Don Brown is no longer the commish.

The lifelong Yuma-area resident is back home full time after spending the past four years as the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.

“I really enjoyed it, every minute of it,” he said earlier this week.

He was appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper, who was term-limited and could not run again in last November’s election.

Brown served until January 8, when new governor Jared Polis was sworn in. Polis has appointed Kate Greenberg as the new commissioner of ag. (Please see accompanying article for more on her.) Brown said he did not actively seek reappointment.

Brown praised Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Donna Lynne.

“The governor was really good to work with, he really turned me loose,” he said. “He liked ag and would on occasion say ‘Not too bad for a city kid’ and I would reply ‘Not too bad for a city kid.’”

Brown was able to make several key accomplishments during his tenure.

He said that 36 percent of land in Colorado is owned by the federal government, but no state agency was looking out for the Colorado farmers and ranchers who utilize the federal land. Therefore, Brown converted the director position in Conservation Services into a position which focused on working with the producers in dealing with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We made a lot of progress with those state agencies,” Brown said.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s new $20 million laboratory ribbon cutting ceremony was held this past December and the laboratory will be completed and opened in March.

“They told me it couldn’t be done, but we got it done,” Brown said.

He said he also was proud of creating training videos for people manning Colorado’s Crisis Hotline for dealing with people in agriculture who are struggling mentally. Other states are now adopting the training video format.

Brown helped broker the monetary settlement for past violations of the Republican River Compact, and was instrumental in negotiations between the USDA and Colorado Department of Natural Resources, eventually getting the 2018 Revised CREP Agreement finalized between the two agencies. He participated in a signing ceremony last August at the Three Corners Monument east of Wray, attended by USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey and Director of Colorado Department of Natural Resources Bob Randall.

Don Brown (far right) hosted USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey and Director of Colorado Department of Natural Resources Bob Randall to sign the revised CREP agreement, last August at the Three Corners Monument east of Wray. (Courtesy Photo)

“It was a lot of work, but it sure was fun,” Brown said of his time as ag commissioner.

He often visited Washington D.C., relating that one time he was in the West Wing of the White House working on an agricultural trade issue when he realized he had not informed Hickenlooper he was even going to D.C.

Brown was vice-chair of the Food Regulatory Committee for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which includes representatives from all 50 states and some U.S. territories. He was president of the Western United States Ag Trade Association, which represents 13 western states.

Brown praised the support of Colorado’s farm groups.

“I sure enjoyed working with them,” Brown said. “I had good partners. I couldn’t get anything done without them.”

Perhaps his biggest challenge was getting city dwellers to better understand Colorado’s rural areas.

“Urban people just don’t understand what we’re about out here at all,” Brown said. “I had to do a lot of communicating with them.”

Now Brown has returned to his roots, helping operate the family’s Anchor Three Farms operation along with wife Peggy, son Tyson, daughter Sabrina and other family members. Brown is a third-generation ag producer, and his family was among the pioneers in introducing center-pivot irrigation.

He related that he had letters of recommendation for Peggy from Hickenlooper and Lynne stating that he is a good hire, joking that he hopes his wife will rehire him. The couple also has one other grown child, son Alex.

“I’m glad to be here, I like our community,” Brown said.