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Farmers Union members drive to Denver to talk with legislators

DENVER—Twenty Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members from throughout the state traveled here Wed., Feb. 18, to learn more about legislative proposals impacting their operations and to speak with Colorado senators and representatives about which bills they would like to see passed.

Concerning House Bill 1273 mandating an increase in energy from renewable sources, Speaker of the House Lola Spradley, R-Dist. 60, told participants, “This bill is win-win. It has potential for great rural economic development and it is now a grassroots bill that is bigger than the opposition.”

The bill, which has been sponsored by Spradley for three consecutive years recently was passed by the House and will soon be debated in the Senate. RMFU highly favors the bill because it will provide additional jobs and earning opportunities for producers, and other rural citizens, who choose to establish wind turbines, grow crops for ethanol or produce other forms of renewable energy. Sen. Terry Phillips, D-Dist. 17, sponsor of Senate Bill 168, a bill that will facilitate the establishment of energy cooperatives, also addressed the RMFU participants and thanked them for support of his bill. Phillips said S.B. 168, which has passed the Senate and will soon be debated in the House, is an excellent companion to H.B. 1273, which if passed, will encourage long-term investments in the renewable energy sector.

“Both of these energy bills are important to rural Colorado and to all Coloradoans,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “This legislation provides an impetus for the development of renewable energy infrastructure, which is important for the economies of our cash-strapped rural communities. In addition, increasing energy from renewable sources is vital for national security and for environmental reasons.”

On hand to talk about the concrete value of wind energy as a form of rural development was Jim Nichols, former Minnesota agriculture commissioner and a four-term state senator. A renewable energy standard—similar to H.B. 1273—was passed in Minnesota 10 years ago.

“Though it was a bitterly fought battle when first enacted, I now know of no opposition to our state’s policy of increasing energy from renewable sources,” said Nichols. “It is the best form of rural development that I know of, and at just 3.3 cents per kilowatt hour to produce, it is good for energy companies and good for the consumer.”

Another bill supported by RMFU is H.B. 1040. This legislation would provide mitigation to communities and other users when water is sold out of its basin of origin. Bill sponsor Rep. John Salazar, D-Dist. 62, says his bill answers one of the main objections voiced by opponents of failed Referendum A.

“This bill allows all players (in a water deal) to come to the (negotiating) table,” Salazar said. “All we’re asking is for everyone to work cooperatively to mitigate losses, such as a shrinking tax base, rather than having the parties spend all their money litigating in court.”

RMFU members also heard about the dire situation of the Colorado state budget from Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Dist. 6. “The public needs to understand how bad things are. We may have to look at things like closing community colleges if we don’t get serious about fixing the constitutional amendments that force us to keep cutting our state budgets.”