Right to Farm - Agriculture in Weld County

Farm Tractor

Weld County is an agricultural empire of 2.5 million acres of which 75% is devoted to farming and raising livestock. Weld County is Colorado's leading producer of beef cattle, grain, sugar beets, and is the state’s leading dairy producer. Weld is the richest agricultural county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, leads the state in the value of agricultural products sold, and is typically in the top ten richest overall nationally.

There are over 3,000 farms in Weld County. Over 20% of the farms have annual sales in excess of $100,000. In total, Weld’s agricultural products annually create over $1 billion of market value.

Fertile fields of green can be found in every part of the County. Every year over 875,000 acres of cropland is planted each year. Of the 875,000 acres, over 300,000 acres is planted with irrigated crops annually.

The state’s ideal climate, ready feed availability and quality water make it an ideal dairy state. The state is now the 16th largest dairy state in the nation; Weld County is now the 21st largest dairy county in the nation and is expected to increase production in the coming years.

For more information about Weld County, please see the facts and demographics(PDF, 912KB) .

Weld County recognizes the right to farm

The intent of the agricultural goals in the Comprehensive Plan is to support all forms of the agricultural industry and, at the same time, to protect the rights of the private property owners to convert their agricultural lands to other appropriate land uses. The County recognizes the importance of maintaining large contiguous parcels of productive agricultural lands in non-urbanizing areas of the County to support the economies of scale required for large agricultural operations.

Weld County’s land use policies support a high-quality rural character which respects the agricultural heritage and traditional agricultural land uses of the County, as agricultural lands are converted to other uses (excluding urban development). Rural character in the County includes those uses which provide rural lifestyles, rural-based economies and opportunities to both live and work in rural areas. The natural landscape and vegetation predominate over the built environment. Agricultural land uses and development provide the visual landscapes traditionally found in rural areas and communities.

Weld County Right to Farm Statement

Weld County is one of the most productive agricultural counties in the United States, typically ranking in the top ten counties in the country in total market value of agricultural products sold. The rural areas of Weld County may be open and spacious, but they are intensively used for agriculture. Persons moving into a rural area must recognize and accept there are drawbacks, including conflicts with long-standing agricultural practices and a lower level of services than in town. Along with the drawbacks come the incentives which attract urban dwellers to relocate to rural areas: open views, spaciousness, wildlife, lack of city noise and congestion, and the rural atmosphere and way of life. Without neighboring farms, those features which attract urban dwellers to rural Weld County would quickly be gone forever.

Agricultural users of the land should not be expected to change their long-established agricultural practices to accommodate the intrusions of urban users into a rural area. Well-run agricultural activities will generate off-site impacts, including noise from tractors and equipment; slow-moving farm vehicles on rural roads; dust from animal pens, field work, harvest and gravel roads; odor from animal confinement, silage and manure; smoke from ditch burning; flies and mosquitoes; hunting and trapping activities; shooting sports, legal hazing of nuisance wildlife; and the use of pesticides and fertilizers in the fields, including the use of aerial spraying. It is common practice for agricultural producers to utilize an accumulation of agricultural machinery and supplies to assist in their agricultural operations. A concentration of miscellaneous agricultural materials often produces a visual disparity between rural and urban areas of the County. Section 35-3.5-102, C.R.S., provides that an agricultural operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the agricultural operation alleged to be a nuisance employs methods or practices that are commonly or reasonably associated with agricultural production.

Water has been, and continues to be, the lifeline for the agricultural community. It is unrealistic to assume that ditches and reservoirs may simply be moved "out of the way" of residential development. When moving to the County, property owners and residents must realize they cannot take water from irrigation ditches, lakes or other structures, unless they have an adjudicated right to the water.

Weld County covers a land area of approximately four thousand (4,000) square miles in size (twice the size of the State of Delaware) with more than three thousand seven hundred (3,700) miles of state and County roads outside of municipalities. The sheer magnitude of the area to be served stretches available resources. Law enforcement is based on responses to complaints more than on patrols of the County, and the distances which must be traveled may delay all emergency responses, including law enforcement, ambulance and fire. Fire protection is usually provided by volunteers who must leave their jobs and families to respond to emergencies. County gravel roads, no matter how often they are bladed, will not provide the same kind of surface expected from a paved road. Snow removal priorities mean that roads from subdivisions to arterials may not be cleared for several days after a major snowstorm. Services in rural areas, in many cases, will not be equivalent to municipal services. Rural dwellers must, by necessity, be more self-sufficient than urban dwellers.

People are exposed to different hazards in the County than in an urban or suburban setting. Farm equipment and oil field equipment, ponds and irrigation ditches, electrical power for pumps and center pivot operations, high-speed traffic, sand burs, puncture vines, territorial farm dogs and livestock and open burning present real threats. Controlling children's activities is important, not only for their safety, but also for the protection of the farmer's livelihood.

For more information, please see the Weld County Code.