Have you ever considered the idea that Colorado’s constitution will one day be the biggest threat to a viable beef producing future in this state?

Have you ever considered the idea that Colorado’s constitution will one day be the biggest threat to a viable beef producing future in this state? Think about it. The recipe is perfect. It’s relatively easy to get a measure on the ballot, and if voters believe the title and brief description sounds “reasonable,” they are very likely to vote for it. Furthermore, it’s very expensive and time consuming to “kill” a measure that appears reasonable.

We in agriculture must either use the ballot process to our advantage and secure the future sustainability of agriculture production in the constitution or change the ballot initiative process making it more difficult to amend or add to the constitution; or ultimately resign ourselves engaged in animal agriculture to raising the dollars (as much as $6 million per ballot measure) to fight these measures. Ultimately, the choice is ours to make, and make it we must.

Three of the several constitutional ballot measures filed in Colorado for 2014 are compelling evidence that the Colorado’s constitution, the very document intended to defend our inalienable rights, could severely hinder your right to farm.

Cattle tail docking

This amendment, proposed by the Humane Society of the United States through petitioners Mike Callicrate and Angela Smith, legally prevents anyone from docking the tail of cattle unless it’s for therapeutic purposes, by a licensed veterinarian, for minimizing pain or suffering of an animal, or if the animal has been adequately anesthetized. Although this is not a widely adhered to practice and affects only a few dairies in our state. The constitution, and for that matter state law, should not specify animal husbandry practices.

Protection of, and prevention of, cruelty to animals

If added to our constitution, livestock owners and caretakers would no longer be able to defend themselves against alleged animal welfare violations by claiming that the animal was treated in accordance with acceptable animal husbandry practices. This initiative, proposed by the Humane Society of the United States through petitioners Mike Callicrate and Angela Smith, opens all animal practices and procedures to litigation and ultimate determination by a judge as to a practice or procedure being animal abuse or not. An unending list of acceptable practices could open you to frivolous lawsuits - dew claw removal from dogs, branding, castration, ear notching, ear tagging – any practice that anyone finds objectionable could land you in court and you would no longer be able to claim that you were utilizing an acceptable animal husbandry practices.

Public trust resources

This amendment may be well meaning and it sounds perfectly reasonable: “The people of Colorado have an inalienable right to clean air, clean water …” The concern is that the amendment declares all ground and surface water as a public trust resource and would ultimately result in loss of the private property water rights and overriding current water law. The concern is that with the growing population in Colorado, farmers and ranchers will take the brunt of this law and have a hugely negative impact on their livelihoods, private enterprises, the state, and all private property rights.

The members of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association have determined that the ballot initiative process is a high priority for amendment; we must all act and encourage our elected officials to make this a priority. Again this year, the General Assembly will not be proposing a voter-referred measure to make it more difficult to amend our constitution. Please contact your representative and senator and encourage them to consider otherwise. CCA continues to work daily at the state capitol protecting land and beef production rights. To view the legislation currently being tracked and more specific details on the constitutional amendments listed above, visit www.coloradocattle.org/legislativeactivity.aspx.