The Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project or SIEP sponsored a panel updating the Colorado Water Plan and its funding initiative. Prior to the forum, two of the panel participants, Terry Fankhouser, left, with the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, and water expert James Eklund, right, joke with John Salazar, center, about facial hair. Salazar is a former state agricultural commissioner. (Photo by Lynn Bartels)
By Lynn Bartels
March 4, 2019
Cauliflower no longer plays a backseat to broccoli. Rural lawmakers are surprised at how much time they spend on issues relating to hospitals and health care. New Gov. Jared Polis says it’s about time Coloradans put a farmer in the Governor’s Mansion.
Wait, what’s that?
Polis, who farms about 20 acres of alfalfa and has a history of dealing with flower growers, made that remark at the Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture.
That comment from a Democrat better known as a successful internet entrepreneur brought smiles from former Colorado Agricultural Commissioner Don Brown, a Yuma County farmer, and state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who farms in Logan County.
“But I’m thankful that our governor is here addressing the agriculture community,” Sonnenberg said.
The 28th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture was held Feb. 27 at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver. Other participants included Polis’ new ag commissioner, Kate Greenberg, and Jason VonLembke, who oversees the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project (SIEP) in Kersey.
SIEP's goal is to find innovative solutions that will help balance the state's increased demand for water while preserving Colorado’s agricultural heritage. The Platte River Water Development Authority and the United Water and Sanitation District are main sponsors of the project.
"The widespread adoption of drip irrigation in suburban landscaping as well as agriculture has the potential to help solve many of the issues identified in the Colorado Water Plan and we want to be on the forefront of research and advocacy for efficient irrigation," Mr. VonLembke said.
SIEP sponsored a panel on the “Colorado Water Plan Update & Funding Initiative.” Other panels at the day-long forum included a focus on food trends, mental health in rural Colorado and a legislative update.
Sallie Clark, former El Paso County Commissioner, who now is the state director for USDA Rural Development., and Jason VonLembke, who oversees United Water's Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project. The two attended the 28th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture in Denver on Feb. 27 in Denver. (Photo by Lynn Bartels)
“It was good,” said former Colorado agricultural commissioner John Salazar, who attended with his son Estevan Salazar. “I think people are starting to realize that consumers are leading the fight in how food is produced.”
Polis, who took office in January, joked that he didn’t know he had an agricultural forum until he got elected. His business cards are printed on industrial hemp, and he said one of his goals is for Colorado to be a leader in that industry.
“We know that farming and ranching are the lifeline of many of our communities all over our state,” the governor said.
“ ….As you know, the agricultural sector is facing many challenges. Of course, drought is one the dire threats. My administration is working hard to do what we can to reverse the harmful impact of climate change and preserve our water supply and transition to renewable energy.”
Lynn Bartels of Denver worked as a newspaper reporter for 35 years before retiring in 2015.