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RMFU urges legislators to think ‘outside the line’

DENVER – The president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union today urged Colorado lawmakers to incorporate within any growth legislation a set of creative tools that will provide farmers and ranchers with the ability to keep land in continual agricultural production without diminishing their property values.

In an email sent to Colorado legislators Friday morning, RMFU president Dave Carter urged the adoption of transferable development rights, impact fees, and other measures as a part of any long-term legislation to curb urban sprawl.

“I want to dispel the notion that ‘all of agriculture’ opposes any steps to address growth issues outside the line of any designated Urban Service Area,” Carter wrote. “If agriculture has a future in providing food and fiber, open space buffers, wildlife habitat, watershed protection and scenic vistas, we need to have the tools necessary to protect the long-term viability of agriculture outside of any designated line.”

The RMFU leader noted that consecutive years of low commodity prices have caused many farmers to rely on the value of their land for operating loans, and for ultimate retirement income. He challenged the description of farmland as a farmer’s 401(k) plan saying, “No reasonable 401(k) plan requires a business owner to dismantle the company to pay retirement benefits. Yet that is the case when agricultural producers are forced to rely on the value of their land – rather than the income from their crops and livestock – to finance retirement.”

“This scenario dooms long-term agriculture by denying young and beginning farmers an opportunity to get started in business. No reasonable agricultural producer can compete with housing developers for the price of prime agricultural land in the urbanizing corridors,” Carter wrote.

Carter said that development of options such as transferable development rights, impact fees, and land-link programs can provide the tools necessary to decouple the development value of land from its agricultural value, and to compensate producers for that development value without requiring the land to be removed from agricultural production.”