2022 Legislative Session Sends $20M to Colorado Agriculture

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Colorado’s 2022 legislative session saw the most bills introduced (717) in the past five years and the fewest bills passed (275) during a regular session since at least 2010. Yet from this relatively small number of bills, the Colorado Department of Agriculture will see significant impacts on our budget and our ability to support our state’s agricultural communities. 

2022 legislative session update - CDA

Eight different bills and the state budget will bring funding for new programs or staff to CDA. Those bills will fund ag labor programs, climate resilience and conservation, food security, new technology, and competitive grant programs.

As a result of the 2022 session, CDA will see approximately $20M come through our doors to fund new programs and expand existing ones. 

In total, $96 million in the past year has been appropriated specifically to CDA for Colorado agriculture. This unprecedented investment offers CDA a chance to make a real, transformative difference in the lives of the people we serve.

With the support of Governor Polis and the legislature during the 2022 session, CDA will have funding to staff 8.5 new positions, including:

  • A grant expert to help meat processors apply for USDA funding
  • An agricultural emergency coordinator to support the response to ag emergencies statewide
  • New staff for the Bureau of Animal Protection, including a forensic veterinarian and a field investigator
  • A pest response compliance investigator to eliminate the growing backlog of pesticide enforcement investigations
  • A liaison to assist the Governor’s Office of Climate Preparedness Response, representing agriculture
  • Full time staff to establish and run a new Community Food Access Program

Funding for the agricultural emergency coordinator will help Coloradans deal with the devastating impacts of climate change. This position will work to integrate preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts between agencies, local governments, and stakeholders. 

The legislature also approved funding for CDA to set up a new grant program for small grocery retailers to help build infrastructure to provide healthy, Colorado-produced food to their communities. Another bill continues CDA’s ability to distribute funds through several stimulus programs set up in the 2021 legislative session. One-time funding was also appropriated to support ongoing agricultural mental health initiatives

Several bills passed will also require a stakeholder engagement process, to gather feedback from those who will be affected by the new laws and programs. These include:

Additional information about how to get involved with these initiatives will be announced later in June and stakeholder sessions will begin to be held over the summer months. 

Many other bills will have an impact on CDA’s operations. They deal with a variety of issues, from hemp production and pesticides to irrigation and improving climate resilience across Colorado. 

Nearly $250,000 will go toward improving technology access to CDA resources by upgrading the licensing and registration platform used by Colorado producers and CDA. The department will also develop training programs for producers to learn about new and emerging technologies, including how blockchain technology can be applied to agriculture’s needs. 

Another bill appropriates $60 million (from federal funds) to help finance groundwater use reduction efforts in the Rio Grande and the Republican river basins, such as efforts to buy and retire irrigation wells and irrigated acreage in the river basins. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will work with the boards of directors of the Rio Grande and Republican River water conservation districts on best strategies to restore their aquifers. 

Additionally, the Colorado State Fair will receive $10.7M for improvements: the legislature appropriated $4M toward the completion of the Master Plan and $6.7M in federal funding to improve the 4H Complex and Ag Palace.

Overall, the department worked on 27 bills (and the long bill) that will either impact CDA's operations directly or have an impact on agriculture in Colorado. You can read more about all of these here.

We are at a critical point in agriculture, where environmental and social pressures are creating hardships for the people who grow and raise our food. CDA’s leadership and staff is dedicated to supporting ag businesses of all scales and types across the state. We will continue to advocate for resources to ensure a thriving, vibrant agricultural economy and community in Colorado.

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