Feb 192009
Authors: Madeline Novey

Citing sharp declines in 2008 state agricultural revenues Thursday, Colorado politicians and Colorado Department of Agriculture leaders recognized CSU in leading the development of alternative energies and technology for cleaner, more profitable farming.

Gov. Bill Ritter called for a confluence of the state’s efforts to increase wind and solar energy and the need to use simple science and research to evolve the current agricultural industry.

“We have one of the best Ag schools in the country to do that for us,” Ritter said about the strength of CSU’s agricultural research contributions. “We are a part of an industry that feeds the world . and we can credit CSU for being a frontrunner.”

CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences professors and researchers said everyone involved must participate in a “necessary dialog” about the future of Colorado’s crops, livestock and water.

“This is a modest topic, the future of Colorado agriculture,” Department Chair of Agricultural and Resource Economics Steve Davies said of the tremendous challenge, laughing.

The same CSU faculty started to analyze decades of data last spring – including farm profits, production and regional water distribution –/and presented the findings to about 300 agricultural leaders at the “Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture.”

“We’ll treat this as an initial hypothesis and then start a dialogue,” he said referring to the study, which was based on a U.S. model and adapted for Colorado needs.

Based on the results of the study, Davies and his colleagues found several untapped resources including an increase in international exports, agritourism, biofuels and alternative energy and genetic food modification.

James Pritchett, an associate professor of agriculture and resource economics said that the study found that about 26 percent of people state-wide had never participated in any form of agritourism, which ranges from staying at a ranch or farm to winding through a corn maze in the fall.

He furthered his suggestions with the exploration of genetic modification to produce more wheat and increase revenues.

Because the decline in the value of the dollar over the past couple years caused between a 30 and 40 percent increase in the price of oil, Ritter looked to CSU to lead in the use of biofuels, specifically ethanol made from corn, and other energy sources in farming.

“The work that’s being done on alternative fuels is phenomenal,” he said, adding, “We think that agriculture can participate in what we do about efforts to reduce carbon emissions.”

Davies said while these progressive ideas are not fully integrated into CSU’s agriculture curriculum, several related research projects are underway and some capstone classes are testing the water.

Two COAS research groups are in the process of evaluating irrigation systems on 11 Eastern Colorado farms and several in Afghanistan and upper-division agricultural business students are challenged to evaluate possibilities in biofuels and the green industry.

Danika Baker, a National FFA Organization State Association officer, said these issues are globally relevant because agriculture affects every person who wears clothes, uses fuel or eats food.

“We need to look at taking care of the land we’re given,” Baker said, who is one of hundreds of FFA members nation-wide who seek to increase agriculture education in high schools and local communities.

Baker, who grew up as a farm, attended CSU in the 2007 academic year as a soil and crop sciences major before taking a year off to volunteer for the FFA.

Interim President Tony Frank said that CSU, as a land-grant university with an agricultural history, is prepared take the reigns and develop solutions to Colorado’s agricultural challenges.

“We started as an Ag school, we are an Ag school and we will be an Ag school,” he said.

CSU asked leaders to pencil in a date this summer to further discuss and develop solutions to issues that plague the industry.

Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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