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Delta, Colo.—Five key state legislators underlined commitment—in the form of tangible legislation— to rural Colorado at a meeting held Saturday night at the Delta VoTech Center.
Several pieces of legislation took center stage as three front-range legislators joined two from the west slope to solicit ideas from those present. “As ‘urban’ legislators, we recognize the absolute importance of a diversified economy in Colorado, of which agriculture is a fundamental part,” said Rep. Jennifer Vega, D-Denver.
Legislation to require state institutions to purchase Colorado-grown products drew strong support from those present. “This program would give local producers a foothold in the marketplace, allowing them to expand into other areas as well,” said House Ag Committee member, Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland.
Parallel concerns about the rapidly growing demand for Colorado-grown products and the subsequent need to label and market those products arose from the audience. “Coming from Boulder County, I can attest to the demand for organic or family farmer grown products. I see no reason that demand can’t answer to what Colorado can supply,” said Plant.
Glenn Austin, an organic fruit grower from Paonia, commented on the need to label Colorado products to meet this growing demand. “Instead of talking about country-of-origin, we should be talking about county of origin labeling,” commented Austin.
“Beyond marketing, labeling our food supply is a matter of national security,” said Charles Klaseen, rancher from Crawford.
“The Colorado Proud program is a good first step,” said Rep. Kay Alexander, R-Montrose, who moderated the meeting. “We need to promote and expand this program to build consumer confidence and loyalty to Colorado producers.”
Another issue of vital importance to small producers is market access. “Regulations that may fit large industries or businesses may be burdensome for the small producer,” said Dave Carter, president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“My wife sells vegetables to the local health food store and her customers are more than willing to buy her product at a premium,” added Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Durango. “We need to expand this market and as a legislative body find ways to avoid imposing unnecessary regulations on these producers.”
Health care and transportation were also important issues for members of the audience. Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, attended as well.
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