Panel: Preserving agriculture more important than dollars and cents

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— Helping local ranchers and farmers keep their businesses viable in a slumping industry is important to Routt County not for the money agriculture brings in, but for the myriad of other reasons it is crucial to this area, participants at a session during Friday's Economic Summit agreed.

Routt County residents discussing the agricultural economy of the valley agreed with CSU Extension Agent, Ag Alliance and Economic Develop-ment Council member C.J. Mucklow that these are the three strongest reasons for preserving the agricultural activity in Yampa Valley.

"The agricultural economy is not very profitable compared to the resort economy," Mucklow said. "It absolutely cannot compete on its own. It just can't. It never will."

Agriculture has recently been in a slump, Mucklow explained.

"The price of wheat is worth less today than it was in 1950," he said. The livestock industry is also at a seven-year low, he added.

Nevertheless, Mucklow advocated the Community Agricultural Alliance and the agricultural economy of the valley for three key reasons.

Routt County is a great place for agricultural activity because of its perennial forage system, because the agricultural landscape makes Steamboat Springs a unique resort area, and because the agricultural industry helps to maintain healthy riparian areas and globally rare forest along the Yampa River and within the valley.

The recent successes of projects like Yampa Valley Beef and Routt County Woolens in increasing the viability of agriculture industry in the area is encouraging for the development of more value-added local products.

"There is no doubt in my mind people will be buying products based on place in the near future," Orton Family Foundation's Townsend Anderson said.

With that in mind, summit participants formulated a list of local products that the county could begin marketing in the years ahead: noodle and bread wheats, malt barley, minor livestock crops, herbs, sheep and goat dairy products, safflower, manure/compost, tomatoes, and continued development of Yampa Valley Beef.

Affording professional help for marketing, developing the know-how for such extensive business undertakings, and expanding current markets of Yampa Valley Beef, for example will all prove to be formidable challenges to these ideas, participants agreed.


To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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