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Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Senators applaud FDA’s grains clarification; Hemp expansion in Colorado?

Colorado senators applaud FDA’s grain clarification

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall of Colorado on Thursday welcomed the Food and Drug Administration’s commitment to revising a proposed rule regarding the handling of spent grains, according to news releases from each of their offices.

The proposed rule would have made it harder and more expensive for breweries to sell leftover grains as animal feed, sparking concern from Colorado’s craft brewers, as well as frustration from livestock owners.



In a blog post Thursday, titled “Getting it right on spent grains,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine, said the FDA had no intention of disrupting or discouraging the recycling of spent grains as animal feed by imposing additional food safety standards.

“We understand how the language we used in our proposed rule could lead to the misperception that we are proposing to require human food manufacturers to establish separate animal feed safety plans and controls to cover their by-products, but it was never our intent to do so … we will take the necessary steps to clarify our intent … so there can be no confusion.”



— Staff reports

Maintain Ban on Brazilian Beef to Protect U.S. Ranchers & Consumers

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on its proposal to allow the importation of beef from several states in Brazil with a recent history of unresolved foot and mouth disease (FMD).

“As we’ve seen in the past, consumer confidence in the safety of our food supply is easily jeopardized by even rumored threats,” said Johnson. “NFU’s family farmer- and rancher-driven policy is clear on this issue: livestock, animal protein products and meat imports from countries with a history of FMD and other infectious livestock diseases put the entire U.S. livestock industry at risk due to the very real possibility of transmission of FMD to U.S. livestock. APHIS must maintain the current ban on importation of fresh beef from Brazil.”

Inconsistencies between animal health disclosures reported by APHIS and the World Organization for Animal Health further erode NFU’s confidence in the safety of beef imports from countries with a history of FMD presence and a poor food safety record. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled Brazilian cooked and canned meat on three occasions in 2010 due to drug contamination.

The economic costs of an FMD outbreak in the United States would be tremendous. A 2002 study found that if an epidemic similar to the outbreak that occurred in the U.K. in 2001 were to strike the United States, a loss of $14 billion in U.S. farm income (in 2002 dollars) would result.

— National Farmers Union

Hemp expansion sails through Colorado Senate

A Colorado bill to expand industrial hemp production has cleared the state Senate and now heads to the House.

Senators voted 35-0 Wednesday to expand the number and size of farms growing hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin.

The measure would allow year-round hemp cultivation in greenhouses and strike a 10-acre limit on hemp for research and development.

Colorado just opened applications for hemp cultivation in March, with applications accepted until May. Agriculture officials say there is strong interest and that industrial hemp research and production should be expanded.

— Staff reports

Drought: Two years too much

Water that farmers have relied on in the past was not available during last year’s drought.

While some water was available in the 2012 drought, two years was too much for the Arkansas Valley That should be a wakeup call for the future, Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum Thursday.

“Obviously, drought reduces the water that’s available for replacement,” Witte said.

Farmers need replacement water in order to pump wells, and now to operate sprinklers fed from surface ponds.

That competition is increasing.

A study for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District showed that the replacement water needs will double by 2050, as more farm improvements are needed.

Right now, farmers use about 25,000 acre-feet (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons) to augment wells and sprinklers. That could grow to a need of 50,000 acre-feet by 2050.

But Witte presented figures that showed an even greater need already in place. From 2002-13, farmers used 39,000 acre feet annually. About half of that came from drying up other farms.

For the remainder, farmers relied on return flows from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project or leases from cities, primarily Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora.

As the cities grow into their supplies, that water will be less frequently available.

— The Pueblo Chieftain

USDA awards $6 million for climate change study

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $6 million to 10 universities to finance the study of what climate change means to agriculture and strategies for helping farmers and ranchers deal with weather changes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants Tuesday during a conference about climate change held at Drake University in Des Moines.

Vilsack told the audience the grants would lead to information and developments that would be essential to farmers.

The grants were made through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The grants will go to the University of Colorado, Cornell University, Florida International University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Montana State University, Oklahoma State University, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University.

— U.S. Department of Agriculture

New Website Connects Consumers with Agriculture

Colorado farmers and ranchers are excited about the launching of a new website, My Colorado Food.

The site encourages real conversations about Colorado food and farming, while providing factual answers to commonly asked questions in agriculture.

The site, developed by members of the Colorado Farm Bureau, helps consumers access facts about food and farming without having to dig through pages of search results. The website focuses on agriculture in Colorado, but answers questions that span across the country.

“There is so much misinformation about how food is being produced that it is often difficult to find credible facts,” said Don Shawcroft, President of Colorado Farm Bureau. “We developed this site so consumers can go to one place to address their questions and see the facts that back up the answers.”

The new site focuses on eight main areas: animal welfare, hormones/antibiotics, GMO/GE foods, Organic/Local food, Corporate Farming, water, wildlife/natural resources and food safety. Each area answers five questions and provides resources for more information. There is also an area on the site dedicated to general agriculture facts, called Food on Your Table.

To access the new site use the following link: http://www.mycoloradofood.com

There is also a Facebook page found at https://www.facebook.com/mycoloradofood, where consumers and producers can engage in meaningful dialogue. Questions and their answers as well as facts will be posted on a regular basis to engage the public.

People can connect on Twitter as well @MyColoradoFood.

— Colorado Farm Bureau

House OKs $300,000 expo bill

A bill to spend $300,000 on renovating facilities at the Colorado State Fair passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 47-17.

HB1300, sponsored by Reps. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, and Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, transfers the money from the general fund to the State Fair Authority Cash Fund to renovate and improve a pair of dilapidated dormitories at the State Fairgrounds that are used throughout the year by state 4-H clubs and the Colorado branch of the Future Farmers of America.

The money also would be used to install new air fans in the Livestock Pavilion and the Palace of Agriculture, add a new sound system for the Livestock Pavilion and purchase new portable goat pens.

Garcia said Wednesday that he is pleased by the significant bipartisan support for this bill.

“It passed by a pretty good margin. This will be an important bill for not only the Colorado State Fair, but also for the programs of 4-H and FFA,” Garcia said.

Garcia said after posting the bill’s passing on his Facebook page several people commented that they were excited about support for the two programs.

“We are very happy with the support we received from the House,” said Chris Wiseman, Fair general manager.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

— The Pueblo Chieftain

Fruit bill goes bad

The great fruit wars may have subsided for now.

A bill that would have designated the Palisade peach as Colorado’s state fruit was pulled from House business Wednesday afternoon.

The HB1304 was laid over for lack of support until May 9, essentially killing the measure for this session, said Rep. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.

The issue, sponsored by Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, has become controversial, pitting the peach against the Rocky Ford cantaloupe and Pueblo chiles.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Clarice Navarro, R-Pueblo West, said that designating the Palisade peach as Colorado’s state fruit would hurt Colorado farmers and possibly hurt agriculture revenue as a whole.

Navarro said the bill gives one piece of produce a pedestal that no other produce in Colorado receives, and it sends a message to farmers that their produce is inferior to that of the peach.

“I am mystified as to why Representative Williams has suddenly taken such an interest in ‘helping’ the agricultural community. Her votes during the 69th General Assembly tell a much different story.

“The argument is not whether the Palisade peach is a good piece of produce, because it is. The argument is why does it get singled out over other Colorado produce such as the Rocky Ford cantaloupe or Pueblo chiles?”

— The Pueblo Chieftain


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