Coffman Holds Ag Roundtable at Sakata Farms
Brighton, CO – Today U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06) held a legislative roundtable with the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) at Sakata Farms in Brighton, Colo. The discussion focused on federal policies impacting Colorado’s fruit and vegetable growers and was followed by a tour of Sakata Farms and nearby Petrocco Farms in Brighton, Colo.
“Given the importance of agriculture to the Colorado economy it's important for me to meet with the farmers here today to listen to their concerns,” Coffman said. “This year, I heard from the growers that getting the labor that they need is their biggest issue. In fact, many Colorado farms, including Sakata Farms, have had to cut back on crop production due to the shortage of farm workers.”
Coffman is a cosponsor of H.R. 2588, the Better Agriculture Resources Now Act (BARN Act). This legislation would reform, strengthen, and streamline the current H-2A visa program, allowing Colorado farmers’ access to an increased agricultural temporary workforce from outside the country.
The farmers brought up issues with the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A visa program application delays. In March 2016, Coffman co-signed a letter to the Secretary of Labor expressing concerns over these delays in H2-A visa approvals.
“Colorado farmers must have more certainty when it comes to having an adequate labor force to harvest their crops,” Coffman said.
Several government officials also joined the discussion at Sakata Farms including U.S. Representative Ken Buck (CO-04) and Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown. The offices of U.S. Representative Jared Polis (CO-02), U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) all sent staff to listen to the grower’s concerns.
"Agriculture is a vital part of Colorado's economy,” Buck said. “I'm thankful for the opportunity to hear from farmers about the ways that federal red tape negatively impacts them."
Other attendees included Colorado agricultural leaders and area farmers. The farmers discussed the increasing cost of federal over regulation.
“We had a great turn out and I think it benefited the farmers and the Colorado delegation to learn about the challenges that each face. Hopefully we can help each other to make things better,” said Robert Sakata, host of the roundtable and President of CFVGA. “A special thanks to Congressman Coffman who came up with this idea a year ago and followed through helping us to get it done. It is really important that we all understand how important local fresh fruit and vegetable farming is for the economy, and especially for our health.”
According to CFVGA, Colorado’s fruit and vegetable growers contribute nearly $300 million to Colorado’s economy annually at the point of production. Colorado is home to more than 60,000 acres in fruit and vegetable production.