Op-Ed from CO Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, “Government at its Worse”
You can file this column under Government at its Worse.
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a court hearing where the Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General’s office used its government powers to puff its chest and flex its muscles. It was an embarrassing display in which I witnessed a number of professional agricultural workers get badgered, disrespected, and abusively treated in a way that is unacceptable in every other aspect of life.
The State argued that although these applicators followed the label and best practices, the products that have gone through extensive testing by federal agencies and have been deemed safe if used according to the label, that their application was unsafe. What?!
Was this a witch hunt by an Attorney Generals office by overzealous lawyers trying to make a name for themselves? And they are getting an 11% increase from the General Fund to do more of this?
As I dig into this more deeply, I found the process even more disturbing.
It appears that someone can file a complaint against one of these licensed commercial applicators and the department does an investigation, not telling the applicator that he has had a complaint filed against them. The evidence is collected, evaluated, and stored- by one party, the department. In one of these cases, the evidence was collected in 2012- seven years ago, the others in 2014. The persons the complaint was filed against found out years later, when it was long past any time to collect their own evidence.
Needless to say, anybody that had a complaint filed against them was at a very distinct disadvantage but these businesses are professionals and they keep detailed records. They provided wind direction, details of products used, and explicit directions on how applications were completed.
As one reads the court documents and after listening to the proceedings, common sense would force you to ask the simple question before you proceed, “Is there a reasonable chance of a finding in the State’s favor?”
For the common folk the answer is simply, “Absolutely not.”
I can tell you it is rather gratifying that the judge found in all three cases that the state did not prove any of its allegations, yet these three spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to battle the deep pockets of government.
With the help of the legislature, perhaps we can put some sideboards on this egregious process and allow farmers and ranchers to continue and be the true stewards of the land.
I worry about the state of agriculture and how we continue to provide a safe and affordable food supply to a growing population.
MORE ABOUT CO SENATOR SONNENBERG
Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same farm that both his father and he were raised on growing wheat, corn, sunflowers, millet and cattle. Senator Sonnenberg was first elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2006 and immediately became a strong voice for agriculture and rural Colorado. After serving 8 years he was elected to serve from District 1 in the Colorado Senate where he represents the counties of Cheyenne, Elbert, Lincoln, Logan, Kit Carson, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Yuma, Washinton and Weld. Because of his leadership abilities, agriculture background and experience in Colorado’s land and water issues, Jerry currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He also serves as vice-chair of Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and is a member of both Senate Appropriations Committee and Capital Development Committee. Senator Sonnenberg has proposed legislation during his tenure that has reinstated the ag sales tax exemption; tried to eliminate the governments use of eminent domain in acquiring water rights; authorize spending on water projects; making it easier to build water storage projects; protect agriculture data given to government from access by the public; allows trucks to be more efficient by utilizing triple axles and larger loads on secondary roads; encourage Division of Wildlife to utilize easements rather than fee-title acquisition; secure emergency funding in tough economic times for K-12 education; create a stable funding source for highways; protect law-abiding citizens from the Governor tramping on their gun rights; secure funding for community colleges; regulatory reform and removing regulations; drug testing as a condition of receiving government assistance. Jerry was born and raised in Sterling, Colorado graduating from Sterling High School. He married Vonnie Constance Sonnenberg, a teacher at Merino Elementary School, and together have four children; Ashley, and her husband Chad Renslow of Colorado Springs, CO; Afton, her husband Russel Dains, their daughter,Cambrei and twins Caleb and Cailyn of Henderson, CO; Joshua and his wife Dani of Sterling; and Ryan also of Sterling.