For Immediate Release:  Aug. 20, 2018

Contacts:            Robert Sakata  303-947-3097  rtsakata@aol.com

                                Marilyn Bay Drake   303-594-3827  admin@coloradoproduce.org

 

Colorado produce grocers during a meeting Aug. 17 had an opportunity to learn more about how gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton might govern in regard to agricultural issues. To accommodate very busy growers, many of whom are harvesting crops in August, the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) held the meeting electronically, so that growers could log on at their computers or call in. CFVGA also plans to have a similar forum with gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis.

“It is very important to Colorado’s produce growers to connect with both candidates about the importance of agriculture to our state as well as the specific issues facing produce growers, such as labor challenges, water availability and food safety regulations,” said Robert Sakata, CFVGA president, who emceed the meeting with Stapleton.

Stapleton outlined affordable housing for agricultural workers, state-wide infrastructure and water as key issues affecting Colorado growers. He also noted affordable health care and better funding for Colorado’s primary and secondary school classrooms as tangential areas of concern.

“I ran for treasurer in 2010, because I wanted an opportunity to deal with some of the economic challenges Colorado is facing,” said Stapleton, current Colorado treasurer. “I’ve had a chance to be on the front lines of a lot of economic policy issues, although I’ve not had legislative authority.”

He told participants he stood in opposition to recent measures to increase school funding, because he wanted assurance the dollars would go into classrooms. He also opposed a measure for single payer health care in Colorado, because he does not favor the financial burden it would have placed on individuals and businesses.

“We have to resolve our traffic issues over the long-term in this state,” said Stapleton concerning his priority to improve infrastructure. He also noted that Colorado has done a good job recognizing the problem with water but has not moved forward to “proactively address” the problem. “The cost of supplying water is growing exponentially, and the next governor must address it.”

Sakata told Stapleton, “According to the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, the South Platte Basin alone could lose half a million acres of irrigation due to municipal and industrial development. On the Western Slope, we’re facing drought; what happens if we actually have a compact call on the Colorado River?”

“We have to fund the water plan,” said Stapleton. “I am in favor of funding it at $100 million per year.” He also noted that the energy industry’s severance tax revenues are vital to water conservation and indicated that golf-course type lawns in suburban areas should be discouraged.

On the subject of renewable energy, Stapleton noted he favors all types of energy but is opposed to mandates or tax-payer subsidies for alternative types of energy like wind or solar. “Excel would have to impose a tax on hard-working Coloradoans, who could see their bills double or triple. What Colorado needs (for the successful use) of wind or solar is a market-driven solution.”

To an audience question on food safety regulations, Stapleton said, “I’m generally skeptical of increasing government regulations, and I wouldn’t want to encumber someone’s farm with needless regulations, particularly if it doesn’t help that much or if there is added cost,” said Stapleton. “I’m not big on subsidies, yet I don’t believe farmers should have to suffer from unfunded mandates placed on them.”

Sakata added, “Produce farmers don’t get any government subsidies for their production and most actually like the free market system, because it controls how much we produce.” He added that when regulations are imposed on growers, who don’t get additional income for complying, state assistance might be in order.

As for government spending in general, Stapleton noted he is supportive of “Coloradoans’ right” to limit spending but acknowledged that these measures such as Tabor, Amendment 23 and Gallagher can skew state budgets. “The president’s tax cuts are fueling our economy, but if we want to have the kind of Colorado we want for us and our children, we’re going to have to confront some of our long-standing economic issues, including infrastructure, affordable housing, health care and education.”

When asked about funding for roads, Stapleton said he would cut state government overhead by 5 percent and support the bonding system for communities that choose it. He also favors more government budget transparency.

In response to guest workers in agriculture, he referred to recent restrictions to the J1 visa program, which in Colorado enables foreign students to work in the ski industry. “I am concerned about a policy that would take away the ability of students who would come to Colorado to work in the tourism or ag industry.”

Sakata added that CFVGA hopes it can count on Stapleton to support a better guest worker program at the federal level, if he is elected governor.

“Agriculture is such an important part of our state and I will always be a champion for your industry,” said Stapleton, who also expressed support of bringing broadband internet to all rural Colorado within two years, improving teacher-studio classroom ratios and using technology to deal with climate change.

The CFVGA is comprised of approximately 250 members, including growers of all sizes and types of production throughout the state, as well as representatives of allied industries. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $485 million to Colorado in production and sales and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 90,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production.

-30-