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RMFU Brings 30 to Meet with Legislature

About thirty members and officials from Rocky Mountain Farmers Union spent Wednesday, January 28, meeting with legislators and administration representatives to identify rural priorities for the new legislative year. In a full morning of meetings at the First Baptist Church across from the State Capitol, the group was joined by representatives of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources, and Governor Bill Ritter took 45 minutes from his busy schedule to listen and answer questions.

Representatives Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, Judy Solano, Joe Miklosi, Andy Kerr, Jerry Sonnenberg, Cory Gardner, and Jim Riesberg joined the group at various times to discuss pending legislation, as did Senators Mary Hodge and Greg Brophy. Some scheduled attendees were unable to conclude committee business in time to come by.

In the afternoon, participants visited legislative leaders: Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer, and Senate President Peter Groff. Senator Gail Schwartz joined the group in Sen. Shaffer’s office, where water and energy issues were discussed.

Gov. Ritter emphasized the importance of treating urban and rural citizens equitably as we review existing programs and consider pending legislation. He observed that agriculture is buffered somewhat against unemployment, where the state ranks 32nd overall. On the other hand, we are behind Nebraska in rural broadband access. Members asked many questions about the potential impact of the stimulus package. While infrastructure projects must be “shovel-ready,” there are a number of projects, including numerous outmoded water treatment facilities, that fit that description.

Speaker Carroll responded to a question about “green collar” jobs by calling them win/win ideas. “You can’t outsource green jobs to Bangalore,” he added.

It was a busy but productive day for both lawmakers and representatives of rural Colorado. One member, John Ellis of Boulder County, was able to bring a small but valuable federal program to the attention of lawmakers. “If that effort creates state support for farmers market vouchers, that alone will make the day worthwhile,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer. “Putting rural constituencies in front of our legislators benefits both sides.”