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Box 758 Greeley, CO 80632
‘BACKWARDS THINKING’ COLORADANS PRODUCE THE FOOD YOU EAT AND THE ENERGY YOU USE
COMMISSIONER EDITORIAL, WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2013: STATEHOOD INITIATIVE Author: Commissioner Douglas Rademacher Topic: Agriculture
Date: 9/10/13 Contact: Jennifer Finch, 970-336-7203
When our forefathers first stepped on the shores of this country, they realized that to survive, two things needed to be done: they needed to build shelter and they needed to produce food. Since that historic moment, agriculture has been one of this country’s greatest achievements and most stable industries. When the industrial revolution began, however, this country witnessed the start of the migration from the farm to the urban centers. During this time, this country also witnessed the beginning of a political shift from rural to urban representation. This political migration, which took place over several decades, has hit a pivotal point today. Currently, in the United States, less than 2% of our population produces the food supply for the other 98%. The overwhelming majority of our population is removed from the realities of what it takes to grow a crop and raise livestock yet enjoys – and expects – not only the lowest cost of produce in the world (in America, people spend less than 10% of their disposable income on food, while other countries spend up to four times as much) but also the safest food supply on the planet. We are generations removed from our agricultural heritage, and it is endangering the future of our country. It is endangering the future of our state. As a fourth generation farmer and rancher in Weld County, I have witnessed this urban-agricultural disconnect progress for decades. The past eight years, in particular, have been extremely troubling to observe as there has been no balance in our state legislature. Departments, such as Colorado Water Board Commission and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, have enacted rules through a process with no oversight and no justification and no fiscal impact review (despite Governor Hickenlooper’s executive order stating such review would take place). In fact, many of these rules not only adversely affect the rural parts of this great state but also impose requirements above and beyond current requirements outlined by Federal agencies such as the EPA and FEMA. Example: In 2009, the Colorado Water Board Commission made changes of the Flood Plain rule, taking it from a 100-year rule to a 500-year rule. While these rules have little impact on Front Range communities, they have
a huge impact on rural Colorado. For example, this rule will force smaller communities in the rural sections of the state to endure huge expenses in the future when faced with the need to upgrade their water treatment plants; an egregious example of no oversight, no justification and no fiscal impact review. In my opinion, this rule change results in a large taking of private property rights with no benefit, in most cases, to the general public. Example: New rules regarding set backs of oil and gas operations and facilities – again passed through the rulemaking process, require farmers and ranchers to endure new rules which will have long-lasting negative impacts on agricultural operations. A 1,000 foot setback equals approximately 75 acres of land. So instead of putting these operations on the fringe of field they could be placed in the middle. This will have huge impacts on irrigated land, which is common in rural Colorado. These new rules were based on emotion with no science to support them. Example: What many farmers and ranchers deem as the straw that broke the camel’s back, Senate Bill 252, signed into law this summer, increased the mandate that rural electric utility companies produce a percentage of their energy by renewable resources from 10% to 20% – an idea so ‘good’ the urban areas served by city-owned utilities and private corporations exempted themselves from the increase. Naysayers of the 51st State initiative spout the need to work with the current legislators, to talk to representatives, to work within the system. To those people I say this: rural Colorado has been talking to legislators, we have been asking for seat at the table on issues that directly impact our livelihoods and homes, and we have been ignored. Currently, at the statehouse, there are only two representatives who come from agricultural backgrounds. Currently at the capital, there is a governor who thinks rural Colorado (and other states) is “backwards thinking”. Currently, in our society, people think their food comes from the grocery store. Tell me…how do you work with that? People have asked me – why do the rural areas of Colorado want to leave Colorado? The answer, sadly, is simple. They don’t want to leave Colorado – Colorado has left them. Denver has muffled and muted the voices from the very parts of the state that provide its food, produce its energy, and preserve its history. In Weld County, and in many other counties across this state, we say “No More!” 785