Soap Box

Hemp a growing opportunity
01/10/2019

To the editor,

In 2013, I received a call from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking me, as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to support a pilot program to allow farmers to grow hemp. Knowing Colorado farmers’ interest in the crop, I jumped at the chance and pushed to include the program in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Over the next four years, Colorado’s hemp industry boomed. From 2014-18, our hemp cultivation increased six-fold. As the industry grew, I visited hemp businesses and farms across our state, including stops at State Sen. Don Coram’s operation in Montrose and at Colorado Cultivars in Eaton. Each visit underscored the crop’s versatility and potential. Coloradans were turning hemp into clothing, food and animal feed. They were making plastics and CBD oils for pain and inflammation. In short, they were turning this new crop, which is well suited for our arid climate, into a welcome source of income.

But as Colorado’s hemp businesses have continued to grow, they have run into obstacles from Washington. Our farmers are worried about maintaining access to their water. They are unable to buy crop insurance or transport seeds. Some have encountered red tape opening a bank account or applying for federal grants.

In response, Coloradans have taken action. When the state passed a law to protect water access for hemp growers, our office followed the lead and introduced similar legislation in Congress. We pressed the Obama administration to make federal resources available to hemp growers. More recently, we pushed the Trump administration to help them access banking services. Last spring, we introduced a bill to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

We had a breakthrough this year when the Senate Agriculture Committee adopted our language to legalize hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. Now that we’ve passed the Farm Bill, and the President has signed it into law, hemp cultivation is fully legal for the first time in 50 years. That means less uncertainty and more opportunity for hemp farmers, small businesses and manufacturers.

In the years since McConnell’s call, I’ve learned more about hemp than I ever expected. More than anything, it’s given me the opportunity to see more of our state’s boundless creativity, determination and entrepreneurship. In the face of barriers and uncertainty, Coloradans have led the country in demonstrating hemp’s potential. If we continue to curb Washington’s influence, there’s no limit to what our state can achieve.

– Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Build picket fences, not walls
01/10/2019

To the editor,

Nancy Pelosi has joked about “The $1 Wall” she’d support or 2,000 miles of a hippy-beaded wall. Kidding aside, security costs for our government will increase substantially, even with a $100 billion steel wall, if the Democrats “scream Uncle.”

Why not have our government give parcels along the border to U.S. military coming home from overseas, homeless vets – sky’s the limit – on which to build their homes with red, white and blue picket fences? Anyone from Mexico would think twice about scaling a picket fence, uninvited, where gun-trained homeowners live.

Better yet, why not have picnic areas every few miles on the border for everyone, including children. The U.S. and Mexican folks could share in pot lucks and save mucho bucks in security!

– Sally Florence, Durango

The Women's Wave rally is Jan. 19
01/10/2019

To the editor,

Two years ago, the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, women and men from across the U.S. turned out in record numbers for the largest single-day protest ever, speaking with one voice against misogyny, racism and petty cruelty. Indivisible Durango staged one of the 700 worldwide marches right here. Last year, we did it again, inspiring ourselves and our community to make a real difference in 2018. Hundreds turned out. And, as you know, La Plata County had a 62 percent turnout for the November election – an unheard of participation rate! As a result, we helped elect men and women who share our concerns for the environment and for our children, for affordable health care and meaningful investments in our country, and for competency in government.

If you are one of the people who smiled, or even teared up, to see so many new women join Congress just a few days ago, to hear so many people of different colors and religions and ethnicities recite their Constitutional oaths, then you will want to join us Sat., Jan. 19, to celebrate “Women’s Wave – Building Power” march. Join us, and your sisters and brothers across the country, as we gather inspiration and determination to support and care for each other, our children and our planet. The march starts at 10:30 a.m. at the train station and goes to Buckley Park, where there will be a rally with music, signs, energy and inspirational speakers. See you there!

– Anne Markward, Indivisible Durango

Little Joe's Christmas
01/03/2019

Usually a week before Christmas, my father would gather some of his World War II veterans for dinner. They would reminisce about their days in the service. One of my favorite stories that he recounted was that of “Little Joe” and Gus. Recently, while rummaging through memorabilia that my dad left me, I found a small sketch that he did of “Little Joe” and Gus. It prompted me to recall this tale.

On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans attacked an 80-mile front along the Ardennes. My father was an infantryman with the 1st Division during that time. Near the town of Bullingen, Belgium, in the Northern Sector, fighting became fierce and chaos reigned. My dad’s buddy and squad leader was Gus. They were ordered to reconnoiter a small hamlet. As they cautiously entered, they found it deserted except for a small mongrel dog. Gus stuck the dog in his wool coat and they continued patrolling only to find the village abandoned. On returning from their reconnaissance, they brought this mangy little character to the allied lines. Gus dubbed him “Little Joe.” He quickly became the platoon mascot.

Within the next six hours, there was a thunderous barrage as the Germans began their offensive. Apparently Little Joe was spooked and ran into a snowy field. Gus instinctively ran after the little pup. About 200 yards from the trench, Gus was hit by a sniper. My father and his comrades watched in horror. There was no attempt to rescue Gus as the German infantry had their unit pinned down. They couldn’t see Gus through the drifts and sleet. They only hoped that Gus was still alive.

By evening they heard a faint barking in the distance. This alerted them that Gus may surely still be alive. The platoon waited till dark, and my dad and a few corpsmen crawled into the field to rescue Gus. They finally reached him, and to their surprise they found Little Joe lying on his chest. Apparently, the sapper’s bullet had penetrated both legs but miraculously missed any vital arteries. The corpsman believed that “Little Joe,” by lying on Gus’ chest, kept him alive through the freezing night. Gus was dragged back and was driven to a field hospital. Little Joe wouldn’t leave his side. A few months later, a photo was sent to my father of Gus and “Little Joe” celebrating Christmas in northern France. My father always said, “In the darkest of times, always look for the light.” Little Joe was surely Gus’s little beacon. I looked for the photo but all I could find was the sketch.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Thanks for doing a thankless Job
01/03/2019

To the editor,

Despite the peculiar yet popular predilection by the populace to vote against tax increases and yearn for keeping things the way they were (hey, like Rico), I would like to recognize one of the unheralded services that are incredibly cost-efficient, well run (despite being woefully understaffed) and one that helps keep Durango a great place to live and not just a place to visit (like Silverthorne): Code Enforcement. I’ve spent most of my career in construction and infrastructure management and quickly learned that the only thing worse than well-managed infrastructure is one that is ignored. Kudos to Steve Barkley and his crew for their good work!

– JD Watson, Durango