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August: fairs, farms and taxes

The month of August has, for me, always meant county fairs.

The small town where I grew up is the longtime home of a large county fair and working at a fair food booth gave local teens like me a chance to earn extra income before school started. The carnival rides were also a huge hit since we didn’t have the amenities that lots of small towns now have for their young people.

Many years have passed since those days, but I’m glad county fairs are still with us. They are smaller these days, but they are still here and we need to support them for more than just fond memories. Food independence is no less important than energy independence for national security reasons. We forfeit food independence, though, if we don’t have a viable agricultural economy and workforce.

I’m encouraged in seeing that there are still young people who participate in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) with enthusiasm and pride. My son, Ben, is currently a ranch hand in the Durango area and loving it. It’s in his genes, but without having been raised on a ranch or farm, it’s not always an easy fit for the hard work involved.

My father, a dairy farmer when I was born, never could sleep in in the morning even after his farming days were over, and he rejected anything not butter and whole milk as a very poor substitute for the real thing.

The Western Slope is home to many communities who still have agricultural production as an important component of the local economies. Who hasn’t enjoyed Colorado beef, Olathe sweet corn, Palisade peaches and other great Western Slope products? All the same, these can’t be taken for granted as pressures build on those who own the farms and ranches to reconsider their livelihoods, especially in these uncertain economic times.

Please consider taking a break from your busy summer schedules to get out to the area’s county fairs and join in the fun. Thank and encourage those who make their livings off the land — without their hard work and sacrifices to provide our food, we will grow weaker as a state and nation and put ourselves in a more precarious food production position than we’re already in.

I’m pleased to add that the Colorado Farm Bureau recently released its legislative report for 2010 and I received an A rating on their legislative scorecard and was named a Friend of Farm Bureau. While my labor isn’t nearly as difficult as that of a dairy farmer or a ranch hand, I’m proud to be working hard for those in agriculture.

I’ve been spending lots of my time on the campaign trail, but I’m still fielding and responding to constituent calls for help. It’s been disturbing to hear of so many problems with the Colorado Department of Revenue and their errors in handling taxpayers’ affairs. I know that there is a heavy workload for them as people struggle with keeping up with the bills, but there are too many times when I learn that the department has made mistakes of their own while zealously pursuing what they think is owed.

I encourage all who are in contact with the Department of Revenue to closely scrutinize the notices you’re getting and if there’s an error, report it immediately and do it in writing. I’ve heard repeatedly of an inability to get through to anyone at the department and that, too, is very disturbing to me. I’ve been able to get people connected to a live person, either by phone or e-mail, but things should be working better in Denver and don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help with this.

The start of school will be here before we know it and, while my kids are now grown, I remember the combination of dread and anticipation for all concerned. Good luck, everyone!