Agriculture, Amy Oliver Cooke, Uncategorized, Weld County

Cooke: Is beef next target in Polis’ assault on Weld County?

First Governor Jared Polis came for oil and gas. Now, he’s after agriculture.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Colorado Governor Jared Polis would give a rest to his assault on Weld County businesses following the passage of Senate Bill 181 earlier this year. As we are well aware, Senate Bill 181 has already led to a precipitous decline in drilling permits; and as more local governments extend or make permanent moratoriums on new energy development, it won’t be terribly long before we here in Weld County will have to say goodbye to some of our friends and families as they follow their jobs to states friendlier to energy development.

As we fight for our economic life, another Weld County industry was more recently put on notice. Last week, the Boulder-based Governor paid a visit to the Department of Agriculture, an agency which oversees a $40 billion, 170,000-job industry across Colorado’s beautiful and diverse landscape. According to sources present, Polis arrived with hundreds of Burger King’s soybean-based “Impossible Whoppers” in tow for what he wrongly presumed to be his audience’s enjoyment, before suggesting that the industry shift its focus from beef to protein-based plants.

Either the Governor is tone-deaf, or he wants to destroy Weld County’s economy and way of life. He’s promoting a California start-up that uses soybeans, which predominantly come from Midwest and Upper Midwest states, to compete with Weld County’s beef industry.

When it comes to soybean production, Colorado doesn’t even rank among the top ten producing states, even though Weld County routinely ranks among the top ten total Agriculture-producing counties in the nation.

According to its website, Weld County is the “richest agricultural county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, leads the state in the value of agricultural products sold, and is typically in the top ten richest overall nationally.” Our county is the number one beef, grain, sugar beets, and dairy producer in the state.

What we aren’t is a soybean producer.

Further, Colorado’s soil cannot even support the protein-based plants the Governor champions. He’s oblivious to the harm he is doing to Colorado’s beef industry, a multi-billion-dollar industry on whom hundreds of thousands of jobs depend. He’s oblivious to our beef exports, which are a huge source of revenue for farmers whose livelihoods can, and sometimes do, rise and fall with Colorado’s wild weather patterns.

With over 4500 employees, Weld County’s number one employer is JBS Swift, a meat processor headquartered in Greeley. The Greeley Tribune reported that we topped $2 billion in commodity sales in 2017. Those statistics don’t matter to Governor Polis. He has set his sights on our beef industry; our economy and our way of life are in the bullseye.

Don’t assume that Governor Polis is merely suggesting an alternative. Recent history proves he doesn’t give suggestions — just orders. He’s already set into motion a centrally planned energy future in which Coloradans will be sputtering and sliding across I-70 snowstorms in battery-deficient electric vehicles, which will presumably be pushed out of ditches by former energy industry employees who have successfully completed a government run retraining programs (I’m not making this up). Now, he wants the drivers of those poor excuses for cars to themselves be fueled by fake meat.

I don’t care if people prefer a future of veggie burgers over the divine flavor of Weld County beef, or an electric vehicle over a diesel-powered pickup, but I think that should be an individual decision. Governor Polis disagrees and appears to be taking it upon himself to make your dietary choices very much within his purview. The question is: will Democrats in the legislature go along with him? So far, we’ve seen no resistance.

If you think it sounds absurd, ten years ago, who would have imagined a world in which plastic straws were treated as though they were card-holding members of ISIS? But here we are today, with coffee-stained teeth and soggy paper straws that survive for approximately two sips before disintegrating into our beverages.

This is what passes for public policy in the Polis administration. Many readers of this will spit their straw-free Starbucks onto their dashboards as soon as they fully comprehend the Governor’s plans for them and their families.

The truth is this, just as it was the case for Colorado’s oil and gas industry earlier this year: Governor Polis is uninterested in how we in Weld County live, work, and play. He’s more interested in forcing us to look like Boulder. Remember that the next time you order a Big Mac.

Amy Oliver Cooke is executive vice president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver, and a Greeley resident.

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