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2022 CO Legislative Session “Greatest Hits”

 

The following is an overview of some of the bills of note from the forty-four bills that RMFU influenced during the 2021-2022 Colorado Legislative Session. To see a complete list, see our Bill Tracker at: Dossier | State Bill Colorado (statebillinfo.com)

Busy working on chores or riding in a tractor? You can listen to the 2022 CO Legislative Wrap Up Report by clicking on the audio player below!

HB22-1308 Colorado Ag Workforce Services 

RMFU supported

This Bill PASSED.

What: Helps ag employers implement new labor law requirements and allows farmworkers to understand the rights that are afforded to them. $142,859 was appropriated to create and maintain the portal for the next year.

How: Creates an educational portal regarding ag labor. CDA will curate resources and information for wage and labor law compliance, heat stress, injury prevention and other information.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Ag Labor, Worker Dignity and Economic Justice pg. 74) We support providing appropriate training and tools to minimize the risk of injury in the workplace. We recognize oligopolies, fixing prices, and cheap food policy harm farmers and farm workers. We support efforts to assure fairness for all involved in the production of food.

Note: This bill was brought forward by RMFU and originally had a grant program intended to assist employers as they absorb additional costs during implementation. Even though there was widespread support for this bill (it passed out of House Ag unanimously), funding had to be trimmed to compete with other Democratic priorities.  

HB22-1313 Agricultural Housing Public Health COVID Emergency 

RMFU supported

This bill PASSED.

What: Follows the most current science-based guidance for ag worker housing.

How: Adds an alternative option to current requirements that allows employers to follow CDPHE guidance during a Governor declared health emergency regarding Covid 19.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Housing pg. 83) We urge Colorado Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to modify standards affecting agricultural workers living in employer-provided housing to specifically address the challenges of public health and safety emergencies.

Note: RMFU sounded the alarm over the challenges of compliance with the Employer Provided Housing provision in last year’s Ag Labor Rights and Responsibilities Act, and, with the engaged support of the ag industry and CDA, this bill passed without too much resistance. 

SB22-028 Groundwater Compact Compliance 

RMFU supported

This bill PASSED

What: Incentivizes the reduction of groundwater pumping from two of our most stressed aquifers. 

How: Creates a fund to offset the loss of value to farmers in the Republican and Rio Grande basins for curtailing the amount of water they pump for irrigation.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Water pg. 66) We support the management of water to allow aquifers to recharge. We support ground water recharging for maximum beneficial use of water rights.

Note: As much as RMFU hates to see any irrigated agriculture acreage decline, this fund will provide relief to producers making the tough decision to reduce water use. $60,000,000 was appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources for use by the CO Water Conservation Board.

SB22-029 Investment Water Speculation 

RMFU opposed

This bill FAILED.

What: Attempted to limit outside influence on the rising cost of agricultural water.

How: Would have prohibited a person with more than a 10% share in a mutual ditch company from buying water rights with the intent to profit from an increase in the water’s value.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Water pg. 65 and 66) We believe water is a private property right and support Colorado’s historic doctrine of prior appropriation. We oppose the public trust doctrine. We support legislation that protects agricultural and individual water rights.

Note: One of the most perplexing bills of the session, this seeks to rein in out-of-state speculative interests that are increasing water prices in the state. Everyone agrees that these outside forces are making it harder for accessing agricultural water and for families to pass these assets down to the next generation. However, it’s very difficult to create language in statute that can curb these trends without injuring private property rights and changing our Historic Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. This bill was originally scheduled to be in committee today but has now been delayed. We expect it to be amended quite a bit if it is to move forward in the Legislature this year. RMFU has grave concerns with the rapidly rising value of agricultural water and that out-of-state interests are a part of that pressure. However, our policy supports that ag water is a perfunctory private property right and any reform needs to fit within our historic doctrine of prior appropriation. We support efforts to create more transparency regarding water transactions and expect this to be brought up during the next Water Resources Review Interim Committee.

HB22-1151 Turf Replacement Program 

RMFU supported

This bill PASSED.

What: Reduces municipal water use.

How: Directs the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a program that would provide incentives for voluntarily removing irrigated turf for landscapes with lower water needs.  

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Water pg. 66) We support the implementation of water conservation and efficiency strategies.

Note: Ultimately, this will reduce municipal demand on water. It was only funded at $2,000,000 and will not fund too many acres to be converted but it is an important step in adaptation to a dryer environment.

HB22-1301 Controlled Environmental Agricultural Facility and Agricultural Property

RMFU recommended amending

This bill PASSED.

What: Supports agricultural innovation in greenhouse production.

How: This bill will allow for personal property in hydroponic greenhouses, used for food production, to be tax exempt.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Taxes pg. 75) We support the concept of basing agricultural property tax on productivity.

Note: Although we supported this bill, we maintained an amend position because we hoped to expand it to greenhouses that have additional production methods, such as soil-based systems, aquaculture or hybrid varieties, in addition to solely hydroponics. Impacts to tax revenue should be considered for rural counties but enterprise development should offset any loss of revenue.

HB22-1364 Food Pantry Assistance Grant

RMFU Supported

This bill PASSED.

What: Helps food insecurity and local food production.

