By Callie Jones

POSTED:   09/04/2015 07:02:45 AM MDT


Chris Fritzler, right, and Rodney Perry, left, president and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative, pose for a picture with Senator Cory Gardner as the politician gets an up close look at one of the sugar beets on Fritzler’s farm. Gardner stopped at Fritzler’s farm in Sterling Thursday, as part of his Farm Tour across Colorado this week. (Callie Jones/ Sterling Journal-Advocate)

STERLING — Sen. Cory Gardner has been visiting various agricultural sites this week as part of a Farm Tour and Thursday he paid a visit to Chris Fritzler’s sugar beet farm in Sterling, where he heard from several in the agricultural community about the issues they’re facing.

Colorado Farm Bureau hosted the tour, which in addition to Sterling, included stops in Trinidad, Rocky Ford, Lamar, Cheyenne Wells, Burlington, Yuma, Fort Morgan and Yuma.

“We’re going to make this an annual event, so we can highlight what I believe is the foundation of Colorado, its economy, and that’s agriculture, the backbone of our state, and how we can learn, listen and do some good for you,” Gardner told a crowed that gather at Fritzler’s farm. “I just think that it’s so important that we get out and we listen and learn and we see what’s happening.”


Senator Cory Gardner poses for a picture with Chris Friztler and other agriculture representatives that were present for his visit to Fritzler’s sugar beet farm Thursday. Pictured are, front row, from left; Crystal Frank, of Colorado Farm Bureau; Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau; Kent Wimmer, of Western Sugar Cooperative; Senator Cory Gardner; Chris Fritzler; Ethan Fritzler; and Nick Colglazier, state affairs director for Colorado Farm Bureau. Back row, from left; Alan Getz; Don Korrey; Rodney Perry, president andf CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative; Jack Breidenbach, beet grower out of Iliff and president of the Colorado Growers Association; Shean Brecht; Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling State Park Irrigation District; and Brent Boydston, vice president of public policy at Colorado Farm Bureau. (Callie Jones/ Sterling Journal-Advocate)

Fritzler thanked Gardner for what he’s doing and encouraged him to continue to help rural America and farmers “because right now, we’re kind of in tough times.”

He spoke about the Environmental Protection Agency controlling the water in 37 states.

“That is very sad to see and thank God we are safe in Colorado right now. But, once we give them a little bit they’re going to take more,” Fritzler said. “We need to keep the water in this state, that’s how we’re able to survive out here, because of the water. ”

He said that northeast Colorado is fortunate because of what Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling State Park Irrigation District, and others have done.

“What you guys have done with this water, with the augments and stuff is really what kept this part of the state, I call it the sweet part, it is,” Fritzler said.

He also spoke about how taxes and insurance have destroyed the small business.

“The United States needs to support their domestic growers, especially sugar beet growers,” Fritzler said. “We need to keep America’s growers strong; don’t tie our hands with labels and regulations.”

Rodney Perry, president and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative, talked about GMO labeling and the voluntary GMO labeling bill, H.R. 1599, which has been passed by the House of Representatives.

He pointed out the public is getting “the wrong information on GMOs,” which is why his company is working with National Corn Growers, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and the U.S. Soybean Board to put together a $300 million national campaign to show the benefits of GMO.

Perry noted that everything that’s out there about GMOs says that they use more chemicals, are worse for the environment and aren’t healthy, which isn’t true, and it’s causing major companies such as Kellogg’s General Mills and Nestle to move towards non-GMO.

“It’s actually moving us towards a worse environment; we’re not going to be able to be productive and it’s going hurt the American farmer a ton and all the people that support that,” he said.

Sterling farmer Alan Getz suggested the campaign needs to go in a positive route, “start changing the attitude that we have a new, improved food modification.” He compared going back to non-GMOs to going back to dial-up Internet or rotary telephones.

Perry talked about some of the effects of going to non-GMO. For example, if GMO soybeans aren’t allowed, 30 percent of the 50 percent of soybeans that are exported won’t be able to be exported anymore. That in turn means a loss for others such as the railroads that transport the soybeans.

He said non-GMO is the way consumers are going and the question will be, “can the farmers make it through that? Normal farmers that are just growing small plots of organic food, can they make it through a transition back to non-GMO? And are we prepared to go to putting a lot more chemicals back out on the fields, which we all know we used to, that are much more toxic than Round Up. If we have to go back to doing that it’s going to be way worse for the environment, we’ll produce 30 percent less production of sugar beets if we go back to non-GMOs.”

Perry told Gardner he’s not sure a lot of growers can make it back, because they don’t have hand labor, they don’t have labor to go take care of the weeds.

“It’s a big issue, I think, for Colorado, knowing that we’re right now in the middle of a $35 million investment in Fort Morgan. If our sugar beet plant isn’t in Fort Morgan, what’s that town going to look like and what is the growers going to look like?” he said. “It’s a huge concern of ours.”

Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft said the defeat of Proposition 105 in 2014 “gives up hope that there are consumers who are willing to listen, particularly that there are consumers who are willing to listen to an economic argument, that we provide food at a cheaper price than would be available otherwise.”

Jack Breidenbach, a sugar beet grower out of Iliff and president of the Colorado Sugarbeet Growers Association, talked about what it was like before Round Up Ready.

“We were having eight passes, 10 passes that we were burning, we were probably doubling, at least doubling maybe tripling our diesel costs throughout the year,” he said, adding they also use to use multiple chemicals whereas now they rely only on Round Up. “It’s so much more environmentally friendly working the ground one time, we’re saving probably 30 percent savings on water and it’s probably 30, 40 percent savings on fuel and it’s more environmentally friendly.”

Perry pointed out that their sugar doesn’t contain the DNA or the gene from the Round Up in it, so it’s exactly the same as non-GMO sugar. He mentioned he’s heard that Solazyme’s algal oil, which has been genetically modified for over 20 years, received an exemption from the FDA because it doesn’t contain any of the GMO genetics. Perry suggested sugar should get an exemption too, because the same is true for it.

“We went through heavy testing on all the beet factories and it shows that there’s none of the DNA in the sugar,” he said.

Perry also briefly mentioned organic produce, noting that farmers that grow the organic produce that’s brought into this country on a regular basis from different countries around are allowed to use 400 different chemicals, 100 of which are banned in the U.S.

Gardner thanked the agriculture producers for the information they provided and promised to use it as he looks at policies to help the agriculture industry.