I am writing in regards to the recent incident at the Colorado Department of Agriculture in which Gov. Jared Polis used the CDA offices and staff as a prop to promote Impossible Foods Inc. I agree with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s assessment of these cell-based protein products as nothing more than “cheap dog food.” Here is why:
First and foremost, the bully pulpit of the governor’s office should never be used to “pick winners” and to promote the interests of individual companies. This is inherently anti-competitive behavior. Regardless of political affiliation, this conduct is corrupt and unAmerican. It also denigrates the many non-political professionals at the CDA, who work long hours for low pay to provide critical support and oversight to agriculture, for example, seed inspectors.
Secondly, the governor’s behavior dismisses a fundamental element of Colorado’s economy. The agriculture industry is one of the largest in the state, generating over $40 billion per year in economic activity. Beef is also Colorado’s top export, with over $1 billion in exports in 2018, ahead of electronic products, medical tech and aerospace technology. I wonder what would happen if the governor would make similar disparaging comments against large local firms in these fields, such as Arrow Electronics, Medtronic, or Lockheed Martin.
Third, Colorado’s agricultural industry stands to benefit very little from Impossible Foods Inc.’s operations. The only ingredients that Colorado producers could potentially grow for Impossible Foods Inc. are sunflower oil and potato protein—both derivatives of niche crops that are relatively minor players in Colorado’s economy. If the governor truly wished to promote Colorado’s niche crops, sending the CDA staff 250 melon (or cannabis) patties would be more sensible. This belies the governor’s basic ignorance of the methods and business of agriculture.
Finally, to suggest that Colorado’s undeveloped native rangelands should be converted into intensive farmland to grow sunflower and potatoes is frankly offensive. Rangeland soils are often easily eroded once the resilient native plant community is removed. Have we forgotten the lessons of the Dust Bowl? Grasslands are also an optimal carbon sink, storing most of their carbon biomass underground where it is more protected and beneficial to soil and new growth. Most of this carbon is lost during cultivation. Additionally, rangelands serve as a reservoir of biodiversity—perhaps the cure for cancer is hiding in the wild genes of a grassland plant, insect, fungus, or bacteria.
In rural Colorado, we have a saying “All hat and no cattle” to describe someone who is full of talk, but lacks action. I propose a new saying to describe the recent actions of the governor: “All plant and no burger.” Like an Impossible Burger, his comments are illusory and misleading. On the surface the governor’s office purports to support Colorado agriculture. But dig a little deeper, and you will find nothing but hydrolyzed soy protein, chemical filler, and marketing hype.
That sounds a lot like cheap dog food to me.
—Donald Schoderbek works in sales for Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc. in Greeley, specializing in CRP and reclamation mixes. Prior to working for Pawnee Buttes, he worked for CSU Extension in Sterling as a Regional Range Specialist, as well as a freelance writer for the Fence Post. Opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.