2014 Colorado legislation: Ag leaders hope to bridge the Ag-Urban divide this session #COleg

51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record
51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Candace Krebs):

While leaders meeting recently in Loveland considered last year’s general assembly a failure and even a disaster, they could at least take solace knowing they made headway in getting their concerns heard. A nationally publicized secession campaign in northeastern Colorado gained enough traction to help unseat two prominent Democratic legislators and forced a third to resign in order to keep the seat under Democratic control.

National media has tended to portray gun legislation as the biggest source of the rift. Clearly, gun control laws are unpopular among farmers, many of whom hunt or live in remote areas where local law enforcement is hindered from responding quickly to security concerns.

But ag leaders who met in mid-December seemed to indicate that House Bill 252, mandating the state get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, had driven the deepest wedge.
Rep. Lori Saine, a House ag committee member from the Fort Lupton area and one of several lawmakers who met with farmers during a legislative town hall event, described it as an “injustice” that would end up boosting electricity rates by 20 percent in rural areas while having little or no impact on Front Range utilities.

Greg Brophy, of Wray, a state senator and Republican candidate for governor, advocated the repeal of 252, saying it needed to be eliminated before any money was sunk into meeting the new requirements.

Among the bill’s criticisms is that it does not include hydropower as a renewable energy source. Hydropower makes up a significant portion of the energy portfolio for rural electric cooperatives, and hopes are widespread that further hydropower development can be piggybacked onto infrastructural improvements needed following the August floods.

Others questioned whether the new bill would actually contribute to a cleaner environment.
Randy Traxler, a wheat farmer from Otis, pointed out that coal is still being mined in the West, only now it’s being exported to China, a country where pollution controls are lax…

Rep. Fischer, a Democrat from Fort Collins, is chairman of the House ag committee.

“My sense is agriculture is very well represented at the legislature, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into total agreement on all of these issues,” he said at one point.
However, he added, there does appear to be an urban-rural “disconnect.”

“I think it’s real, and I think it’s something the state needs to address,” he said during a panel wrap-up.

His statements drew a compliment from Wray’s Brophy, who sits on the state’s Senate ag committee.

“I’ve watched you really grow into your role as committee chairman,” Brophy said to Fischer, recalling how his House colleague went from sponsoring the infamous “tractor tax” targeting heavy equipment emissions in 2010 to backing important water conservation legislation this year to study groundwater management alternatives along the South Platte River.

Brophy called it “the most significant water bill of the year for farmers.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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