The Colorado Farm Bureau recently honored state Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, recognizing him as the top legislator in the state Senate for the 1999-2000 session.

He was presented the Top Republican Senate Member Award, at the Otero County Farm Bureau's annual meeting.

"Hillman is always available to work with Farm Bureau on bills and was willing to offer amendments to improve problematic bills," said John Schweizer Jr., board secretary of Colorado Farm Bureau. "His agriculture roots are very obvious and respected at the Capitol."

Hillman was instrumental in strengthening the state's Right to Farm Act. Last session, Hillman sponsored Senate Bill 29, which prevents rural-newcomers from filing nuisance lawsuits against farmers and ranchers that practice common or ordinary agriculture techniques.

"Right-to-farm laws are intended to protect farmers and ranchers whose property is no longer isolated but is being surrounded by residential neighbors who may have unreasonable expectations of rural living," said Hillman. "Normal ag operations ought to be protected from frivolous lawsuits, since the farmers and ranchers were there long before most of their neighbors."

In addition, Hillman was the Senate sponsor of a bill which moved the state Soil Conservation Board from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture. He also co-sponsored legislation eliminating state sales tax on repairs and maintenance of ag equipment.

"Agriculture is the backbone of Colorado. Our heritage derives from the hard-working farmers and ranchers of our state," said Hillman, an Eastern Plains wheat farmer. "I am extremely honored to receive this award."

Colorado Farm Bureau represents agriculture interests, at the county, state and national levels. The Farm Bureau has provided 25 years of service and had a record high of more than 22,200 member families in 1998.

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