Ranchers braced for ballot beef

Move afoot to halt 35-acre subdivisions, lobbyist says

Ranchers who once could round up legislators with relative ease will soon face challenges well beyond the walls of the General Assembly, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s lobbyist said Monday.

Ranchers might have to confront a ballot measure next year that would prohibit them from selling off 35-acre parcels of their land, Danny Williams told more than 300 ranchers.

The ranchers were gathered for the first day of the association’s three-day convention at Two Rivers Convention Center.

Ranchers will face a well-funded effort in 2010 to rescind what is now a property right,

Williams told the group, which has met three times in Grand Junction over the past 17 years.

If ranchers no longer can use their property as collateral, their ability to borrow money will be curtailed, as will their ability to obtain conservation easements, Williams said.

Previous efforts, such as bans on leghold traps, have hamstrung ranchers who were unprepared to respond to opponents outside the halls of the Legislature, Williams said.

The “most liberal initiative process in the United States” will allow more efforts for legislation by direct democracy to the detriment of ranchers, he said.

Opponents of ranching also will take advantage of regulations and the courts to deal with agricultural issues, said Williams, a former Eagle County commissioner, rancher and state representative.

For a century, agriculture has had a dominating voice in the Legislature, and “Our enemies have figured that out,” he said. “We’re at the threshold of a completely new 100 years,” he said.

The convention continues today with addresses by Forrest Roberts of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Sam Barringer, also a veterinarian, discussing efforts to help ranchers establish themselves in Afghanistan.

The cattlemen this afternoon will take a tour of the newest entrant in Colorado’s agricultural industry, the Grand Valley’s vineyards, sponsored by Marathon Oil Co. and Williams.


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