Jul 16, 2018Colorado groups meet at Sakata Farms to discuss issues
Sakata Farms in Brighton, Colorado, was the site where Colorado agriculture groups July 13 met Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to address their priorities for the next farm bill as well as to ask the senator, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to keep pushing for solutions to the acute agricultural labor shortage and the impact of trade tariffs on their current business and future opportunities. Host Robert Sakata is president of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA).
“It was an opportunity to visit with the senator about the conference committee work that will begin as the House and Senate work toward a compromise farm bill,” said Sakata. “We thanked Sen. Bennet for supporting the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, while reiterating the really pressing need to fix the broken H2A program so that Colorado fruit and vegetable growers can get the skilled and dependable workforce we need to harvest our highly perishable crops.”
For the first time in over 50 years, Sakata Farms is not growing sweet corn. The reason, said Sakata, is due to their inability to find and retain a dependable workforce to harvest and pack the farm’s sweet corn.
Noting that even though Colorado is not a large exporter of produce, Sakata acknowledged the importance of international trade to the Colorado produce industry. “If other states do not export their produce, the excess will flood the U.S. market, which could have a detrimental impact on Colorado farmers.”
Sakata agreed with fellow Colorado farmers who stated that the only opportunity for growth in the agriculture sector as a whole will have to come from exports. Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, himself a farmer, noted that commodity prices are half what they were a few years ago.
In addition to CFVGA, the meeting was attended by a variety of government agency personnel, academic representatives, anti-hunger advocates and farm organizations, including but not limited to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, National Young Farmers Coalition, Colorado Corn Growers Association, Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Colorado Wheat Growers Association, Colorado Pork Producers, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, National Onion Association and National Bison Association.
The CFVGA is comprised of approximately 250 members, including growers of all sizes and types of production throughout the state, as well as representatives of allied industries. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $485 million to Colorado in production and sales and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 90,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production.