Cropland Policy
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Cropland Policy

Boulder County manages cropland for the long-term. The purpose of the Cropland Policy is to link the goals of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan with the operational activities of Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff.

Boulder County Parks & Open Space’s vision is to be a national leader in sustainable agriculture. The Cropland Policy sets forth the policies and practices that define sustainable agriculture on Boulder County open space lands.

Cropland Policy Updated

On November 30, 2016, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a plan for phasing out genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant crops on county-owned agricultural land. The final GE Transition Plan and the updated Section 6.1 of the Cropland Policy were adopted and signed on April 13, 2017.

Sustainable Agricultural Research & Innovation Initiative (SARII)

On November 30, 2016, the BOCC also directed staff to pursue the created of a Sustainable Agricultural Research and Innovation Initiative center. On February 2, 2017, the county issued a request for proposals (RFP) to prospective vendors and contractors asking them to submit plans for developing and managing an agricultural research center.

The RFP period closed on March 28 and the county received two proposals, one from Rodale Institute in partnership with Colorado State University and one from Mountain High Research. While both proposals contained some elements envisioned for the agricultural research center, neither provided the necessary combination of experience in running a research center, appropriate staffing and institutional support, or a research plan with a scope to compare a full variety of production methods. Therefore, based on the proposals and subsequent vendor interviews, staff did not have confidence that either bidder could fully deliver what was requested in the RFP.

In order to advance this project, staff will make refinements and add specificity to the proposed project and quickly issue a new RFP this month. The release of a second SARII RFP will initiate a new process that will be open to all bidders that meet its listed requirements. Both previous bidders will also be welcome to submit proposals in response to the new request. In the meantime, county staff will manage the Haley property—the proposed site of the research center—until a contractor and manager is chosen for the project.

History of the Cropland Policy

March 2011 – Sustainable Agriculture Literature Review

In 2011, Boulder County hired the nationally recognized firm Natural Capital Solutions to conduct a literature review of sustainable agricultural practices. The Sustainable Agriculture Literature Review focused primarily on research published in peer-reviewed journals, and it helped provide the foundation for the Cropland Policy.

December 2011 – Cropland Policy Adopted

In December 2011, the Cropland Policy was adopted and approved. With specific protocols, it allowed the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops, sometimes referred to as GMOs or GMO crops.

February 2016 – GE Crops Public Hearing

On February 29, 2016, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) held a public hearing and received input on whether to continue or change the current approval that allows the use of certain genetically engineered crops on open space lands.

March 2016 – POSAC Deliberation

On March 15, 2016, POSAC deliberated their recommendations to the BOCC. They voted 5-3 to recommend that Boulder County continue to allow GMOs to be grown on a segment of county-owned agricultural land, but to carefully monitor the science and impacts of GMOs – on soil, bees, water, and other environmental factors – and to continue to promote organic farming.

March 2016 – Directed to Phase Out GE Crops

On March 17, 2016, the BOCC directed staff to work with local farmers to develop a transition plan for phasing out the use of herbicide-resistant GE corn and sugarbeets on county-owned agricultural lands within a time frame of three to seven years, and for staff to bring a recommendation on the transition plan back for consideration as soon as practicable. Additionally, the BOCC expressed a preference for phasing out the use of neonicotinoids and greatly reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides on county-owned open space lands.

October 2016 – Plan Created

A plan was created and it went through a period of public comments. Comments were shared with POSAC and the BOCC.

November 2016 – Updated Cropland Policy Approved

On November 30, 2016, the BOCC approved a plan for phasing out genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant crops on county-owned agricultural land. The final GE Transition Plan and the updated Section 6.1 of the Cropland Policy were adopted and signed on April 13, 2017.

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