Colorado Pushes for Tougher Ag Regulations

In the wake of a deadly listeria outbreak that killed 28 people, Colorado agricultural officials are considering new regulatory programs for the state’s cantaloupe industry. The outbreak, which originated from the Rocky Ford area’s Jensen Farm, has been felt nationwide and is causing ramifications within the Colorado agricultural industry.

Colorado cantaloupe farmers are already beginning to feel the pinch of consumer backlash. Even farmers not part of the listeria outbreak and nowhere near Rocky Ford are predicting a major decline in the purchase and consumption of Colorado cantaloupes.

State Agricultural Commissioner John Salazar is currently considering new oversight over the cantaloupe industry, which will hopefully protect a major part of the state’s economy. Current considerations include the creation of a Colorado Proud certification program, and potentially a Rocky Ford Proud program, which farmers could qualify for if they meet a series of tough new production and sanitation standards.

Other proposals include expanding state university pathogen tests and creating programs to help offset costs for pathogen testing for Colorado farmers.

However, one of the major problems facing Salazar is the lack of money available for new certification programs. Like the rest of the country, Colorado is facing a budget crunch. Any new system would have to rely on major budget shifts, federal support, which is unlikely given the current state of Congressional austerity, or financial support from the farmers themselves.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer