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State of the state debate

“State of the state is strong,” says Governor Owens. “The state of rural Colorado is not so strong,” counters Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

The Governor’s message today for rural Colorado was simple. He has heard the cries and has responded. “In our struggling agricultural communities, I was pleased to sign legislation granting $14 million in permanent tax relief,” said Governor Owens in his annual state of the state address today at the Colorado Legislature.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), the 20,000 member general farm organization, while applauding the tax credits he passed into law—$4 million of which were sponsored by RMFU— realizes that much more needs to be done to divert what has become a crisis in rural Colorado.

“We appreciate Governor Owen’s commitment to rural Colorado and urge him to make good on his promises to help agriculture,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “The governor should have ample opportunity this year to sign into law some bills that will truly be beneficial to agriculture and rural businesses.” In his address, the governor spoke at length about healthcare in rural areas. “I believe—when the budget returns to surplus—that we should expand both accessibility and affordability by providing a tax credit for small employers who offer health insurance to their workers.” said Owens.

“The governor’s proposal is right on the money,” commented Stencel. “This year, RMFU has a bill that will provide just the assistance to small businesses the governor is talking about, without the fiscal impact of a tax credit,” added Stencel “We would urge his support on this measure.”

RMFU has introduced several proposals this session that would help provide some of the critical rural economic development the governor seemed to support in his speech. “Maintaining Colorado’s organic certification program will be a major stimulus to the organic industry in Colorado,” said Stencel. Colorado’s organic industry is already one of the strongest in the nation, and the fastest growing among all agricultural sectors.

RMFU’s agenda for rural Colorado also includes country-of-origin labeling and providing farmers market coupons for mothers and infants. “While country-of-origin legislation is best passed on the federal level—and the Congress is now looking at it—we need states to take leadership and force the issue,” said Stencel.

“As a general farm organization with a pro-active legislative agenda, we will look to the Governor to support several of our measures to bring economic vitality back to rural Colorado,” concluded Stencel.