Speakers at Governor’s forum on Colorado Ag in Denver focus on collaboration in ag industry
February 22, 2017
Ag industry impact
According to experts at the 26th Annual Governor’s Ag Forum in Denver, Colorado’s agriculture industry has a $40 billion impact on the state’s economy.
DENVER — Farm operations can't work alone. It takes collaboration to make them successful.
That was the main theme of Wednesday's 26th annual Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture, driven home by many of those who spoke at the forum, including Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper, Gardner and more than a dozen others spoke to a group of 425 farmers and ranchers from across the state at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel.
The speakers said with growth and the changing desires among consumers, the industry's economic outlook and the unpredictable nature of agriculture, collaboration is key.
That rings true for all of agriculture, but especially in Colorado, where the industry is one of the largest in the state, said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown.
It's a lesson not lost on Hickenlooper, either. Although the governor doesn't have a background in the industry, Brown and former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden attested to Hickenlooper's ability to advocate for the industry.
For his part, Hickenlooper credited the industry with helping the state recover from the Great Recession.
"When almost every industry was on its back … (agriculture's) inflow of money made all the difference between a small and slow comeback to a quick one, which we were able to do," he said.
Still, Hickenlooper said, with the current political climate in the United States, there is uncertainty about what will happen to the agriculture industry if markets are not available for producers outside the nation's borders.
According to Hickenlooper, about 50 percent of Colorado's agriculture exports are to Mexico, so collaboration through open communication with elected leaders is important when it comes to trade.
"Isn't it time for Congress to settle down and work together?" he asked rhetorically about relationships with Mexico, regarding trade and immigration.
Gardner, who grew up in an agricultural family in Yuma, shared Hickenlooper's sentiments.
"Trade in this country is important, and we have to make sure trade opportunities are open and stay open," Gardner said.
Gardner reminded farmers collaboration with those outside the industry also is important because it helps bridge the gap between myths and realities in the industry.
"I don't think people are as focused as they should be on agriculture," he said.
Brown told those at the forum agricultural collaboration can happen at different levels, too. He pointed to the work Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., do together to help out the ag industry, regardless of political party.
"We have two U.S. senators who care about agriculture," Brown said.
But having politicians who will advocate for the industry isn't enough for producers, according to former Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Tom Kourlis.
"Perception is important," he said, "and we have to be careful on how we are perceived by the public."