Colorado Ag Day celebrated at state capitol

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From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

The noon conference also featured the presentation of a check for $65,000, representing food and cash donations from the Colorado Ag Council, to five area food banks. The food donations included 130,000 eggs, 40,000 pounds of wheat, 14,000 pounds of onions, and 350 gallons of milk, which will be turned into 250,000 meals.

Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar pointed out that 40 different food commodities are produced in Colorado. Consumers have numerous options when providing nutritious meals for their families and a wealth of local products to choose from, he said. Coloradans treasure its agricultural bounty, and said the governor has said agriculture will be a priority in his administration. Colorado’s challenge, and the nation’s, will be to help feed the global population; in the next 50 years, more food will be needed than in the previous 10,000 years combined, he said.

“Don’t ever buy Idaho potatoes!” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Schwartz’ district includes the San Luis Valley, which produces much of the state’s potatoes. “Make sure it’s a Colorado potato!”

Representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Sen. Jim Isgar said the Obama administration has put an emphasis on exports, and that in Colorado, $1.65 billion had been exported to other countries from Colorado agriculture, almost $1 billion more than just five years ago.

More ag business coverage from Marianne Goodland writing for The Colorado Statesman. From the article:

Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spoke at a Monday conference in conjunction with the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The conference focused on improving global exports for small business, including agriculture. Colorado agricultural exports were up 14 percent last year, Vilsack said, and the USDA is projecting a 21 percent increase in 2011. Colorado is an agricultural state, which he said is not appreciated by people outside of the state. Every billion dollars of trade generates 8,500 jobs, and with Colorado’s $1.65 billion in agricultural trade last year, that’s more than 14,000 jobs, he said. “If we can increase [the number of jobs] by 21 percent, obviously we’re talking about more job opportunities and a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers, one that allows them to stay in business and even expand their business.”[…]

One of Colorado’s problems, as identified by Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar and his predecessor, John Stulp, is the flight from the farm, and the reluctance of young people to get into farming. Vilsack said the USDA has several programs to address that issue, such as a beginning farmer and rancher loan program, which provides help to farmers and ranchers to get them started. The program helps beginners with learning how to put a business plan together and how to access USDA products and programs. The USDA also helps with marketing, linking new fruit and vegetable growers with local farmer’s markets, he said.

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