Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

It’s no secret Northern Colorado is growing. Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties are welcoming thousands of new residents each year. People are flocking to the area, and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region’s substantive feeding operations. But an expansion of a Leprino Foods-owned cheese factory in Greeley will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape it: presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers, according to pols from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

But if you venture into the Midwest and ask a farmer about the TPP, you’re likely to get a different answer.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Charles Bassett wants you to buy hamburgers made from his Missouri cows. That’s why the Missouri rancher wants to pay an extra dollar into an industry-created fund every time he sells one of his cattle.

The fund is called a checkoff program – an industry-administered pool of money that is collected from producers for promotion, research and marketing of a particular commodity, which functions similar to a tax. If enacted by a referendum of beef producers in the state, the money would be spent by a designated group (likely the Missouri Beef Council) on promoting Missouri beef.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Boulder County commissioners want to create a plan to remove genetically-engineered crops, commonly known as GMOs, off county-owned land.

Commissioners chose not to take a formal vote on the county’s cropland policy at a meeting. Instead the three-person panel directed county staff to write up a transition plan to disallow GMO corn and sugar beets from being grown on open space land within three to seven years.

Currently farmers grow GMO corn and sugar beets on about 1,000 acres of Boulder County open space.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry just got one step closer to turning some of the state’s amber waves of grain into fields of emerald green.

State agriculture officials, research scientists at Colorado State University and the state’s Seed Growers Association are launching what they say is the first certified industrial hemp seed program in the country.

Here’s what that means: As soon as spring 2017 hemp growers, established and aspiring, will be able to purchase bags of seed with a state seal of approval guaranteeing that the seeds will grow into plants low in psychoactive compounds and be free of pests and weeds.

Once A Forgotten Niche, Farm Tech Investing Explodes

Mar 15, 2016
Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

The Western Farm Show in Kansas City, Mo., is a long way from Silicon Valley.

But here in a huge arena, set in what used to be the Kansas City Stockyards, the high-tech future of agriculture is for sale.

Casey Adams and Scott Jackman, co-owners of Fly Ag Tech, have their large yellow and white drone sitting at center stage in their booth at this huge annual trade show.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Inside a nondescript warehouse south of I-70 in Denver, Nick Hice opens a door into a large room holding a few hundred cannabis plants. One of the first things you notice about the room: It's bright. Glaring yellow high-pressure sodium light fixtures are strung from the ceiling. The whole place has a feverish glow. Even though it's indoors, Hice and his workers here at Denver Relief typically wear sunglasses when working here.

It's those lights that are the key to growing commercial marijuana successfully.

"It's very important. It's one of the things we talk about the most with these artificial environments," said Hice, an expert grower and operations manager at Denver Relief and a founding partner in its associated cannabis consulting business.

There's a cost that comes with using the same kind of lighting technology used to brighten stadiums and streets: high electric bills. That's why some enterprising businessmen are creating alternatives that might help cannabis growers cut down on their electricity load.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Cannabis is beginning to look a lot like a commodity crop.

After spending decades in darkened basements and secreted away on small parcels of land, marijuana growers are commercializing once-illegal plant varieties: industrial hemp, recreational marijuana and medical cannabis.

As more states legalize the growth of certain types of cannabis, those in the industry are turning to traditional farmers for help, to transform the plant from black market scourge into the next big American cash crop.

Colorado General Assembly

Colorado is on the road to becoming the final state in the country to legalize rain barrels, after Democrats reached an agreement with several Republicans who opposed previous versions of the measure.

"It is a water right and what you have done with this, you have protected that water right," said Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who had voted against a rain barrel bill last session.

Now he said he can back it – and other Republicans are also on board with HB 16-1005 [.pdf].

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

If you want a front row seat to the fight over GMOs head to Boulder County, Colorado.

GMOs, or more precisely, genetically-engineered crops, are lightning rods in discussions of our food. For the farmers who grow them and the scientists who create them, they’re a wonder of technology. For those opposed, the plants represent all that’s wrong with modern agriculture.

That theater is playing out in Boulder County, where an elected board of commissioners is considering whether to pull the plants off large swathes of publicly-owned land.