The 2013 Colorado legislative session has finally come to a close, and the Colorado Farm Bureau has been working throughout the session to protect agriculture and rural Colorado.
Prior to the General Assembly convening, the farm bureau set priority areas including water, energy, fiscal policy/budget, property rights, animal welfare and wildlife.
Water was a big issue during this year’s session and Colorado Farm Bureau proved to be a leader on this issue.
“We were able to pass legislation that enhanced protection of senior water rights, as well as added tools to keep water on the farm while still finding a way to meet the growing demand for water from our city cousins,” Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau, said.
Agriculture contributes about $40 billion to Colorado’s total economy and more than 85 percent of the state’s water use is for agriculture.
There is growing pressure to transfer more of that water for municipal and industrial uses, and the farm bureau worked on a number of bills that protected agricultural water rights in a variety of ways.
This included legislation that provided alternative options to agricultural buy and dry, a bill that clarified adjudication standards for water storage, a bill that protected old irrigation water rights whose decrees were ambiguous regarding the amount of acreage that may be irrigated under the water right, a measure to incentivize the conservation of designated groundwater, and legislation that protected old irrigation water rights, with an erroneously located point of diversion by allowing the owners to apply for a correction in the point of diversion.
Recently, House Bill 1269, dealing with mineral rights, was defeated in the Senate after passing through the House.
“Farm bureau’s first and foremost concern is the provision in the bill that changes the definition of waste,” Shawcroft said. “This change would devalue a mineral right if Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulation prevents the resource from being developed.”
Earlier in the session, a bill dealing with codifying animal husband practices was defeated.
“Defeating HB 1231 was a huge win for our state’s dairy farmers,” Shawcroft said. “We believe that our dairymen listen to consumers’ concerns, applying the latest scientific research, and utilizing generations of practical experience to provide the best care for their livestock, and putting animal husbandry practices into state statute is not beneficial to agriculture. This bill would have not have improved animal welfare and could have hindered innovation in the dairy industry.”
The farm bureau also closely monitored a bill that would have increased the cost of food for Colorado citizens by requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.
“Colorado Farm Bureau believes consumers should have a choice in the food that they buy, and we believe that this exists through the USDA Organic and voluntary labeling programs,” Shawcroft said. “Labeling is really a topic for discussion on the federal level through the use of science and reason, not at the state level based on emotion.”