By Christi Lightcap
Special to The SUN
Gov. John Hickenlooper announced recently that John Salazar, Colorado’s commissioner of agriculture, will retire at the beginning of January 2015. He has served in the role since 2011.
“For the last twelve years, Colorado has benefited from the generous, noble and extraordinary service of John Salazar,” said Hickenlooper. “His commitment and dedication to the farmers, ranchers and producers across the state is unparalleled and his successes will continue to benefit the agriculture community and all of the Colorado for years to come. We offer heartfelt and sincere thanks for all he has given the state, and wish him years of glorious sunrises and sunsets on his ranch.”
“I want to thank Governor Hickenlooper for entrusting me to lead the Colorado Department of Agriculture where our accomplishments have been many,” said Salazar. “Under his leadership, we were able to complete a project 38 years in the making — consolidating our divisions under one roof to create significant saving for taxpayers while providing a one-stop shop for our customers. We came back even stronger as an industry following the listeria outbreak and in working with cantaloupe growers and the Rocky Ford Growers Association. Through our marketing efforts, we helped Colorado producers double agriculture exports over 2009 levels and helped Colorado’s farmers and ranchers achieve record net farm incomes.
“I also want to thank the great team assembled in the Department of Agriculture. They are the most dedicated and professional staff that I have ever worked with. Most importantly, I want to thank my family for the great sacrifices they have made while I have been away. I am so looking forward to being close to my family and working on what I consider the most honorable profession — farming and ranching,” Salazar added. “Thank you to the people of Colorado for giving me the great opportunity to serve you.”
Salazar served three terms representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and was a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Veteran’s Affairs Committee and the Transportation Committee. Salazar’s advocacy in Congress earned him recognition for outstanding service by the American Farm Bureau and the Golden Triangle Award from the National Farmers Union.
He played a key role in passing the historic farm bill of 2008 and authored the rural broadband and specialty crop provisions. With a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee in his third term, Salazar worked on national energy issues, jobs creation and the economy. Before his time in Congress, Salazar served in the Colorado General Assembly for two years.
Salazar served on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Program board and the Colorado Agricultural Commission before being elected as a state representative in 2002. He has also been a member of the Farm Credit Services Board of Directors, the Seed Export Committee with the Colorado Certified Seed Growers, and was the founder of the Saint Joseph Youth Athletic Program.
The Salazar family celebrates 14 generations of farming; John Salazar was raised on a San Luis Valley farm, where he and his five siblings shared a bedroom and had no electricity or running water. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Adams State College after serving three years in the U.S. Army.
Salazar continues to call the San Luis Valley home. He works on the family farm where they have farmed and ranched the same for seven generations.
A search for his replacement in the Governor’s Office is underway.
The mission of the Department of Agriculture is to strengthen and advance Colorado agriculture; promote a safe, high-quality and sustainable food supply; and protect consumers, the environment and natural resources.