To the Editor:
Farmers and ranchers have had a rough year. With the compounding challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the president's trade war, processing plant closures, ongoing drought, and the cost of business ever increasing, Colorado's agriculture industry has been dealt far more than its fair share of mountains to climb.
I am proud to work my small family ranch raising Highland cattle and specialty crops, and I know from experience the difficulties that the agriculture industry faces today. The costs for everything from materials to processing goes up, while the prices we get for the things we raise and grow decline.
Only one candidate for president has a real plan to support and invest in farm and ranch families and small towns across Colorado and nationwide. It's Joe Biden.
As a direct result of harm to farmers from the administration's trade war and its fumbled response to the pandemic, an estimated 35% of this year's farm income is in the form of direct payments from the federal government. Anyone who has stayed up nights staring at a budget trying to make the numbers pencil out can tell you: reliable demand beats an unplanned payment every time. And the ag community doesn't want handouts -- we want to earn an honest living. Instead of one-off rescues, the Biden-Harris plan represents the structural investments Colorado farms, ranches and rural small businesses need to be competitive in the long run.
The plan starts with access to both credit and capital that farmers, ranchers, and rural communities need to be successful. It expands the microloan program for new and beginning farmers and boosts funding for the farm ownership and operating loans that help folks access the capital they need to get started. And it invests in locals to provide small- and medium-sized farmers with similar options in their communities, creating a valuable source of demand for healthy, local food. The ag community needs small and big operations to prosper, and the Biden-Harris plan supports both.
The plan also boosts our energy independence. Its focus on biobased products and plant-based renewable fuels will reduce our reliance on foreign oil with a clean, domestic source of fuel and raw materials that boosts demand for what farmers at home produce.
Ranchers and farmers in particular are right to be concerned about the prospect of overregulation by folks who don't understand the work we put into stewarding natural resources on our land. What seems like a simple regulation to some can make or break a family operation. That's why it's so important that the Biden-Harris plan puts farmers and ranchers at the table with the federal government to scale up those proven on-farm practices already working to boost soil productivity, stewardship, and water quality.
It also thoughtfully tackles the challenge of consolidation in the industry, which is particularly important for ranchers like me. Consolidation means fewer and more expensive options for processing, transportation, inputs and everything else. And the average age of ranchers and farmers is increasing. We need to get more people into the ag community in order to support it for generations to come.
Beyond the ag industry, the Biden-Harris plan makes important investments in the future of rural communities. It protects public lands and water access by giving local, state and regional jurisdictions more of a say in federal decision-making. And it triples funding to expand the broadband internet connectivity that helps rural America gain access to new customers and basic services like telehealth. In a time when we are seeing increased death by suicide in our rural towns, this is critical.
Rural communities in Colorado have a fiercely independent nature, as do Colorado farm and ranch families. We don't want things handed to us. Rather, we want a level playing field where we're not limited in what we can grow and achieve if left to our own ingenuity and innovation. That's what the Biden-Harris plan gets us.
Many people talk the talk about valuing ag. I'm glad to see that the Biden-Harris team walks the walk.
-- Kerry Donovan, Colorado State Senator, represents State District 5. She is the Colorado Senate Majority Whip, and chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
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