2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Commissioner of Agriculture Salazar meets with General Assembly Ag committees

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

“My goals with the administration, and the governor has made it clear, to ensure that rural Colorado is heard,” Salazar said. Noting that farm income and exports have been up in the last two years, Salazar said “we have a window of opportunity to promote agricultural products. There is nothing more beautiful than rural Colorado,” he said…

Based on USDA data, agriculture generates $28 billion in economic activity and supports 110,000 jobs. That includes 37,000 farms and ranches throughout the state. But about 54 percent of those farms and ranches generate less than $10,000 per year in sales, Lipetzky said; and 15 percent generate more than $100,000 per year in sales. Livestock sales make up the largest share of cash receipts, with 58 percent, or $3.3 billion in sales; crops generate another $2.3 billion annually.

The state is a national leader in barley, cantaloupe, lettuce, potatoes, sweet corn and winter wheat, and is the nation`s top producer of millet, Lipetzky said. It also is a leader in the number of cattle and lambs fed, meat processing technology and animal welfare, and Colorado is the number one state for beer brewing.

Exports topped $1.6 billion last year, going to customers in 99 countries; with beef as the top ag export for the state at $550 million and in 2011 estimated to rise to $600 million. That`s due to increased demand through trade agreements with Korea, and new and expanded access in Japan and China.

A growing market in Colorado is agritourism, Lipetzky reported. Nearly 700 farms in Colorado offer agritourism and related recreational activities, which generated $30 million in sales, and the state`s wine industry brought in another $50 million.

As to the jobs that come from ag, Lipetzky said that in more than half of Colorado`s counties, one in 10 jobs come from ag. In 13 of the state`s counties, it`s one in three. The two top counties for ag-related jobs, with more than 50 percent of the jobs in ag, are Washington and Kiowa counties, in Eastern Colorado.

Last year, the department surveyed industry leaders on challenges and opportunities in ag. The top challenge, cited by 37 percent of respondents, is water, which included concerns about multi-state compacts and diversion for non-ag uses…

As to water issues, Salazar said he will be a strong proponent of keeping water on agricultural land and protecting the state`s water rights, although water issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources. He also noted that Gov. John Hickenlooper had tapped former ag commissioner John Stulp to be the state`s water czar. “If people have a better understanding” of what makes rural and urban communities work, “there can be greater understanding of working together” on water, Salazar said. “We can`t destroy one area of the state to build another.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

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