Farm and ranch internships pass Colorado Senate, with taxpayers pitching in on pay

Author: Joey Bunch - April 18, 2018 - Updated: April 26, 2018

farm internshipsState. Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, in her Capitol office with her dog, Gary. (Colorado Politics file photo by John Tomasic)

A bipartisan bill passed the Colorado Senate Tuesday, and if the House agrees the state could pick up half the paycheck of farm and ranch interns.

The offer is limited. If the bill can make it out of the House and get the governor’s signature by May 8, it would give the Department of Agriculture $50,633 next year and $72,579 the year after. The internships are limited to six months and at least 130 hours of work.

Proponents, though, see the program as seed grown to draw young people into the ag industry.

“Our rural areas have a strong history of agricultural production and even stronger traditions among our farmers and ranchers,” Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “It is imperative that we preserve this for future generations and do everything we can to incentivize and encourage our younger generations to take the helm.

“Currently, many young farmers are on the hunt for internships, but cannot afford to work for free, while many agricultural businesses looking for interns cannot afford the cost. This bill aims to solve that problem and provides a career pathway for young Coloradans looking to build a future in farming and ranching.”

Colorado Politics told you about this bill two months ago.

Senate Bill 42 was approved 22-13, with Republican Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, Ray Scott of Grand Junction and Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City joining Democrats, along with unaffiliated Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge.

The bill was also sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Montrose. The House sponsors are Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Marc Catlin, R-Montrose.

Another agricultural workforce bill will be heard in its first House committee next week.

House Bill 1230 would create a “purple card” to allow those who don’t have documentation of legal U.S. residency to hold a job in Colorado, as long as they have clean criminal record and they can demonstrate they’ve paid taxes on their income.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Pabon and Sen. Irene Aguilar, both Democrats from Denver, is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on April 24.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.