Showcasing pork sustainability for Colorado governor in Yuma County
Representatives from the Colorado Pork Producers Council, Colorado Livestock Association, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association met with Gov. Jared Polis on Oct. 16 in Yuma County. The group toured Heritage Dairy, Prairieview Sow Farm, Stanley Brothers hemp farms, Five Rivers in Yuma, an ethanol plant and Smithfield pork operations.
Sustainability was the theme and Joyce Kelly, executive director of the Colorado Pork Producers Council, said it was an opportunity to showcase agriculture. Yuma County, Kelly said, is the 23rd largest hog producing county in the country, significant when compared to the huge amount of production in some other regions.
“(Sustainability) is the one word you could probably come up with 500 different definitions of what people think sustainability is,” she said. “We asked him what his definition of sustainability was, but I don’t think that was as important as the message of what we believe sustainability is.”
Brett Kaysen, the assistant vice president of sustainability for the National Pork Board joined the tour and was able to visit with the governor to highlight the ways in which pork has been sustainable while using significantly less land, water and other resources.
Kaysen said the pork industry’s recent life-cycle analysis was among the information he shared with Gov. Polis. In tracking data from 1960 to 2015, the study looked at the inputs required from the field to the farm gate to produce a pound of pork. Since the beginning of the study, the industry has reduced land use by 75 percent, water usage by 25 percent, energy usage by 7 percent, and, in all, reduced the carbon footprint of pork by 7 percent. Kaysen said the land reduction is due, in part, to moving hog production indoors but the land utilized to produce feed is still included and reflects the increased efficiency of grain producers as well.
“In terms of sustainability, we’re producing more pounds of pork than we ever have, with less inputs than we ever have,” he said. “In all reality, that’s sustainability because we’re having less impact on the environment.”
Solar and wind power usage and the conversion from incandescent to LED lighting in barns have also brought energy savings to operations, all things Polis was able to witness during his Yuma County visit.
Kaysen, a Colorado native who spent about 20 years at Colorado State University prior to joining the National Pork Board, meets with consumers to highlight the ways in which pork is raised that ensures a quality pork product on the plate. He also spends time on operations working with producers to find ways to demonstrate improvement over time.
“I’m proud of the people of Yuma County,” he said. “They kept their minds open, they were very professional, they asked good questions, they pushed back when they needed to, and I thought we represented animal agriculture well that day.”
Kaysen admitted his passions and the things the governor is passionate about don’t always align but he appreciated his willingness to make the trip to Yuma County and see sustainability first-hand. Differences aside, he said, producers and consumers can find common ground in respecting and valuing clean air and water.
Bill Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association, said the day was a great opportunity for dairy and hog producers to interact with Gov. Polis about both the benefits of and hurdles to adopting renewable energy sources on their operations.
In a statement, Gov. Polis touted his administration’s commitment to the future of agriculture in Colorado and his commitment to renewable energy like that used in pork production.
“It was great to join agriculture leaders, producers and to visit local farms in Yuma. My administration is focused on the future of agriculture, and Yuma, our second-biggest county for ag production, will play a key role in that future.”
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.