Colorado editorials: Trump, Congress needs to give hemp farmers a break
September 13, 2017
Trump, Congress needing to give hemp farmers a break
During his surprisingly successful bid for the presidency, Donald Trump famously sought out rural America and American farmers, and for good reasons beyond politics.
For years, farmers in Colorado and other states have struggled against falling prices, global competition and a drain of talent as millennials leave the family business to boomer parents, or sell out and move on. The situation is dire enough that in Colorado special steps are being taken to extend suicide hotline help to farming districts, as Erin Douglas reported in The Denver Post this weekend.
So we couldn't help but notice another Post story on Sunday, from Libby Rainey, that recounts problems some farmers in Colorado and other states are facing; problems perfect for a businessman president with a thirst for curbing government regulation to solve.
Congress legalized hemp cultivation in 2014 for those states, like Colorado, that regulate the crop. But because marijuana remains locked into the most dangerous category of illegal drugs in the eyes of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and because Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, can't abide the weed, hemp farmers join the ranks of state-permitted cannabis entrepreneurs who struggle with wrong-headed federal regulations.
Hemp could be an innovative and attractive crop for young and old farmers to add to the rotation, as some pioneers already are showing. The crop grows well and is attractive to all kinds of buyers. Commercial and industrial applications abound and more are coming online now that so many states — 33 presently — allow its cultivation. Hemp can be used in medications that rely on cannabidiol oil, but it is not psychoactive. With less than 0.3 percent of the THC that gets one high, Sessions has little reason to fear shaggy fields of hemp growing upon on the fruited plains.
Yet hemp farmers, like their peers in the legal medical and recreational industry, are denied bank accounts due to federal rules. They can't get crop insurance either. Even securing some water rights is a headache or impossible, despite a Republican-led effort at the state legislature that awaits federal buy-in.
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"Basically, I was encouraging the federal government to get involved," state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said of the water rights legislation in making the point that the current regulatory framework creates unworkable uncertainty.
We've long supported nationwide legislative changes that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to take advantage of legitimate financial tools and tax treatment. Hemp farmers represent the easiest category for regulatory relief.
In June, Trump addressed farmers in Iowa, saying, "American farmers and ranchers are the best — absolute best at what they do. And they can compete anywhere if they are given a level playing field."
He was talking about fair trade, of course, and not hemp, but given that dozens of countries allow hemp cultivation, the wisdom's the same.
Trump could fix the problem by directing his administration to knock pot from its ridiculous position as among the most dangerous of controlled substances. Congress could act as well, and we're pleased that so many of our congressional delegation, on both sides of the political spectrum, support needed regulatory reforms.
Lawmakers might move faster if the president stood with the next generation of farmers and led the charge for better opportunities on the ground.
The Denver Post, Sept. 11
On dog attacks on postal carriers
It was a distinction that, quite frankly, our community could have done without.
A few days ago, we learned that the United States Postal Service's Sunset Station on Pueblo's South Side has reported more dog attacks so far this year than any other station in Colorado or Wyoming. In fact, the ratio of postal carriers to dog attacks there is twice as high as any other office in the two-state region.
It would be easy to make some lame jokes about how dogs biting postal carriers is part of the natural order of things, but this isn't a laughing matter. A Sunset carrier needed nearly a month of extensive medical treatment following one of this year's dog attacks. Some breeds of dogs are powerful enough and dangerous enough to kill people so there's always the risk of an even greater tragedy.
So should postal workers be risking their health and possibly even their lives to deliver your bills and junk mail? Obviously, no.
Mail carriers have the discretion not to make deliveries to properties where they don't feel safe. They should also, if they aren't already, be arming themselves with pepper spray to fend off unwanted canine attention.
Postal workers aren't the only ones in Pueblo living with this problem. Many neighborhoods are plagued by loose dogs that menace people who are out walking, jogging or bicycling.
This is, first and foremost, a matter of personal responsibility. Pet owners are legally required to keep their animals restrained on their property. According to city ordinances, those who fail to do that can face fines of up to $1,000.
In theory, at least. It's probably a safe bet that police aren't giving loose dogs a much higher priority than they do illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Still, people who see dogs running loose can and should report them to Pueblo Animal Services. Dog owners might be more inclined to keep their animals restrained if they knew they might one day have to go through the inconvenience of trying to retrieve their pets from PAS.
There are some pet owners who want to keep their dogs confined within fenced yards to protect their property. There are a couple of solutions for that. One would be to put mailboxes outside of fenced yards. The other would be to invest money in post office boxes.
Neither postal carriers nor anyone else whose work involves walking through neighborhoods should have to worry about dog attacks. Nor should the general public. This is a problem that could be solved relatively easily, if dog owners are willing to do their part.
The Pueblo Chieftain, Sept. 11
Deferred repairs at nation's parks and monuments
Mesa Verde National Park has deferred $65.7 million worth of maintenance, according to figures by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Mesa Verde is just one of 400 park units that account for a total of $11.3 billion in needed repairs.
Hovenweep National Monument needs $255,000, and Yucca House, an isolated archaeological site that has few improvements, needs $125,000.
Inviting the public to visit public lands involves costs that must be met. Unfortunately, they haven't been, and the result is a laundry list of urgent needs. The National Park Service budget has not been adequate for all its needs for many years, and there is no reason to believe that will change, especially with federal disaster-response needs growing daily.
The problem more likely will continue to grow worse year by year, which is poor stewardship of public resources. And just catching up on deferred maintenance doesn't move parks forward; it simply prevents them from falling farther behind.
Inadequate maintenance has a domino effect, though. Eventually conditions become bad enough to discourage visitation, revenue goes down, and recovery becomes nearly impossible without a large infusion of cash.
Public lands advocates have various ideas about where in the federal budget that cash could be found, from the president's golf vacations to various projects that, depending on one's point of view, do not seem necessary. It's relatively easy to identify enough savings for one park; finding enough for all is far more challenging.
Private funding and public-private partnerships offer welcome assistance but are not a universal solution because of the potential for attached strings.
National parks and monuments must, first and foremost, serve their preservation mission and public, and their funding sources must not undermine those goals.
Nor must the Department of the Interior. It's one thing for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to announce that he's not altering the majority of the monuments under his review; it would be another entirely to announce that the Trump administration has committed to eliminating the maintenance backlog and adequately funding the park units going forward.
The experiences to be had in each park have intrinsic value. They are visited and loved by many millions of people every year — 331 million recreational visits in 2016, including 583,000 at Mesa Verde — and regional economies are intertwined with the visitation to national parks. Those are important points to make, because closing a park or monument to save money (or to appease other interests) isn't nearly as uncomplicated as it might sound to a politician or a president who has little familiarity with the National Park Service.
It also would be politically dishonest.
Let's tackle the problem openly and consider the full range of available solutions for taking care of the public's property.
The (Cortez) Journal, Sept. 11