DENVER, CO– The Agriculture, Livestock, and Water Committee today advanced three State Stimulus proposals to support the agriculture industry, invest in sustainability and drought resiliency that are a part of the Colorado Comeback state stimulus, a package of legislation that will invest roughly $800 million into helping Colorado recover faster and build back stronger. The bills passed unanimously
“Colorado’s agriculture industry is what has allowed our state to grow and prosper, but the industry needs our help to continue to be a major economic driver,” said Committee Chair Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, sponsor of SB21-248 and SB21-235. “The Agriculture Future Loan Program will provide new and existing agriculture operations with crucial funding that will help create jobs and provide a boost to this critical industry. At the same time, by investing in the ACRE3 program, we’re investing in the long-term sustainability of the industry by encouraging more energy efficient agriculture operations to ensure that Colorado’s farmers and ranchers can continue to contribute so much to our state.”
SB21-248, also sponsored by Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, would create the Colorado Agriculture Future Loan Program and direct $30 million of state stimulus funds into it. The Program is designed to provide low-interest loans to beginning farmers and ranchers and farm-to-market infrastructure loans and grants for businesses. Agribusiness provides more than 170,000 jobs in Colorado, and this program is intended to ensure that the industry has a sustainable and prosperous future for the agriculture industry. The bill passed by a vote of 10-0.
“Supporting our agriculture industry and protecting the environment are not at odds – this bill is proof that we can do both at the same time,” said Rep. Tracey Bernett, D-Longmont, sponsor of SB21-235. “Investing in the ACRE3 program will help Colorado’s agricultural sector reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing energy efficiency and cutting costs. In fact solar panels and crops have a symbiotic relationship that means more efficient panels, better crop yields, and increased water retention. I’m proud of the work we did today to ensure Colorado’s agricultural comeback is sustainable.”
SB21-235, sponsored by Ag Committee Chair Karen McCormick and Representative Tracey Bernett, allocates $5 million to the Department of Agriculture, with at least $3 million going to the ACRE3 energy efficiency program and at least $2 million going to conservation districts to implement voluntary soil health programs. ACRE3 is Colorado’s premier state-level program for agricultural energy management and provides financial aid, technical assistance, and education to help the agriculture industry cut energy costs and develop their own energy resources. The bill passed by a vote of 10-0.
“Every single county in Colorado experienced drought last year, and we need to be doing more to ensure our state is prepared to anticipate and respond,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, sponsor of SB21-234. “As climate change worsens, the effects of drought on our agriculture industry will only become more and more severe, and we have to make sure we’re providing this critical industry with the support it needs.”
SB21-234, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Cutter and Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, provides $3 million to the Department of Agriculture to ensure the state is better prepared to anticipate, mitigate, or respond to droughts. Colorado’s drought was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken a severe economic toll on the agriculture industry. This bill will help the state plan for and mitigate future droughts and climate disturbances. SB21-234 passed through the Senate with unanimous support. The bill passed by a vote of 11-0.
The House Finance committee also passed SB21-229, sponsored by Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder and Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, which invests $3 million in the Rural Jump Start Grant Program, which helps economically distressed communities – particularly communities that will be affected by the market transition away from coal to more renewable energy sources – attract new businesses and jobs.