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Putting together a rural legislative package for Colorado

Mead>> Marketing, labeling and healthcare bills will most likely emerge from the final urban legislator forum held Monday night in Mead, Colo. Over 40 producers and rural citizens voiced their opinion on the proposed legislative initiatives at the meeting sponsored by Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU).

“We are here to talk to rural Colorado about agricultural issues,” said Rep. Dan Grossman, D-Denver. “Most importantly, we are here to listen to your concerns.”

The first comments of the evening regarded the allocation of water to agriculture. “What is going to happen to water in this state?” asked one member of the audience.

“We need to focus our water policy around conservation,” said Rep. Alice Madden D-Boulder. “We can work to curtail the use of water in urban developments which will go a long way towards stretching water resources.” The rapid expansion of Colorado’s population puts extreme pressure on the state’s water. “Let’s begin to talk about ways cities can pay farmers for water-conservation technology, if they are interested in acquiring more water,” said Dave Carter, president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

The concept of providing local producers with incentives to furnish local markets proved popular. “What happened to the program that provided farmers who donated products to food banks with tax credits?” asked Bob Munson, a farmer from Boulder.

In addition to promising to look into the issue, the legislators announced two other initiatives to stimulate the marketing of local products. A Colorado born-and-raised label would provide producers in the state with the possibility of marketing their products at a premium price in the grocery store. “This idea of Colorado born-and-raised really resonates with me, commented Grossman. “My constituents are consumers who want to know where their food comes from.”

“We would also like to see a program in which Colorado institutions are required to purchase food products from Colorado farmers and ranchers,” said Rep. Bryan Jameson, D-Ft. Collins.

Given the location of the meeting—at ground zero of the growth debate—growth was a hot topic. “Right here we are in the growth twilight zone,” commented Jerry Hergenreder, a farmer caught in the middle. “Weld County cannot get enough growth and the city of Longmont wants to create a buffer zone between developments.”

“Of course there are no easy answers,” said Madden, “However, I did pass a bill in the special session that requires dispute resolution for counties and municipalities with conflicting master plans.” The legislators also talked of bills that will increase enforcement of existing growth regulations.

Healthcare remains one of the most vexing questions facing rural Coloradoans. “Healthcare is affecting everybody in this country,” said Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. Among the proposed solutions was to create a statewide reinsurance pool, designed to decrease premiums.

“We need to consider access and affordability of healthcare as an important part of national safety,” said Marty Walter, a member of the audience.