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 (BCPOS) staff.

History of the Cropland Policy

2021 Cropland Policy Update

On Dec. 7, 2021, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) adopted the 2021 Cropland Policy with the following updates:

  • Allow genetically engineered (GE) corn and sugar beet crops to be grown on BCPOS agricultural lands.
    • The updated policy aligns with the first cropland policy adopted in 2012 which permitted these two GE crops to be grown on county owned agricultural land.
    • Any proposed new GE crops must undergo a rigorous review process by BCPOS before being allowed on county-owned agricultural land.
  • Restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on BCPOS agricultural lands with the following exceptions:
    • Allow neonicotinoid seed coatings for current farmers operating under an agreement with Wester Sugar Cooperative.
    • Consider other neonicotinoid use on a case-by-case basis, under limited circumstances.
    • The two listed exceptions must reduce overall pesticide use.
  • Develop a soil health program.
    • Establish principles-based program that addresses the functioning of soil as a complex system such as cover crops, compost addition and no/reduced till.
    • The program aims to reduce soil erosion, sequester carbon, improve air and water quality and promote sustainable and regenerative farming practices.
    • BCPOS will collaborate with tenants to develop and implement the program.
  • Pursue edits of the Cropland Policy: Incorporate policy changes and streamline language to remove inconsistent or conflicting language.

Public Engagement

Approximately six hours of public testimony and over 200 written comments were taken between Oct. 1 and Nov. 22, 2021.

Dec. 7, 2021 – BOCC Public Meeting
Commissioners formally adopted changes to the Cropland Policy based on staff recommendations and community input.

Nov. 18, 2021 – POSAC Public Meeting
The Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) voted to recommend to the Boulder County Commissioners changes to the Cropland Policy document.

Nov. 4, 2021 – BOCC Public Meeting
The BOCC gave direction to staff on Cropland Policy Updates.

Oct. 28, 2021 – POSAC Public Meeting
POSAC deliberated and recommended amendments to the Cropland Policy.

Oct. 19, 2021 – Joint Public Hearing
A joint public hearing was held by the BOCC and POSAC. The meeting included several hours of public comments. No decisions were made at the meeting.

Mad Agriculture Field Trials 2020

As part of the Transition Plan adopted in 2019, the county contracted with Mad Agriculture to conduct field trials of alternative crops and non-GE varieties of corn. At the end of the trial period Mad Agriculture summarized their work in two reports – a Trials Report detailing the field trials and a Market Report detailing the efforts to market alternative crops. The reports are also accompanied by one-page summaries. For a copy of Mad Agriculture’s 2021 report, please contact Mike Foster.

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.

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.

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

On Oct. 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.

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:

November 2016 – Updated Cropland Policy Approved

On Nov. 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.

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.

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.

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.

February 2016 – GE Crops Public Hearing

On Feb. 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.

January 2012 – Cropland Policy Adopted

In January 2012, the Cropland Policy was formally adopted (approved on Dec. 20, 2011). With specific protocols, it allowed the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops, sometimes referred to as GMOs or GMO crops.

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.

Contact Us

Parks & Open Space

Mike Foster