How: The bill will continue providing funds for the purchase of local products for food pantries. Funds also provide technical assistance for connecting farmers and ranchers to food pantries and allows some funds to help pantries increase capacity and bolster infrastructure. 

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Local Food Systems pg. 82) We support the Colorado Food Pantry Assistance Grant. We support a local procurement mandate for Food Pantry Assistance Grant funds.

Note: $3,000,000 were appropriated for next year. The bill originally called for additional funding to be allotted for upcoming years but these funds were not included in the final bill. RMFU is happy to see more of a priority put on requirements for local food procurement.

HB22-1414 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students 

RMFU is monitoring

This bill PASSED.

What: Provides free meals to all students enrolled in public schools, creates a local school food purchasing technical assistance and education grant program and allows schools to receive additional funds to increase the wages of individuals employed to prepare and serve food.

How: This will now be a referred measure to voters to provide free locally-sourced lunches to all students, It will be funded through state tax collection by limiting what taxpayers can deduct from their taxes.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Local food systems pg. 82) We support the purchase of locally grown and raised food by food pantries and state funded institutions and the funding of technical assistance to support those purchases. We support implementation and expansion of a “Farm to School (Cafeteria)” program for the school meal programs, including before and after school programs for public and private schools. We support flexibility regarding the safe distribution and reimbursement of meals for qualifying students even when schools are closed due to emergency.

Note: RMFU has not yet taken a position on the upcoming referred measure. RMFU policy supports many aspects of this idea, but the ultimate price tag starts around $1,000,000 per year. However, it looks as though higher yearning individuals will foot much of the bill. 

SB22-199 Native Pollinating Insect Protection Study

RMFU is monitoring.

This bill PASSED.

What: Guidance for the protection of native pollinating insects and education and programming for their preservation.

How: Requires Department of Natural Resources to conduct a study on the health of native pollinators.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Bees and Pollinators pg.25) We support research on solutions to the causes of pollinator loss. We acknowledge the results of research indicating that multiple factors contribute to the decline in pollinators, including pesticides, habitat loss, pathogens, parasites, and climate change. We encourage action to support the health of bees and other pollinators.

Note: This bill was originally a small portion of SB22-131, another bill that failed earlier in the session. The original had numerous troublesome provisions. However, there were some aspects that RMFU supported. In the end, we opposed the original bill but negotiated an amendment for studying the multiple components that affect pollinator health. That amendment turned into this bill.  

SB22-209 Meat Processing Grant and Loan Assistance Program

RMFU supported

This bill PASSED.

What: State-funded technical assistance for securing federal funding for expanding meat processing.

How: This bill funds a position at CDA to assist in applying for federal loans and grants.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Federal Grading and Inspections pg.25) We support inspection of all meats, either domestic, imported, or non-amenable (bison, deer, elk, or other exotic species), to ensure such products meet all state and USDA regulations and standards. The USDA grading and inspection services necessary for food quality and safety should be tailored to meet the needs of individuals and cooperatives. There should be no charge for these services. We urge USDA to establish simplified and minimal paperwork and record keeping requirements for small USDA inspected meat packing plants. (Vertical Integration and Price Fixing pg. 48) We urge all branches of government act to prevent oligopolies and monopolies and remedy the concentration of power in the packing, marketing, processing, and crop and livestock input industries.

Note: Although there is not specific RMFU policy that supports this bill, it is inherent that we support expanding meat processing capacity especially for small meat processors. This will be limited funding to aid in securing federal grants. We support additional funding for technical assistance in starting and maintaining meat processing facilities. 

SB22-031 Prohibit Hunting of Bobcat, Lynx and Mountain Lion

RMFU opposed

This bill FAILED.

What: Limits management techniques for large cats.

How: Would have prohibited the hunting, trapping or wounding of Bobcat, Lynx or Mountain Lions.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Wildlife Management pg. 76) We support farmers and ranchers receiving equitable damages to livestock and loss of productivity due to wildlife. We support the development of state policies to enable farmers and ranchers to mitigate the impacts of predators to livestock. We support best management practices in wildlife management administered by the CPW. We oppose increasing wildlife populations at the expense of livestock grazing or to the detriment of the ecosystem.

Note: This bill would have eliminated CO Parks and Wildlife ability to manage large cat populations through hunting and would have made it extremely difficult for ranchers to take steps necessary to protect their livestock. Ultimately, wildlife management should be done through science-based decisions by professionals and not through the Legislature.

SB22-138 Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Colorado 

RMFU recommended amending.

This bill FAILED.

What: Would have reduced ozone and ag sector greenhouse gas emissions. 

How: Would have funded a study to determine opportunities in the ag sector to examine carbon reduction and sequestration including a carbon-offset and carbon credit program, prohibited small lawn and garden engines by 2030, provided a tax credit for electric small engines and promoted agrivoltaics.

Why: RMFU 2022 Policy

(Emissions pg. 73) We support state and national greenhouse gas reduction targets that use a voluntary incentive-based approach to continue the economic viability of farms and ranches. We ask for mandated greenhouse gas emission reductions across all sectors of the economy.

Note: This bill had numerous iterations and we made a lot of progress on the bill. It stalled during the final week of the session and did not make it to a final vote. We expect to see this come forward again next year.