By Michael Cox

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Montrose Cattlewomen during their meeting on April 20 to give them an update on all the vicious attacks ag is facing, not only here on the Western Slope, but all over the state. We talked about the PAUSE initiative, the Farm Workers’ Rights Bill, and wolves.

I asked the group members how they liked being thought of as perverts. We had a laugh and then a lengthy conversation about what I used to call a silly petition. But Initiative 16, the so-called animals rights bill, is anything but silly. It is deadly serious. The people who are pushing it will do anything to get it into law. And they are not telling the truth about their motives.

If they cannot beat us with Impossible Burgers and meat-out days, they will just make it impossible for livestock producers to raise livestock for meat. The purpose is to destroy — especially cattle ranching. Fortunately, the petition is on a slow track because the major livestock associations have filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court. It was accepted by the clerk of the court on April 14. The suit calls into question the legality of the title of the initiative, which is 144 words long and covers several subjects. An initiative title, by law, should cover one subject and be very clear about the intentions of the proposed legislation.

I checked with Terry Fankhauser’s CCA office April 20 regarding the disposition of the filing to find out when oral arguments might be heard. Sarah Didericksen, in the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association office said that so far, they have been told that the court would hear the case in late May.

They are glad they waitedWith the freeze that was predicted for last week, a number of valley farmers held off putting seed in the ground ahead of it. Ground level temps did drop below 32 degrees, some well below 30. Talking with some of John Harold’s workers on April 19, I found that they had waited. They are glad they did.

I texted Jami English at Honey Acre Farms about the asparagus crop that they have been cutting for a couple of weeks already. Jami came back with the report that the stalks now have been frozen solid. The good news, they will remove the frozen stalks and the next round will come up just fine.

The temps dropped to the low 30s in some regions on the morning of April 20. Ground level temps were still freezing sprinkler water as of this morning. Ground level lows are expected to remain in the 30-40 range for the rest of the month. Daytime highs will run 58-74.

Carbon in your ground

I asked Mendy Stewart, Education Outreach jefe for the Shavano Valley Conservation District, if anyone in the district had a carbon contract yet. I got the answer from District President Ken Lipton on April 20. He said: “I don’t know of any contracts in the area. We do have a carbon sequestration field study in cooperation with CSU ongoing in the Ridgway area. The study will help determine if application of compost on a hayfield will improve carbon sequestration in the soil. We also have a program just starting using the application of friendly microbes onto a corn field in the Montrose area. We will be measuring potential increase in productivity. This is part of a statewide ‘pre-pilot’ project called STAR … Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources. Please let me know if I can provide additional information on these projects or any of Shavano’s activities.”

Thank you, Ken.

Nick Gray Hall of Fame induction May 5

The twice delayed Farm Credit FFA Agriculture Hall of Fame 2020 inductions will take place in two locations, as well as being broadcast on a virtual meeting network.

The Montrose induction banquet for the late rancher/road builder Nick Gray will be staged at the Elk’s Club, 801 Hillcrest Drive. The induction ceremony will occur on May 5 and begins at 6 p.m., with dinner to follow.

Individual seats for the induction ceremony are priced at $75, minimum purchase two. You may order tickets online at fs17.formsite.com/donthorn/7g1cp7fpzc/index.html, or call the Colorado FFA Foundation at 719-829-4483.

30 by 30 order, Biden’s assault on ag land

So, we have the Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill, Initiative 16 that wipes out the livestock business, a drought, and Wall Street money folks wanting to buy up water rights for profit, wolves about to be loosed in the forests, pushing the ag business into a corner. And that is at the state level.

Now it is the feds’ turn.

Back in January Joe Biden signed a barrel full of executive orders, one of them got the brief title “30 by 30” plan. Sleepy Joe’s idea is to dedicate 30% of our working lands, federal and private, to conservation. There are no details yet and anything other than the terse order. We do not know much about the plan. No one does. The word conservation as it applies to this effort is not even defined.

The move is all about climate change, according to the sparse comments from those who know, like recently confirmed US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. In an appearance on a National Public Radio panel Vilsack said: “The president has committed to a 30 by 30 effort: 30% of our working lands (private and public) being dedicated, in some form or fashion, to conservation (by 2030). I think that also plays to the strength of CRP. I think it’ll play a particularly important role in that.”

If you recall, CRP is the Conservation Reserve Plan, which is supposed to conserve and improve soil, protect water quality, and establish a long-term cover for highly erodible land. The CRP justification also targets “land in need of conservation buffers that has previously been in row crop production.”

I am going to go out on a limb here and label the whole thing as a land grab. The goals of the 30 by 30 plan includes the following: support locally led conservation efforts; work toward a more equitable and inclusive version for nature conservation; honor the sovereignty of tribal and indigenous communities; support private land conservation; all to be guided by science.

There is much nervousness about the details, which are not forthcoming, even as the Administration ramps up for an April 27 launch of the plan, which is 91 days after the signing. Executive Orders take effect after 90 days. It also coincides with the Leaders’ Climate Summit, April 22-23. The summit dates also match up with the fifth anniversary of the Paris Accord and Earth Day.

Given that states like Nebraska have 92% of their land held by private citizen farmers, it gives reason to think that at a minimum, a third of the state’s private land could be taken under federal jurisdiction or at the least control of it.

In our home state, Colorado consists of 66.4 million acres. About 22 million of that is public land. Seven-point-one million acres of the state’s forested lands are privately held. About 37 million, or better than half of the state, is under some sort of agricultural use. It is reasonable to think that conflicts will arise over grazing rights on public land as well as over privately held lands adjacent to the public lands.

According to inside observers, most think that when it comes to agriculture, the deal will largely involve CRP which falls under USDA purview through the Farm Service Agency. The rest of the plan could fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior and Forest Service, which also means more USDA influence.

Biden, in remarks about the 30 by 30 plan, alluded to the buying power of the federal government, when asked about the workings of the plan. That might lead one to believe that not all private action will be voluntary.

With details available, apparently, only after the die is cast, we will be playing catch up for the next nine years as we attempt to do battle on one more threat to our property rights.

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