Colorado Produce growers had the opportunity this morning to look across the table and speak to Colorado’s U.S. senatorial and congressional delegation during a roundtable discussion hosted by the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. The roundtable, held at Sakata Farms, Brighton, Colo., was followed by tours of Sakata’s processing and packing operation and Petrocco Farms, also of Brighton.
Participants included U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman and Ken Buck as well as representatives from the offices of Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter. Also in attendance was Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown. Sakata stated that Reps. Lamborn and Tipton had scheduling conflicts but that he (Sakata) plans to catch up with them next month when he is in Washington, D.C. Also in attendance were about ten growers, the mayor of Brighton, Colorado Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Jim Ehrlich with the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee and representatives from area cooperatives and farm supply companies.
The message from growers to legislators can be summed up that over regulation by government is doing great damage to farmers.
Dave Petrocco, Sr., Petrocco Farms, told the legislators about the difficulty in hiring workers to harvest and pack the crop. “The H2A program is difficult and unworkable for agriculture. We need a guest worker program instead.”
Robert Sakata, host of the event and CFVGA president, agreed, explaining that his operation for the first time in a long while chose not to plant cabbage. “I am tired of having cabbage rot in the field, because we cannot get the labor we need to harvest and pack it.”
Several in the group suggested, and the legislators in attendance took note, that federal regulation of immigrant labor as well as regulation of crop protection chemicals should be moved from Immigration and the Environmental Protection Agency, respectively, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Also vital to produce production is the availability of water. “Having high quality, reliable irrigation water is critical,” said Sakata. “A lack of water is becoming a limiting factor. When feed corn producers lack water, they end up with a smaller ear of corn, which isn’t of great concern to cattle, but a smaller ear when we are talking sweet corn is not acceptable to the consumer and thus renders our crop unusable.”
“We are pleased with the attendance from growers and legislative offices alike and thankful for the opportunity to dialog with lawmakers about the issues we face and the possible solutions,” said Sakata.
Roundtable participants included (left to right) Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, CFVGA President Robert Sakata, Hannah Mullen from Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office, Reps. Mike Coffman and Ken Buck.
CFVGA President Robert addresses Legislative Roundtable participants, Aug. 24, at Sakata Farms, Brighton, Colo.