Q and A with Colorado Farm Bureau’s Nick Colglazier
Colorado’s $40-billion agriculture industry consists of dairy operations, meat-packing plants, feedyards, ranchers, lamb producers and growers of sugar beets, corn, onions, wheat and beans, among others.
With such extreme size and variety, the legislative issues and future challenges facing Colorado ag are also plentiful and diverse.
Nick Colglazier, director of public policy and state affairs with the Colorado Farm Bureau, took time to discuss those issues with the Fence Post.
Q: What legislative issues are you following closest this year?
A: Colorado Farm Bureau, being an agricultural organization, focuses its priorities in three main policy areas: protection of private property rights, natural resources and, of course, policy that affects the agricultural industry.
Already in the 2013 session, Colorado Farm Bureau has taken a position on more than 45 bills with more sure to come.
This year, the Colorado Farm Bureau has engaged on many water bills and helped pass a bill that will protect and enhance our ability to store water, which is essential in a semi-arid climate, as well as a bill that will help protect some of our state’s earliest water rights.
Aside from water, CFB is engaged in a wide range of issues.
One that would have directly impacted the ag sector was a bill prohibiting the docking of tails of dairy cattle.
CFB was strongly opposed to this, not because we condone the practice, but because we had immense concern about codifying animal husbandry and production practices in statute. Thankfully, the bill died on the House floor.
As of late, a bill that would have serious ramifications for mineral right property owners has been introduced that CFB will be trying to stop.
These are just a few issues that CFB has take a position on.
Q: What are the main challenges facing Colorado ag today?
A: Ag has always been a challenging endeavor, but in today’s world, it seems to be all the more true.
Colorado has evolved from its pioneering, agrarian society founding into an urban-centric culture. This alone presents Colorado agriculture with a multitude of challenges.
As the state’s population condenses into the urban/suburban corridors, a greater number of Colorado citizens are farther removed from agriculture, and with this comes a loss of understanding about our industry.
This lack of understanding about agriculture has led to much of the misinformation about issues, like organic produce and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), as well as issues on animal welfare, which is being put forth.
While dealing with these issues can be a daunting task, it also presents us with a wonderful opportunity to promote the great things the ag sector is doing.
The changing population dynamic also means representation for the agriculture industry in the state Legislature is and will be a growing challenge.
Rural districts are becoming larger in area, but smaller in number, and the number of legislators directly involved in agriculture in the General Assembly is miniscule for the state’s second-largest industry.
Finding a way to keep a strong voice in the policy process will be challenging, yet essential to the success of our industry.
Another challenge that Colorado agriculture is facing is the expanding regulatory oversight by both the state and federal government.
Not only do Colorado’s farmers and ranchers have to worry about what lawmakers might do, they also must worry about what bureaucratic entities, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and others, will enact.
In recent years, we have seen the regulatory oversight expand tremendously causing more burden to Colorado family farms and ranches.
Q: Aside from legislation, what are some of the efforts taking place to help mitigate those concerns?
A: Colorado Farm Bureau is engaged on many fronts to address the many challenges agriculture is facing.
Colorado Farm Bureau is involved in and promotes a program called Ag in the Classroom.
This program seeks to improve agricultural literacy, awareness, knowledge and appreciation among pre-K-12 teachers and their students.
Another program that Farm Bureau is involved is the Senior Field Studies Program.
This program is a great opportunity for our members and senior students from Bear Creek High School.
The program pairs selected students with farmers and ranchers across our state.
Our members then host the students on their operations for a couple weeks and involve them in the day-to-day activities that it takes to make a farm or ranch successful.
This is a tremendous learning opportunity for these students to be directly involved in the operations of a farm or ranch and is a tremendous experience that they will have for the rest of their lives.
A program that CFB has just re-initiated is our Adopt-a-Legislator Program.
As the representation in our legislature becomes more urban centric there is a need to bridge the divide between urban and rural.
This is a program where our member counties build a relationship with a legislator by visiting their home district to learn about the legislator issues and concerns and bring the legislator out to experience the issues that Colorado farmers and ranchers face.
Hopefully as our counties foster their relationship with their legislator, they will both grow to understand each other’s issues and bring a little more understanding of agriculture to the state legislature.
Q: What do you believe will be some of the main challenges for ag in Colorado 10 years from now?
A: One of the greatest challenges that agriculture will face in the next 10 years is water.
Water is vital to agriculture, especially in the semi-arid climate we live in.
Water is also needed for Colorado’s growing cities.
As Colorado’s population grows, as it is predicted to do, the cities will see the most growth and they will need new supplies of water.
With agriculture still owning around 86 percent of the water rights in the state, ag is a likely target on where the cities will go to obtain their water needs.
CFB is always looking for ways to keep water on the land while finding a way to meet the growing demands of cities.
In addition to the water population growth will need, the decrease in the amount of arable land will also pose a challenge to the agricultural sector.
Colorado population is expected to grow by more than 1 million people in the next 10 years.
As more people will need more places to live, land that was traditionally used for agriculture will be developed.
So instead of growing the food, fiber and fuel that Colorado’s citizens utilize, it will be growing houses on some very fertile and productive land.
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of ag in Colorado? Why or why not?
A: Colorado Farm Bureau is optimistic about the future of agriculture in our state.
Lately, we have been seeing a growing demand around the world for food, fiber and fuel.
This has caused many commodity prices to rise and made farming and ranching competitive with the pay of our city cousins.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is predicting the world population will reach 9 billion by the 2050 and that between 2010 and 2050, we will need to produce more food than humans have produce in the last 10,000 years.
This alone will create terrific demand and open up more markets.
In agriculture, there are always going to be new and demanding challenges that our industry will face, but aggies are a resilient and innovative bunch who will adapt, endure and overcome any challenge that we face to continue our stewardship of the environment while providing the food, fiber and fuel to people around the world. ❖