Hickenlooper Holds Town Forum in Holly


Governor Hickenlooper Meets with Holly Audience

Governor Hickenlooper Meets with Holly Audience

Agricultural finances and drought impact dominated the discussion between Governor Hickenlooper and Holly residents this past Friday, September 20, during an Open Town Meeting at Holly Senior Center.  At the outset, the governor explained he was using a set of crutches because of a hip problem, during his tour of portions of southeast Colorado. 

Special State Water Advisor John Stulp and PCDI Director, Benninghoff

Special State Water Advisor John Stulp and PCDI Director, Benninghoff

The governor was asked somewhat in jest, if he could do anything to end the drought.  HIckenlooper related that as mayor of Denver he got into trouble taking the stand that Denver water rights, could be thought of as also belonging to the state.  Through appointing new members on the state water board, Hickenlooper said they cut the per capita consumption of Denver water to 1.2 million people, by 20% over five years.  He said that caused the price of water per gallon to increase in order to continue to maintain the water delivery infrastructure through the city.  Hickenlooper said it was a very unpopular move but he employed that conservation philosophy to make sure as much water as possible will be available for crop land use across the state.  “People along the Front Range need to know that available water is needed for crop growth across the rest of the state,” he explained. 

Another water concern expressed from the audience dealt with the local canal systems and buy and dry concepts, plus return flow water rights for those farmers farther down the Arkansas Valley.  They suggested that future water fallowings be done in a safe and almost over-reaching pattern to cushion the impact to the river.   

Marty Campbell, area farmer, stated that a lot of farmers have either irrigated or dry land operations and they aren’t very large in southeast Colorado.  “Large farming operations can diversify their income, but the smaller ones will have no income for probably the next two years,” he explained.  “This drought is hitting us through our planning, growing and harvest period.  I have lots of pasture, but the grasses won’t be viable for next two years, and all we have now is weeds out there.  Can you supply any relief for people in this income impact situation?” he asked the governor. 

Hickenlooper replied that his options are limited. “I can’t touch property taxes, but there may be some leeway with rebates in sales taxes through the community.  He compared the state responses to the recent fires and floods to the drought, stating that it’s also a natural disaster process, but one that is squeezing the economic life out of a community over a several years span.  Hickenlooper said some of the decisions for relief will come from the Joint Budget Committee, as they try to determine which impacted area of the state qualifies for some form on relief in the future. 

The governor responded to two similar questions regarding the drought and the need to continue to register or insure farm vehicles that aren’t used because there is no growing or harvest season right now.  Flexibility for payment or the size of crop insurance premiums was also addressed.  Farmers wanted to know if those payments could be evened out during lean or full harvest periods for several years.  The speed by which disaster applications could be processed was also discussed.  Hickenlooper said he’d speak with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to see if Ag Secretary Vilsack would open discussions on those solutions.  He said that problem is national in scope, not just limited to Colorado farmers and ranchers. 

The governor was accompanied by John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor for Water Director of the IBCC and Reeves Brown, Executive Director of The Department of Local Affairs.  The governor toured Camp Amache and visited Lamar and La Junta during the Pedal the Plains annual event.  He was also on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Supportive Residential Community at Fort Lyon in Las Animas. 

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinesscommunityCountyEconomyFeaturedHollyHot TopicsProwers County


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