We know that events like this are important because it helps us celebrate just how important agriculture is. It is one of the top engines of our economy. Let’s make no mistake about it: $41 billion in direct economic impact last year; 37,000 farms; 173,000 people employed. Those are remarkable numbers.”

When talking about exports, he reminded people about the impact it has on the state as a whole.

“Sometimes folks don’t recognize that money doesn’t just stay in rural areas. That money bounces all over the state and really did help lead us out of the incredibly difficult recession. Since 2009, agricultural exports have gone up 70 percent, and almost doubled in the last three years. I think in the very near future we are going to break over that two billion dollar mark in exports, which is very exciting news,” Hickenlooper stated.

He added, “Last year alone we had purchasers in 110 different counties that purchased our Colorado food and agricultural products. When you look at each dollar of exported food, it really creates a $1.40 of economic impact. You are looking at every billion dollars roughly creates an additional 5,000 jobs. I think we are only beginning to scratch the surface of agricultural exports, and we are going to focus on that and get past some of the obstacles to different markets.”

Hickenlooper noted that no Ag Day would be official without a proclamation, and read an excerpt of the official proclamation.

“Whereas Colorado agriculture provides abundant, nutritional products for consumers within the state and around the globe. Whereas farmers and ranchers play a valuable role in producing wholesome, economical and safe food for thankful consumers. Whereas agriculture is the second largest contributor to the state’s economy. Whereas farmers and ranchers are critical to Colorado agritourism, welcoming tourists from around the world and sharing the taste of the Colorado experience. Whereas the state of Colorado offers sincere and honest appreciation for the farmers, ranchers and agribusiness leaders in today and of future generations of Colorado. I do hereby proclaim March 26, 2014, as Colorado Agriculture Day,” he read.

Senate Ag Committee Chair Gail Schwartz then thanked the chefs for their work.

“We are also appreciative of our extraordinary chefs, American Culinary Federation and Colorado Chef’s Association for committing to using fresh, local products to create their beautiful dishes. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are committed to dealing with issues supporting our agricultural industry,” she said.

Next, House Ag Committee Chair Randy Fischer reminded attendees to celebrate agriculture every day.

“Colorado Ag Day is actually celebrated every day of the year. I think we all would agree with that, especially if you are in ag production. As parents, who shop for healthy meals for their family, as we visit farmers markets for locally grown products, as we enjoy the food, fuel and fiber and natural resources that our farmers help produce, we are in fact celebrating Ag Day. I encourage all of you to think about the vital role that Colorado agriculture plays in every aspect of our lives. We thank you all for your hard work and dedication. Colorado agriculture is an incredible foundation on which we all depend on, it’s the foundation that can and will build strong futures for all Coloradoans,” he stated.

Lastly, Kevin Seggelke, president and CEO, Food Bank of the Rockies, thanked the agricultural community for their support.

“There is no better friend to those in need in this state than the agricultural community. On behalf of the five of us, we can’t extend a greater thank you to the ag community to get the food bank to those in need in our communities. There is no better friend from fruit to vegetables to protein, which for many folks in our state are difficult to buy, because for many of them there is too much month left at the end of the money. So on behalf of all five of us, thank you so much,” he stated.

This year, the Colorado Ag Council donated $973,000 to feeding Colorado. ❖

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