Polis bites the hand that feeds Colorado
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was gifted two opportunities to show his support of the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry and offer an olive branch. He did not.
On May 16, the governor joined the Western Slope sponsors to inform them he would be vetoing SB23-256. The bill would have ensured that a 10(j) designation was in place prior to wolf reintroduction. The bottom line is the wolves would have been designated as an experimental, nonessential population, rather than endangered. It would have given Colorado Parks and Wildlife more flexibility and would have ensured the management of wolves is led by the state.
The sticking point for Polis that led to the veto was the deadline of Dec. 31, 2023. The ballot language required the state to take necessary steps to begin reintroduction by that date. In a Jan. 15, 2021, article I reported Polis joined a CPW commission meeting on Jan. 13 where he challenged the commission to fulfill the will of the voters and reintroduce wolves ahead of schedule.
Colorado Farm Bureau’s former vice president of advocacy, Shawn Martini, said “rushing a process that is contentious in the area where the law will have an impact ought to require adhering to the process prescribed in the proposition language.”
Martini said the end of 2023 was but a target.
“(Polis is) trying sleight of hand and moving the goal post, saying there’s nothing that says we can’t do it faster… other than good sense and prudence and responsible public policy making.”
Polis went on to say wolves “basically take care of themselves” and the introduction planning isn’t as difficult as some other species, like the Canadian lynx and black-footed ferret. He also said the governor of Wyoming is “happy to send us some wolves when we’re ready.”
I would argue against both of his initial points. As for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s willingness to provide donor wolves, he’s been clear that his answer is a hard no. In a statement, Gordon said, “Wyoming is opposed to sending Wyoming wolves to Colorado because we carefully and scientifically manage our wolf population. We have target population numbers, and reducing those numbers to support a translocation in Colorado may jeopardize those successful management plans. In addition, it is likely that Wyoming wolves may very well desire to return to their home ranges, once again putting them in danger as they would likely traverse unsuitable areas of potential conflict.”
Of course, all of this occurred before naturally migrating wolves entered the state and handily illustrated just how quickly depredations can overwhelm resources.
Just hours prior to vetoing SB23-256, Polis released a statement applauding the SCOTUS decision regarding California’s Prop 12. The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation led the challenge to the California law that forbids the in-state sale of whole pork meat that comes from breeding pigs “confined in a cruel manner.” According to California code, confinement is “cruel” if it prevents a pig from “lying down, standing up, fully extending (its) limbs, or turning around freely.” Proponents argued the law would benefit animal welfare and consumer health, and opponents claimed that existing farming practices did better than Proposition 12 protecting animal welfare (for example, by preventing pig-on-pig aggression) and ensuring consumer health (by avoiding contamination).
The petitioners argued Proposition 12 violates the U.S. Constitution by impermissibly burdening interstate commerce. Pork producers across the country will be forced to change their production practices, as the California standards are different than any industry standards and the state is home to a negligible percentage of U.S. pork production.
It is not unlike Colorado’s HB20-1343 that forced the hand of egg producers in and out of Colorado. It banned the sale of eggs from hens confined in a manner that conflicts with Colorado’s standards. At the bill’s signing, Polis touted how the law would “improve the food system, the quality of food for consumers, food safety and animal welfare.” Nonsense. The bill came after an extremist group threatened a ballot proposal that would have been even more damaging, and goodness knows extremists know how to get what they want using that avenue. Consumers may recall the $7-per-dozen eggs in the grocery store and the empty egg coolers in recent months, due in part to high pathogen avian influenza outbreaks. This law combined with HPAI spelled an egg mess for Colorado not unlike reintroduction and natural migration signaled a wolf mess. Even at the height of supply-chain wrecks, often cage-free eggs were the only cartons available. That is voting with your wallet.
In his statement about the SCOTUS decision, Polis said the suit was “an economic threat to Colorado’s ability to advance laws supported by our communities that protect animal welfare, reflect our values, and keep our farmers competitive, and I’m thrilled that today’s decision will help protect Colorado consumers and egg producers.” There’s no doubt had Prop 12 been overturned; Colorado’s extremist-driven cage-free law would have been in jeopardy.
As has been his custom over and over, the governor has been presented with an opportunity to mend proverbial fences with the ag producers in the state, and he has done exactly the opposite. It is time that reasonable voters recognize the danger of biting the hand that feeds you.