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Cropland Policy
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Cropland Policy

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

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.

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 sugar beets 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.

April 13, 2017

On April 13, 2017, the Commissioners updated Section 6.1 of the Cropland Policy to include the GE transition plan, which added the following performance criteria:

  • Assist tenants with GE Leases
  • Support agriculture in Boulder County
  • Enhance data collection and monitoring
  • Launch a new sustainable ag research initiative
  • Annual public hearings and review of Transition Policy progress

October 2017 – Sustainable Agricultural Research & Innovation Initiative (SARII)

On October 25, 2017, the Boulder County Commissioners decided to reject the bids received for the Sustainable Agricultural Research & Innovation Initiative (SARII). The commissioners have also decided to discontinue the RFP process for the SARII. Parks & Open Space staff continues to work with farmers to prepare for the transition away from GMOs on county open space agricultural properties.

May 7, 2019 – Amended Transition Plan Presented

The Board of County Commissioners received a proposal from staff to amend the transition plan for GE corn and sugar beets on open space lands.

June 3, 2019 – Amended Transition Plan Approved

The Board of County Commissioners adopted a revised transition plan for phasing out genetically-engineered (GE) crops on county open space agricultural lands. The newly adopted plan changes the 2016-approved GE phase-out timeline by providing a two-year extension on the ban of GE corn (through 2021), a four-year extension on the ban of GE sugar beets (through 2025), and limiting the use of neonicotinoids beyond the current ban (2021) solely to the obligatory seed coatings that accompany GE seeds. The commissioners also requested that staff work to develop incentives for GE tenant farmers to phase out their GE crops and use of pesticides sooner.

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