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Boulder County reconsiders its Crop Land Policy

Posted: February 29, 2016 at 10:33 am by , in Breaking News, Featured, Morning Magazine

5 years later and the only issue they’re addressing is the GMO issue and I think there are a lot of other issues that tie into the story as well but we really need to look at the whole policy and see why weren’t we meeting the goals of increasing organic production.”

On Monday February 29th, in Longmont, the Boulder County Commissioners will hear from members of the public as they  reconsider the county’s Open Space Agricultural Land Policy and particularly its policy of allowing GMO crops to be grown on open space land that they lease to local farmers.

Mark Gutteridge (pictured above) farms organically in Longmont on Ollin Farms, on 6 acres that he inherited from his grandparents and on 14 acres that he leases from the county. Gutteridge says the county needs to revamp its entire cropland policy and not just focus on the issue of GMOs.

“In 2011 the first time the crop land policy came out, it set a lot of goals for increasing beginning farmers and increasing organic production on open space land and in the five years that have passed we have a lot more information to see did those programs work. And so it’s a little bit concerning to me as a farmer in this county that a lot of their programs just didn’t succeed. They weren’t able to get beginning farmers – 19 of the 24 beginning farmers have gone out of business on open space in the past 5 years.  So it’s kind of concerning to me because there were signs of trouble in 2012, 2013 and there wasn’t any changes to the policy and it wasn’t addressed until 5 years later and the only issue they’re addressing is the GMO issue and I think there are a lot of other issues that tie into the story as well but we really need to look at the whole policy and see why weren’t we meeting the goals of increasing organic production.”

Gutteridge and other area farmers presented a document to the Boulder County Commissioners of February 19th outlining what they feel needs to be incorporated into the cropland policy to help beginning farmers and organic agriculture in the county. One of the recommendations they presented was to lease lands that are ready to farm. “Their business model is renting lands to farmers but these lands are typically weedy fields or neglected fields…when we started renting  the land across the creek from us it took two years of cover cropping and building the soil life and building nutrition before we started growing vegetables there. So we were able to transition that into our land. A beginning farmer needs to make a living that first year it goes on that land and it was a recipe for disaster.”

Gutteridge plans on testifying before the County Commissioners at Monday’s public meeting on the complexity of the issue of banning GMOs. He says the county needs to support farmers who want to transition away from GMOs and into organics. He says that farmers who are currently using GMOs are often limited in their options due to the limitations of the current cropland policy. He says for the most part they are good stewards of the land. “They’re keeping the top soil there and they’re working the land and since the county hasn’t been able to come up with other viable alternatives to make a living on those large parcels, you can see their point that GMOs should be grown there. Right now it’s the only option that we have now for 100,000 acre parcels in this county.”