By Jan Kochis
Chair of the RMFU Board of Directors
You wouldn’t know it from the bare grocery store shelves in Colorado and across the country, but America has plenty of food. Don’t be fooled by the grocery store frenzy: There’s plenty more food in the pipeline to meet the surge in demand caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The food chain of production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal is complex, but we’re good at it. The real challenge these days is getting it from our farms and ranches to your table.
But Colorado and U.S farmers and ranchers are up for it and already are producing more food with fewer resources. We’re no strangers to hardship.
Colorado’s weather has become increasingly strange and unpredictable over the years, with shifting rainfall patterns, changing growing seasons, vacillating droughts and floods, increasing severe pest and disease outbreaks among crops and livestock. While we always have been up to the challenge of bolstering America’s food security, this experience working to adapt and prepare for crises as the climate changes has taught us how to be resilient and ready.
Although some Coloradans may only just be noticing our role, agriculture always has been an important contributor to the Colorado economy. The sector contributes more than $40 billion to the state’s economy each year, employing 173,000 people ―many of whom are now working overtime to keep our shelves stocked.
Colorado is as diverse in agricultural commodities as in geography, growing cattle and calves, hogs, sheep/lambs, dairy, poultry, eggs, corn, wheat, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Our food is safe and it is affordable.
In 2018, Americans spent less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food, which is less than any other country in the world. In these uncertain times, that means a lot.
Coloradans can rest assured that our state’s food supply systems are operating as intended in this time of crisis and we are doing everything we can to help. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Department of Agriculture are ensuring that food production and supply systems nationwide remain safe and abundant.
When the COVID-19 crisis is over, it will be easy to start taking our food supply for granted again. But Colorado’s agriculture industry will keep working to be ready for what comes next.
We’re already producing renewable energy from wind and solar on Colorado farms and ranches to help create a cheap and reliable energy supply for our industry and our neighbors in the Front Range. We’re developing innovative soil management practices to produce more food on less land, with less water, so that we can keep growing crops and livestock no matter what strange crisis befalls us next.
Support from the FDA, USDA, and CDA is crucial for this effort and can help to ensure that we will always be able to produce an abundant, affordable and safe food supply for everyone, no matter what happens.
Jan Kochis and her husband Virgil raise wheat, millet, dryl and corn and beef cattle and host 30 wind turbines that generate electricity for Xcel Energy’s Rush Creek Wind Farm on their Elbert County farm. She is chair of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union board of directors.