The common theme across all discussions during the Forum was the need for new opportunities and collaboration among partners within and outside of ag in order to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities during a time of low commodity prices and other challenges facing agriculture – an industry that in Colorado makes a $40 billion impact, and is the state's second-largest driver of our economy.
The 425 attendees of Wednesday’s Forum in Denver heard keynote presentations from U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture Krysta Harden, and Colorado State University agricultural economics professor Dr. Gregory Graff, and also had the opportunity to listen in on a dozen panel discussions that featured 40-plus experts from CSU and various federal agencies, private businesses and organizations.
“I’m not sure people are as focused as they should be about what’s going on in America’s heartland and in our rural communities,” Sen. Gardner said of his fellow lawmakers and the general public. “There are real challenges facing the industry today. We must do what we’ve always done best in agriculture, and that’s find opportunities, and forge ahead with optimism.”
Gov. Hickenlooper also highlighted the importance of agricultural exports, detailed the success that Colorado ag has seen in that regard during recent years (three of Colorado’s top six exports are agricultural products) and talked of the ag industry’s need for new opportunities and certainty when it comes to trade.
Among other potential collaborative efforts, Hickenlooper also touched on the need for alternative water transfer methods (ATMs), in which municipalities and water-rights owning farmers and ranchers could work together to prevent the ongoing trend of “buy and dry” that has Colorado on pace to see as many as 700,000 irrigated acres of farm ground dry up by 2050.
“We need to be looking at every sustainable option we can find,” Hickenlooper said.
Other presenters and panelists at this year's Forum included:
* Don Brown, Colorado agriculture commissioner
* Dr. Tony Frank, president of Colorado State University
* Dr. Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Colorado State University
* Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show and Complex
* Dr. Keith Belk, animal sciences and public health professor at Colorado State University
* Dr. Norm Dalsted, professor and extension farm/ranch management economist at Colorado State University
* Taryn Finnessey, senior climate change specialist for the State of Colorado
* Tom Kourlis, Colorado rancher and former Colorado agriculture commissioner
* Tom Lipetzky, director of marketing programs and strategic initiatives at the Colorado Department of Agriculture
* Stephanie Regagnon, CEO of FieldWatch Inc.
* Dr. Dawn Thilmany McFadden, professor and agribusiness extension specialist at Colorado State University
* Virginia Till, recycling specialist and regional lead for EPA Region 8's Sustainable Food Management
* Dr. Dale Woerner, animal sciences professor at Colorado State University
* and many others
The Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture is jointly supported by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado State University and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP).