Inside the BARN, Jerry Sonnenberg, July 16, 2018


Show:       Inside the BARN, BARN On-air and Online

Guests:    Sonnenberg


Date:        July 16, 2018

Topics:     U.S. Farm Bill, Tariff War, Trade War, China, Mexico, Canada, European Union, Trade Policies, Foreign Trade, Exports, Increase Grazing, National Forest Land, National Forest Service, Controlled Burn, Logging, Pawnee National Grasslands, Walker Stapleton, Lang Sias, Jared Polis, Diane Primavera, George Brauchler, Phil Weiser,

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SONNENBERG: [00:00:00] [discussing the conference committee to be convened for a U.S. Farm Bill compromise between House and Senate versions] It will be interesting to see because quite frankly I don’t know what direction they’re going to go when it comes to the compromise. Obviously, they want some — uh, for people that don’t know, the Farm Bill that includes not only farm programs — which is actually a small part of the Farm Bill — but it also includes food assistance programs and those type of programs for those that are needy, and some would argue […] maybe not as needy. And that’s been part of the discussion in the Farm Bill, is how do we put accountability into those programs where we are spending money to help people that may or may not need as much help as others. We know that we still want to help those most needy. That will not change. And I think [there is] bipartisan support in that. But the question is, where do you draw the line in providing that that assistance when it comes to the Farm Bill.

HOST: [00:01:11] Well, let’s move on to the next big topic that all of us in agriculture are concerned about right now as the days pass, is the trade and tariff war escalation with China and Mexico and Canada and European Union. [It] seems like it keeps getting bigger and not ratcheting down. [What are] Your thoughts about how that’s affecting not only United States trade in the world with those countries, but also affecting our agriculture trade here in Colorado.

SONNENBERG: [00:01:39] Well, there’s no question that those [trade policies and tariffs] are impacting us in Colorado. You see wheat markets being chased lower because of the escalation. I don’t know — what are we, 40 cents lower than we were a week ago — per bushel? That’s a huge impact. And part of that is because of the uncertainty of what our foreign trade is going to look like. What is it — 80% or 85% of all the wheat grown in Colorado is exported? So, it becomes a challenge, quite frankly, when you have those uncertainties. Now, one thing I think we have to remember is that this is a long term plan and we have to look out into the future. Will we be better off three, four years down the road if we stick to our guns and try and sort through these trade issues that quite frankly have been brought to the forefront by President Trump. We know there’s been some inequities before. And he wants to help the American producer with what they produce. So, I am cautiously optimistic that in the long term this will be beneficial to agriculture. But in the short term, yeah, it hurts a little bit.

SONNENBERG: [00:03:17] You know, when you have a drought year here, and then we have 20-30 years of mismanaged forests, this is what happens. We’ve got to do some things, and it’s going to take time to mitigate all of this but we’ve got to do some things for forest management, whether we increase grazing so the grass — the low-lying grass — that dries up in a drought, catches fire, and burns is not there. We’ve got to manage that. We’ve got to manage the density of the forest. And in the past, on the National Forest land, they’ve made it so difficult to do logging and manage the forest itself, that it’s so thick that we have disease, and then trees die. And wind trees dry, they become tinder for fire. And it’s tough to control fire. [As a] matter of fact, [for] the firefighters — containment is — what they try to do is figure out, “How do we stop the fire from spreading? How do we protect buildings, because our job–. We Can’t put these fires out. There’s just too much fuel, too much risk.” So, it becomes a huge, huge challenge. And I have argued this for years, that we should do a better job of managing our forests. I have said the same thing with the National Forest Service [doing] controlled burns on the Pawnee National Grasslands., There’s no trees there. But they can manage that with grazing just as easy as they could [by] burning, and actually have a better product, I would argue, when they’re done. They can manage that without erosion, without the smoke, without the pollution. But our National Forest Service has allowed things to happen the way they are happening right now. And now we’re suffering the consequences.

HOST: [00:05:30] Yeah, and just around the corner we need to all be thinking about this November — a huge election here in Colorado. We’ve got a change in leadershiup in the governor’s office. Anything you want to mention about the gubernatorial candidates? On the Republican side, Walker Stapleton — he just named his running mate, Lang Sias. And then, you’ve got on the Democratic side, Jared Polis and [his] running mate, Dianne Primavera.

SONNENBERG: [00:05:50] Yeah, you know, this is going to be an important election, again, in November. We’ve got some governor candidates. And I would say, just as important as the governor’s race, is the attorney general’s race. The attorney general chooses what — how they will defend Colorado and the taxpayers and the citizens of Colorado. And there’s a clear difference between the two attorney general candidates: George Brauchler, who is a prosecutor that actually prosecuted the Aurora theater shooter case in Aurora and just a great guy; Phil Weiser is the Democrat candidate who sides typically on a trial lawyer’s side, to sue — make it difficult for businesses, and quite frankly, when it comes right down to it, how we deal with oil and gas, as well. There’s a couple are very distinct agendas between the two candidates for attorney general, and that also carries over into the governor’s race. You know, in rural Colorado — well, in the state of Colorado, but all of this happens in rural Colorado — the number one industry is the oil and gas industry in Colorado. We have a candidate that wants to eliminate the oil and gas industry and we have a candidate that wants responsible energy production in Colorado. We [in] rural Colorado — that’s important to us. How does it affect agriculture? Well, we’ll want to see a new commissioner of agriculture — if they select a new one, and typically they do pick a new cabinet — a commissioner of agriculture that actually has dirt underneath their fingernails. And, uh, it will be interesting to see what happens there. Obviously, candidates are looking now to build coalitions and meeting with groups. I know one candidate — Walker Stapleton — has an Ag advisory group put together to advise him on ag issues. I have not heard about Jared Polis’s potential Ag information network. But it’s things that we need to weigh in on, and if it’s important to us, we need to be finding out where both candidates stand, both for governor and attorney general.