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RMFU Members Did Just That At The Colorado Legislative Drive-In
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s Colorado Legislative Drive-In is over, yet for members attending the event their voice in policy development is just beginning.
State Legislators In Attendance
Rep. Barbara McLachlan highlighted her focus on addressing issues affecting rural schools as well as her work on the new young and beginning farmers tax credit.
Rep. Rochelle Galindo highlighted her passion for workforce development, including current efforts to raise the minimum wage and create additional employee protections.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg highlighted his commitment to the Ag community, including addressing workforce shortages and over-regulation.
Sen. Dennis Hisey thanked RMFU for the opportunity to learn more about the Ag community.
Rep. Jeni Arndt highlighted the importance on meeting and working with your local legislators. This year, she is running a bill to allow farmers with less than 3 acres to participate in farm stands, a piece of legislation brought to her by one of her constituents at the RMFU convention in Cheyenne.
Rep. Kimmi Lewis provided an update on her efforts to create country of origin labeling standards as well as “meat has feet” standards, prohibiting synthetic meats from using meat labels.
Rep. Dylan Roberts highlighted the name change of the rural affairs committee and how it allows them to hear rural issues beyond agriculture, such as healthcare, education, and workforce development. He also invited the RMFU membership to the Kate Greenberg Happy Hour at Stoney’s on Wednesday.
Aides: Sen. John Cooke, Rep. Julie McCluskie, Rep. Dylan Roberts
BCPA Colorado Legislative Update (SEE POSTERS BELOW)
Ed Bowditch and Alaina McWhorter provided an update on legislative priorities at the Colorado capitol. With Democrats controlling the Governor’s office, Senate, and House, the biggest mystery of the session will be how the legislature funds a wide array of ideas with limited revenues. RMFU is following a handful of legislative priorities, some of which will be among those competing for state funding.
· Governor Polis’ Free Full Day Kindergarten: Governor Polis campaigned on free, full day kindergarten for all CO students. The effort is anticipated to cost $225 million and has stirred debate over funding kindergarten versus buying down the Budget Stabilization Factor.
· Expansion of the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act: Legislation is expected to remove the current limit on the number of drivers licenses able to be issued to undocumented immigrants, as well as expand the number of offices where individuals are able to access such a license.
· Creation of the Young and Beginning Farmers Tax Credit: Will create a tax credit program to ease the transition of agricultural assets by increasing the financial benefit of and access to the program.
· HB19-1102 Nonanimal And Lab-grown Meat Misbranding: Defines misbranded food as “meat” or a cut of meat that does not come from animals and declares that lab-grown meat is misbranded as “meat” or a cut of meat if not labeled “lab-grown” or “artificially cultured”.
· HB19-1113 Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts: Requires mining operations demonstrate an end date for water quality treatment and have adequate financial assurances to execute a water quality reclamation plan.
· HB19-1124 Protect Colorado Residents From Federal Government Overreach: Clarifies the role of Colorado state agencies and employees in federal immigration enforcement efforts, including prohibiting access to ICE agents to certain state spaces.
· HB19-1132 School Incentives To Use Colorado Food And Producers: Creates a grant program to incentivize school food purchases from local growers, producers, and processors.
· SB19-067 Rural Development Grant Program Creation: Creates a rural development grant program to issue grants to early stage rural businesses that are primary employers with the potential to export goods or services outside of the rural area.
Patty Edelburg, VP National Farmers Union
Patty provided an update on the National Farmers Union legislative platform. At the latest national convention, nine special orders were passed directing this year’s legislative agenda. Among them were egg coops, supply management for dairy farmers, uses of E30, immigration, climate change, expanding renewable energy, water management, soil health, trade deficits, and moratoriums on mergers. NFU acknowledges the farm economy has dropped 49% in last five years and that they are key to turning that trend around. The biggest focus is always the Farm Bill, as well as the focus on the transition to renewable fuel, such as corn ethanol for E30, and the impact of the Federal shutdown on farmers.
Kate Greenberg, Commissioner of Agriculture
Newly appointed commissioner of Agriculture, Kate Greenberg, provided an update on her goals moving forward as commissioner, primarily increasing transparency and engagement. She hopes to continue conversations at the Capitol and with the Governor’s office relating to supporting family farms and local communities. In her first six months, she hopes to spend most her time listening – engaging with stakeholders, building relationships, and learning about the issues from the boots on the ground. She then wants to shift the conversation to next generation farming, how we support the transition of agriculture from retiring generations to incoming generations, with goal of keep land for agricultural use. Also focused on agricultural markets, whether local, regional, or global, and wants to support producers in water and land stewardship.
Alex Funk, CO Water Conservation Board
Alex highlighted the wide variety of agricultural issues facing producers in the state, from student debt and housing costs to drought and fire catastrophes. CWCB focuses on water quality and forecasting issues and works closely with Federal partners/stakeholders. CWCB also has grant programs to assist with water management and health. The first big priority is the need to move forward with implementing the CO Water Plan to address the gap in water supply and the demand of the growing front range population. A 2020 ballot initiative may ask voters to decide how to fully fund the plan. Other major priorities are creating drought contingency plans and addressing ground water concerns.
Dianna Primavera, Lt. Governor
Lt. Governor Primavera focused her time on the creation of the new Governor’s Office on Saving People Money on Healthcare. As with the state legislature, the executive office is also concerned by rising healthcare costs. With the Lt. Governor’s history in the health field, she was appointed to lead the charge.
Speaker KC Becker
Speaker Becker highlighted the emphasis on healthcare reform for the session before shifting focus to TABOR reform as her major legislative push for the upcoming years. The Speaker described the process and goals of de-Brucing and polled the audience on their interest in seeing a ballot question on the matter.
Jennifer Benson, National Young Farmers Coalition
Jennifer highlighted the goals of NYFC to provide education, resources, and assistance to local farmers.
James Thompson, Office of Sen. Michael Bennet
Implementation of the food and farm bill as well as staffing at USDA offices.
Steven Emmen, Office of Sen. Cory Gardner
Working on water regulations relating to ditch management as well as staffing issues at BLM and USDA.
Sally Anderson, Office of Rep. Joe Neguse
Emphasized that representative wants to hear from constituents as he enters his first term in office.
Dusty Johnson, Office of Rep. Ken Buck
Running legislation to prohibit congress-person’s use of federal funds during a federal shutdown.