Gardner’s valley visit to dairy and farm
U.S. Sen.Cory Gardner decided to spend part of his recess from Congress talking to local residents and other Western Slope leaders, instead of talking to the media.
Gardner’s press office released a list of contacts the senator made across western Colorado over the past few days, including meetings with local farmers, ranchers, health care providers, some Moffat County officials and public lands officials.
Phone calls from The Daily Sentinel to Gardner’s office for an interview with the senator about the tour were not returned.
One stop on the tour was Blaine’s Tomatoes & Farm, 544 33 3/4 Road.
Blaine Diffendaffer said he talked to Gardner about his concerns with the guest worker program, immigration and “the struggles I have as a small farmer.”
At one point during Gardner’s visit on Wednesday, the senator took a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence. Gardner later put Diffendaffer on the phone with Pence.
Diffendaffer said he talked to Pence about growing tomatoes, and said Pence relayed he came from Indiana where a lot of row crops are grown.
“It was a cool conversation,” Diffendaffer said. “It took me completely off guard. I had no clue what to say to him.”
Diffendaffer said it was nice to see Gardner without a suit and tie, and the Clifton farmer felt like the senator “had an interest in what I was doing.”
“I’m not a fan of Senator Gardner but I have to give him credit for coming out here,” Diffendaffer said.
Helen Raymond of Raymond’s Dairy, 1412 M 3/4 Road, said she was pleased with Gardner’s roughly 30-minute visit on Wednesday. She and her husband, Bob, talked to the senator about declining milk prices and the effect that’s having on Mesa County’s sole dairy farm.
Helen Raymond said no politicians have visited the dairy before.
“We really enjoyed our visit,” she said. “We are staunch Republicans.”
On Thursday, Sen. Gardner visited Zay and Leah Lopez of the Produce Peddler, 628 S Road in Mack.
Zay Lopez said in the two-hour visit he talked with Gardner about the obstacles facing small farmers, including finding labor and securing capital to grow operations.
“We have the ability to expand but the labor issue is huge,” Zay Lopez said. “It’s hard to find people who want to do this kind of work.”
Lopez said he doesn’t have the resources to build housing and attract workers through the federal H2A worker program.
Regardless, Lopez said he was pleased that the senator took the time for the visit.
“It was nice to have him out to show him what a farm in western Colorado looks like,” Lopez said.
According to a release from his office, Gardner’s tour also included meetings with officials from Dinosaur National Monument, members of the Colorado Farm Bureau and health care providers in Meeker at Pioneers Medical Center. Other stops included meeting with Moffat County officials, the Knott Ranch and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
“It was important to have discussions with Colorado’s health care providers, farmers and ranchers, local officials, and National Parks Service employees overseeing our public lands … so I can return to Washington and advocate for policies that will help all of Colorado,” Gardner said in the statement.