New policies regarding prairie dogs, animal health, cattle marketing and frivolous lawsuits directed at livestock producers were approved by Colorado Cattlemen's Association (CCA) members, at the group's annual convention, held at the Copper Mountain Resort.
More than one dozen policies were proposed to CCA members during the meeting, with many combined or defeated within CCA committee meetings. Those proposals which passed out of committee made it to the general session, where CCA members cast their votes on the issues of concern.
Prairie dogs were a top item of discussion in the newly-formed CCA Endangered Species Committee. Two new policies related to the rodent pest came out of the committee and were adopted by CCA members. One measure calls for a solid count of the acres of prairie dog habitat in Colorado.
"Many CCA members have prairie dogs on their land and they know just how widespread these rodents are. An accurate count will show that prairie dogs are anything but endangered," said Don LeFever, Fort Collins, recently named president of CCA. The newly-adopted policy calls for local cattlemen's associations to lead the effort in counting the prairie dog acres by locating and assisting the Colorado Department of Wildlife in finding, measuring and recording all of the state's prairie dog towns.
Another resolution calls for individuals who lease land for prairie dog habitat to be held liable for controlling the rodents on their property. In the event the prairie dogs cause damages or losses on neighboring land or necessitates the rodents' removal, the measure also addresses compensation for those landowners.
CCA members also debated whether CCA should support the Grasslands Reserve Act, a measure sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-CO. The legislation would create a new, voluntary program authorizing 30-year or permanent easements from landowners, in exchange for a cash payment. Resolutions on each side of the issue were defeated, and members agreed.
CCA members also passed a resolution supporting the draft regulations recently developed by the Colorado state veterinarian to prevent introduction, and to control and eventually to eradicate the bovine venereal disease trichomoniasis. The regulations would require bulls nine months and older entering the state or sold for breeding to be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) and import permit. The regulations would require a negative T fetus test within 30 days prior to entry, with an additional test conducted within 10 days after entry and at least five days after the last import test.
Another approved policy would strengthen protections against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The resolutions calls for a complete ban of all animal by-products, excluding animal fat, in feed for any species of livestock or poultry in the U.S. Because poultry and poultry by-products are processed for use in beef and dairy cattle feed, and swine by-products are used as crop and pasture-land fertilizer; CCA believes the ban would help guard against the possible spread of BSE to cattle through poultry and swine by-products.
Another new policy is aimed at improving efficiency for ranchers and truckers transporting commodities from the ranch to market. The resolution recommends increasing the weight load limits for trucks traveling on Colorado highways to be compatible with Wyoming and Utah. The measure calls for CCA to help draft legislation which would allow a truck trailer and pup combination (truck and trailer configurations carrying increased weights distributed over more axles) of 110,000 pounds gross weight.
With the increasing influx of urban dwellers into historically rural, ag areas, agricultural producers have become the target of more and more frivolous lawsuits. Another new policy passed by CCA members calls for CCA to oppose any litigation directed toward livestock producers which is not based upon sound science or rule violation.
"Ag producers must follow rules and guidelines as outlined by state and federal agencies. In most cases, these were developed using sound scientific research. It only follows that any litigation aimed at producers should be based on the same type of scientific principles--not out of the self-serving motives of special interest groups," said LeFever. The new policy also calls for CCA to work with other livestock-producing groups locally, statewide and nationally to oppose these type of frivolous lawsuits.
The last new policy approved by CCA members calls for CCA to ask the Colorado General Assembly to enact legislation for all state prisons, hospitals and colleges to be required to purchase beef and beef products that have been born, raised, fed and processed in Colorado, along with other Colorado grown agricultural products.
"It only makes sense that Colorado taxpayers, many of whom are ag producers, should insist on Colorado-produced products within our states major institutions," said LeFever.