Bill Hammerich: Colorado Governor starts food fight with farmers and ranchers
Agriculture is a significant contributor to Colorado’s economy, generating more than $40 billion in economic activity annually and supporting more than 170,000 jobs. Jobs in transportation, retail sales, food sales and restaurants, and tourism are just a few supported by agriculture.
As well as contributing to the state’s economy, agriculture holds a tremendous duty to protect the environment, through stewardship of the land, water and air. Land in farms and ranches provides habitat for wildlife and open space and, above all, producing food.
Beef, frozen and fresh, is by far and away Colorado’s top export, with over $1 billion in exports in 2018 ahead of electronics, medical equipment and aerospace products. So, when the beef industry learned the Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, made a pitch to the Department of Agriculture leadership that they should research plant-based proteins and delivered 250 Impossible Whoppers to the department staff, you can bet we were astonished.
For the Governor to suggest that Colorado agriculture begin focusing on growing vegetables for plant-based proteins is confusing to the farmers and ranchers who have worked the land in rural Colorado for decades. Not only because Colorado’s arid climate doesn’t allow for growing the extensive list of ingredients in plant-based burgers and alternative proteins, but also because Colorado’s beef industry contributes so much to the state’s economy.
What the Governor should be aware of, is that livestock producers utilize grazing land that is too mountainous, dry or nutrient poor to be farmed and would otherwise go unused. Livestock are able to convert solar energy in plants that’s inaccessible to humans into high quality protein and other products such as leather and pharmaceuticals.
Farmers and ranchers share the same motivation behind the Governor’s call for innovation. Those who are still farming and ranching today, understand all too well the risks of stagnation. The cutting-edge technology used in agriculture provides for our continued success and allows for the transition of the family business to the next generation.