Sometimes a bill about planting potatoes is simply about planting potatoes.

In Colorado, where the Legislature ends on May 8, a bill concerning the planting of uncertified potatoes is already on the governor’s desk.

Colorado potato growers plant more than 52,000 acres annually to produce more than 1 million tons of potatoes. The crop contributes more than $335 million to the state economy.

The emergence of the Potato Virus Y is now a threat to the Colorado potato crop. Testing the seed stock of uncertified potatoes before they are planted would protect the crop and limit the spread of the virus.

Limiting the spread of Potato Virus Y and other potato diseases is necessary to protect Colorado’s potato growers, agriculture industry and economy.

The bill requires uncertified potato seed stock to be tested and approved before planting. It increases state workload and potentially state revenue on an ongoing basis.

The bill amends the Colorado Potato Seed Act to require potato growers to submit any uncertified potato seed stock to the certifying authority, the Department of Agriculture (CDA), for testing before planting. The CDA must then approve the uncertified potato seed stock if it meets standards established by the Commissioner of Agriculture.

State revenue
Violations of the Colorado Seed Potato Act are subject to fines collected by the CDA when civil penalties are issued. This may increase revenue for the department, but any revenue increase is expected to be minimal. 

State expenditures
The bill minimally increases the workload in the CDA, in conjunction with Colorado State University, to test uncertified potato seeds. Workload may also increase to address any violations of the act. This increase is absorbable within existing appropriations. The bill takes effect 90 days following adjournment of the General Assembly sine die, assuming no referendum petition is filed.

The bill itself states that:

(I) The potatoes were grown and stored as part of that grower’s farming operations and the requirements of subsection (2)(b) of this section have been met; or

(II) The uncertified potatoes are no more than one generation from certified parent potatoes or qualified parent potatoes, and the potato grower submits the uncertified potato seed stock to the certifying authority of colorado for testing.

(b) (I) A potato grower who plants intends to plant uncertified potatoes according to paragraph (a) of this subsection (2) may plant progeny from that seed in additional years if, in each additional year, the grower submits the must submit the uncertified potato seed stock to the certifying authority of Colorado for testing and before planting.

(II) The certifying authority of Colorado shall approve the uncertified potato seed stock for planting. The certifying authority of Colorado shall approve the seed stock if it meets the standards for such stock as established by the commissioner by rule.

(The) Act subject to petition – effective date. This act takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on the day following the expiration of the 90 days after the final adjournment of the general assembly, except that if a referendum petition is filed under section 1 (3) of Article V of the state constitution against this act or an item, section, or part of this act within such period, then the act, item, section, or part will not take effect unless approved by the people at the general election to be held in. November 2024 and, in such case, will take effect on the date of the governor’s official declaration of the vote thereon.

The potato virus did unite lawmakers. More than two dozen bipartisan members signing on as sponsors 

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