Farmers are Losing Ground, is the State Land Board Listening?
The decision by the Colorado State Land Board and Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board to allow a gravel mining operation to proceed is “deeply disappointing” according to Dr. Dale McCall, president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The proposed gravel mining operation would be located east of Pueblo in the Arkansas River Valley and adjacent to the 1874 Bessemer Ditch.
“Farmers from the area showed up and spoke out about their concerns, yet they were effectively ignored by two state boards that could, and should have, given this more thought,” said McCall. “Farmers from this area have battled this before. It seems the priority is to put future development in front of farm families who have been working hard to make a living from the land for generations.”
Area farmers have fought this gravel mine proposal before. In the past, as now, farmers say the mining operations threaten to dump sediments into the Bessemer Ditch that will clog irrigation sprinkler systems. Tearing up the land will also disrupt the native prairie land that is home to bees and other pollinators that are critical to the organic crops grown in the region. These impacts have some farmers wondering whether this is the last straw in an already difficult year: farm income is sliding rapidly as farmgate prices tumble.
“Farmers and ranchers are literally losing ground to housing developments, new roads, and retail outlets as Colorado’s population continues to swell,” adds McCall. “When farmers and ranchers are driven out by developers who want the best farmland and water, we are destroying the way of life and living that inspire people to move to Colorado in the first place.”
The argument that the gravel mine will generate money for education doesn’t necessarily add up, McCall says. “Farmers literally grow new wealth from the ground up. Farming creates thousands of jobs that support hometown communities. Agriculture is essential to Colorado’s economy. If farmers and ranchers are displaced by industrial development, it will unravel the sustainable economic lifeblood of rural communities.”
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization, whose 22,000 members make a living farming and ranching in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The organization, founded in 1907, focuses on educational, cooperative, and legislative tools to build a better future for agriculture.
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