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Town Meeting Fosters Urban-Rural Understanding

ALAMOSA—Three Democratic legislators traveling here to listen to concerns of San Luis Valley agricultural producers, Sept. 30, heard a variety of suggestions regarding the role of Colorado State government in helping agricultural producers build a stronger marketing relationship with consumers across the state.

Producers attending the forum sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union urged the urban lawmakers to help provide incentives for a variety of new marketing avenues for independent farmers and ranchers. The Democratic legislators participating in the session agreed that a growing number of urban residents are concerned about the source of their food.

“One of the things that we have been talking about is providing some type of incentive for retail stores to carry more locally grown products,” said State Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland. “I would like to see the large retail stores have a special section for Colorado-grown products. I think consumers would like to see that, too.” Ranchers attending the meeting expressed frustration over the inability of consumers to be able to know the country of origin of many of the products they buy in the grocery store. State Sen. Lewis Entz, R-Hooper, noted that he was frustrated that the cafeteria at the Colorado Capitol does not serve Colorado potatoes.

House Minority Leader Dan Grossman, D-Denver, actively worked for passage of legislation in the 2001 regular session that would have required stores to post the country of origin of meat, produce and honey. That bill died on a tie vote in the Colorado House of Representatives in April.

“This is simply truth in labeling,” Grossman said. “People have a right to know where their food is coming from.”

Rep. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, also attending the Alamosa forum, reviewed with participants the complex issues surrounding rural health care and noted that Southern Colorado lawmakers are working together for a common solution.

Producers attending the forum also urged lawmakers to pass legislation in the 2002 session to bring Colorado’s organic certification program into compliance with newly issued federal regulations.

“We have been certified under the Colorado program for several years. It’s a good program, and we want to see it continued,” said Paul New, a potato and quinoa producer from Mosca.

Plant told the audience that he was willing to carry legislation in the upcoming regular session to keep Colorado’s state organic certification program operating.