Opportunity and challenges ahead

Dave Bergmeier

Farmers and ranchers, their veterinarians and support services are facing challenges and at the forefront is not the East Coast or West Coast but the High Plains.

All agriculture-based states need to take note of Colorado’s Initiative 16 that could handcuff the state’s animal agricultural economy.

Six Colorado-based livestock organizations—Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Pork Producers Council—have formed Coloradans for Animal Care to oppose Initiative 16, known as PAUSE, which could be a 2022 ballot initiative asking voters to criminalize certain accepted veterinary and animal care practices in the state. It would also ban the slaughter of livestock that have not yet lived more than a fourth of their anticipated lifetime, a standard far longer than consumer and foreign markets demand, according to the organized opponents who know their industry and consumers well.

Colorado is the epicenter of controversy and producers are in the right to be indignant. The livestock sector accounts for more than $5 billion in economic activity, more than $1 billion in exports and tens of thousands of jobs statewide, according to the Coloradans for Animal Care.

Farming and ranching is an important business to the state’s economic fortunes—a fact that appears to be lost when people who are passionate about their own causes overlook those trying to earn a living who have the dual task of being a steward of limited resources. They work hand in hand as one without the other would damage the state in ways that go far beyond an initiative.

The coalition of agricultural leaders are also using the issue to help educate Coloradans about the importance of animal husbandry and what they do to provide care for livestock.

Even Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who found himself in controversy when he signed a proclamation marking March 20 as MeatOutDay, although he is a meat eater himself, through a spokesman said about Initiative 16, “he agrees with farmers and ranchers that the PAUSE ballot initiative would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs, and he opposes it.”

The coalition on March 24 filed a motion for a rehearing to challenge the title set by the Title Board on March 17. The Title Board comprises the secretary of state, attorney general and director of office of legislative legal services or his or her designee. The board determines whether or not an initiative has a single subject but does not comment on the merits of the initiative. The board considers whether the language in question adequately represents the changes to law and would be understandable to voters.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser notes that the farming and livestock businesses are the backbone of Colorado’s rural communities and the initiative was not based on sound science.

Ballot initiatives can be fraught with emotional arguments and not based on common sense and reason. Colorado’s agriculture industry has every reason to be concerned about this potential ballot initiative. This initiative needs to be rejected. Period.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].