President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture appointee will inherit a difficult economic situation. Low commodity and beef prices are hitting Colorado hard. Exports like grain are not expected to rebound in 2017 due to the strength of the dollar, further impacting farm and rural area incomes. A strong dollar can purchase more foreign currency meaning American consumers pay less for imports. On the flip side, it also means that foreign consumers pay more for American exports, like beef.
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner would like to see the person in charge of overseeing the entire nation’s farming industry be from the Midwest.
“You know Don Brown is from my hometown [Yuma, Colo.] and he has done a heck of a good job in Colorado as secretary of agriculture,” Gardner said. “You’ve got people like Deb Fisher from Nebraska who would do an excellent job - fighting for not just agriculture but rural economies overall.”
Gardner criticized Trump during the election, but now he looks forward to working with the administration.
“We have a judge opening at the district court level in Colorado that I look forward to filling under the new president. … There are a lot of regulations that cost billions of dollars on our economy over the last eight years that will come under intense scrutiny. … We look forward to the repeal of Obamacare” Gardner said.
Increased infrastructure spending is one of the few bipartisan issues where Trump and Democrats agree. Gardner wants to direct more federal funds to places like the I-25 corridor from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins.
“[We also need] permitting reform,” Gardner said, “to make sure we can spend less money per mile of highway project and put more money back into building the highway itself instead of bureaucracy and overhead being so expensive.”
Gardner does not want Western infrastructure expansion to be limited to roads. He’s interested in new water infrastructure from pipelines to water storage - including the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project [NISP].
“I believe NISP is a very important project. I think it’s necessary to keep tens of thousands of acres from being bought up and dried up - agricultural lands on the eastern plains that will basically blow away if NISP isn’t built. … Unfortunately, every year of delay means the project gets more expensive,” Gardner said.
Some conservationists have been against the NISP project claiming it will harm river ecosystems if more water is diverted from them into the two new reservoirs which would be built. Gardner disagrees.
“The people who are opposed to this project in many cases don’t want any water storage projects whatsoever and that’s not going to meet the needs of businesses, municipalities and the people of Colorado in the future. Yes, conservation has to be a part of it, but new water storage projects have to be a part of it as well.”
Hillary Clinton won both the popular and the Electoral College vote in Colorado, a fact that doesn’t bother Gardner given the makeup of the 2017 state senate, which he points to as an indication that Republicans remain a strong voice in the once solidly red state.
“I think we need to focus on the needs and concerns of the people of Colorado, which is why I will continue to fight for aerospace and aviation jobs, continue to fight for common sense water solutions and agriculture,” Gardner said.