DENVER—Governor Jared Polis infuriated farmers and ranchers by issuing an anti-meat proclamation making March 20, 2021 “Meat Out Day.” In response, meat-centric events are being organized throughout the state, while rural counties are banding together to turn March 20 into a celebration of Colorado livestock and agriculture instead.
The Polis proclamation is taken nearly word-for-word from the radical vegan Farm Animal Rights Movement’s (FARM) MeatOut.org website, and recites a litany of supposed evils of meat and benefits of a vegan lifestyle and even invokes “reducing our carbon footprint” and preventing animal cruelty. According to FARM, its mission is to end the use of animals for food.
Polis does give a nod to agriculture, noting that “Colorado is the proud home to farmers and ranchers alike and we recognize the importance of agriculture in the state.” But this didn’t blunt the ire of Colorado legislators, agricultural producers and county commissioners over the potential economic harm Polis may have triggered.
Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton told Complete Colorado Friday that he has been taking numerous phone calls and text messages from his constituents.
“I heard several people mention it as a war on rural Colorado,” said Pelton. “These are family farming operations that have livestock and produce and they are very frustrated with the treatment of agriculture right now by the Governor.”
Pelton feels that even a one-day boycott of meat products in Colorado would cause financial hardship for producers.
“I wish that Governor Polis could understand that people have spent lifetimes developing the genetics of their herds,” Pelton, a cattle rancher himself, said. “I just wish he understood the effort that these people put out. It’s not only our livelihood, but it’s a sense of pride of the products we put out.”
Nor is the potential impact of disparaging Colorado meats limited to livestock producers, says Pelton.
“Think about all the crops that are raised,” Pelton said. “When you come out here and see miles and miles of corn, that corn is used to feed cattle. That’s another industry full of jobs that depend on the livestock industry.”
According to the USDA, Colorado produced nearly $578 million worth of corn in 2020.
Elbert County, along with a growing list of at least 15 other counties, are supporting resolutions to counter the Governor’s proclamation.
In its draft resolution proclaiming March 20 Elbert County Cattlemen’s Day, Elbert County says, “Elbert County Cattlemen and our ranching families are part of a $3.4B state industry with a $40B economic impact and accounts for 10% of the state’s total export sales.”
The USDA January 1, 2021 livestock inventory in Colorado shows 2.65 million cows, 445,000 sheep, 630,000 hogs and 32,000 goats.
Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who excoriated the proclamation on the floor of the state Senate, calling it “the most obscene gesture that can be given” to Colorado livestock producers, told Complete Colorado Saturday that there are going to be “huge gatherings” to celebrate Colorado meat products on March 20.
“The Sterling sale barn is having a huge event, and I’m going to a Four-H club in Holly where we will be handing out beef sticks and talking about how important the beef industry is in Colorado,” said Sonnenberg. “[The proclamation] has woken up a sleeping giant and agriculture is no longer set on just doing their work and tuning out politics. They have woken up and now they are going to fight back.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is also joining the effort to combat the damage Polis has caused Colorado agriculture and is working with grocery stores and restaurants to feature meat products on March 20.
Sonnenberg told the Senate he received a text from the Hereford Association, one of the major cattle exhibitors at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver, saying the “responses from their board that I have intercepted all are promoting this as the last straw.”
There is a danger, says Sonnenberg, that the Hereford Association will boycott the NWSS and move its annual activities to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma instead, which could potentially cost Colorado tens of millions of dollars in lost Hereford sales.
“The governor of Oklahoma pointed it out very well. We can’t have leadership in this state throw the number two industry in this state under the bus,” Sonnenberg said in his speech.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt made note of the growing antipathy towards agriculture by Polis and the Democrats in Colorado’s legislature in his February 1 State of the State address, saying, “The folks in Denver turned their back on the ag industry. They wouldn’t let them have their major national cattle show because they insisted on keeping their state locked down. That put the stability of the U.S. beef industry in danger.”
The NWSS was canceled by its management last September, saying, “The COVID-19 pandemic does not allow for the Stock Show to host the annual event and comply with the health and safety guidelines that are necessary to protect Coloradans and help stop the spread.”
Polis has a history of antipathy towards agriculture. In 2019 he told the Colorado Department of Agriculture that it should promote vegan products made from soybeans, which are not grown in Colorado, like the Impossible Burger, a trademarked product of Impossible Foods Inc. He has also excluded appointments to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and Colorado State Fair of representatives from the agricultural industry.
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