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RMFU members speak to Colorado Legislators

DENVER– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members from throughout Colorado drove to Denver Feb. 15, to learn more about proposed legislation affecting family farmers and ranchers and to speak to Legislators about their concerns.

More than a dozen senators, representatives and aides joined some 20 RMFU participants at a luncheon discussion. Topics discussed were various water bills; HB 1219 concerning compensation to landowners for damages made by companies when drilling oil and gas; a bill that would lessen the authority of the Colorado State Fair Board; and, development control.

Sen. Lois Tochtrop told the group about a bill she is sponsoring which would lessen the rate at which agriculturally-zoned land near urban and suburban areas, that is not currently in production, could be condemned and purchased for development.

“I’m concerned with less and less open land and the incentive authorities have—due to anticipated tax revenue—to deem agricultural land ‘blighted’,” Tochtrop told the RMFU members. “I do what I can to support family farming and ranching in Colorado.”

House Agriculture Committee Chair Kathleen Curry told RMFU that she is sponsoring HB 1219, to compensate agricultural producers and other landowners for damages to their land when companies that own the land’s mineral rights drill for oil or gas. Curry noted that her bill is opposed by the oil and gas industry but is supported by agricultural and environmental organizations.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Jim Isgar briefed the group on a number of water bills before his and other committees, including HB 1185, sponsored by Rep. Greg Brophy. This bill concerns the authorization of the operation of temporary changes of water rights for up to five years and allows the approval of such changes to mandate replacement of depletions beyond the five-year period if necessary to protect senior water rights.

“It’s one thing to provide flexibility during a drought, but we want to make sure the other parties of that ditch are not negatively impacted,” Isgar commented in regard to HB 1185.

RMFU Board Chair Jan Kochis had an opportunity to explain RMFU’s opposition to HB 1272 and to ask for Legislators to oppose it. This bill would reduce the authority of the Colorado State Fair Board to an advisory capacity.

RMFU member John Ellis asked for legislative support of farmers markets statewide by allowing the state highways to place official brown and white signs pointing out the location of farmers markets. “The farmers markets will be glad to pay for the signs, we just need the authority to place them on the side of state highways,” Ellis said.