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Urban Lawmakers Discuss Issues in Rural Town Meeting

LA JUNTA—Metropolitan-area legislators are anxious to work with rural citizens to craft state legislative solutions to revitalize Colorado agriculture, three Democratic state lawmakers told a gathering of area residents here at a town meeting, Sept. 29.

“When we talk about transportation in the Denver area, T-Rex (the metropolitan highway expansion program) dominates the conversation. But we know that the roads in rural Colorado are important lifelines for communities across the state,” said House Minority leader Rep. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, at a meeting held at Otero Junior College.

Sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the forum was the first of five such meetings in which Denver-area lawmakers will meet with rural citizens to discuss agricultural issues.

Participants at the La Junta meeting urged lawmakers to support legislation to require state institutions to purchase food and fiber from local producers. Loretta Kennedy, Pueblo County Commissioner, told the Democratic lawmakers that the concept of requiring institutions to purchase locally grown food has the support of the 13-county Arkansas Valley region. “That makes a lot of sense,” Grossman said. “We need to utilize all of the resources of the state to support our state’s producers.”

Area farmer Carl McClure noted that similar efforts in the past had been plagued by excessive paperwork. “When they handed you all of the forms that needed to be filled out, it became obvious that only the big guys were going to be able to participate.
Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland, noted that the state needs to recognize the different regulatory environment needed to distinguish between small businesses and large businesses.

“My wife and I own a small café, so I know the difficulty small businesses face trying to comply with all of the rules and regulations,” Plant said.

In addition to Grossman and Plant, State Rep. Kelly Daniel, D-Golden, also traveled to La Junta to participate in the session. State Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, attended as well.

Participants in the forum urged lawmakers to develop proposals in which urban areas needing more water would help pay for on-farm conservation efforts. One farmer noted that Israel has developed extremely sophisticated irrigation techniques such as tapelines and drip systems. Those systems, however, are extremely capital intensive.

“It seems to me that we can have enough water, but the cities need to help us conserve the water if they want it for their residents,” one farmer said.