Farm bill talks in Washington won’t be the only legislative discussions that could have an impact on the local agriculture industry, Colorado Farm Bureau officials said recently in Greeley.
At the Colorado Farm Show, policy experts with the farm bureau told their audience that the 2013 Colorado General Assembly will likely include talks over various oil and gas measures, water issues and genetically modified organisms — the latter of which was recently argued in California and in Boulder County.
While an official bill hasn’t been introduced, Nicholas Colglazier, director of state affairs with the Colorado Farm Bureau, said in an interview following his presentation last week that there are “certainly talks” of a proposed measure at the state level. It would be aimed at requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs.
In California, Proposition 37 failed to pass in the November election, following a highly publicized debate between opponent and supporters.
The proposition would have made California the first state to require such labeling for foods sold in the state, and would have prohibited products containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled or marketed as “natural.”
If a similar measure comes up for debate in Colorado this year, Colglazier said the Colorado Farm Bureau would fight it.
Colglazier and GMO proponents say science shows GMOs are safe, help farmers get better yields with fewer chemicals, are necessary to keep local farmers competitive in the national and global markets and are needed to help increase production and feed an ever-growing population.
The labeling of the products with GMOs would just add to the cost of certain foods — possibly reducing demand for those items and impacting farmers’ incomes.
A three-year debate over GMOs also took place in Boulder County from 2008-11.
A few farmers who leased acres on Boulder County’s open-space land asked for permission to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets on that ground, but GMO opponents argued that the plants are dangerous to human health, harmful to the land, support agribusiness corporations and go against Boulder’s emphasis on local and natural foods.
In the end, though, Boulder County commissioners came to the unanimous decision to allow limited planting of GMOs on county-owned open space land.
Colglazier was joined in Greeley by Brent Boydston, the Colorado Farm Bureau’s vice president of public policy, who spoke on federal farm legislation issues, such as the new farm bill that has yet to pass.
Back at the state level, Colglazier said he expects multiple bills to be introduced regarding oil and gas development and property rights.
He said those will likely be introduced after the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission makes its final decision on a setback rule on Feb. 11.
The COGCC’s proposed regulations include the requirement that all drilling sites are at least 500 feet away from any occupied buildings — up from an existing requirement of 150 feet in rural areas.
Local crop growers say such a requirement could put new drilling sites in the middle of what’s now productive farmland, result in lost crops and, therefore, lost income.
The issue is of particular concern to farmers who own land adjacent to community developments.
The COGCC has discussed including “variances” that, when applicable, wouldn’t require a 500-foot buffer between the drilling site and an occupied building.
However, Colglazier said the COGCC recently took that language out of its proposal.