Convention Wrap-Up

RMFU Members Focus on Ag Labor, Drought at Annual Convention

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union members set policy priorities, recognized members for their outstanding achievements, learned how to prepare for drought, and discovered ways to find common ground in the field of ag labor during the general farm organization’s annual meeting held Nov. 19-20 in Greeley, Colorado.
“Despite facing numerous changes in agriculture including increasing production costs, ongoing drought, and disrupted food supply chains, we have endured and are emerging in good shape and well poised to move ahead with confidence in 2021,” says RMFU President Dr. Dale McCall. “Our members are working on ways to cultivate solutions to their concerns.”
More than 100 delegates to the convention represented members from across Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In addition to adopting updated bylaws, delegates reelected Barb Marty to the board of directors and chose Sarah Wentzel-Fisher over incumbent board member Kathleen Box.
The event began with two pre-convention workshops on the topics of ag workforce development and the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Demand Management Feasibility Investigation.
RMFU presented the Cooperative Achievement Award to the Colorado Office of Employee Ownership for expertly assisting Colorado’s rural citizens to start, expand and convert to cooperative enterprises and worker-owned businesses. Brian Sater was recognized as the RMFU Agent of the Year. Sater maintains a successful and progressive agency in Colorado Springs. The Meritorious Service Award was presented posthumously to Jerry Hergenreder. The award was accepted by his wife Tricia Hergenreder of Longmont, who said Jerry loved farming, his family, and that he became involved in Farmers Union to make a difference. The first-ever Fellows Excellence in Leadership & Service Award was accepted by Todd Hagenbuch of Phippsburg. The award is cooperatively sponsored by American AgCredit and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Hagenbuch’s contributions to agriculture, to his community, and to Farmers Union is both extensive and impressive. Victoria Conklin of American AgCredit and RMFU President Dale McCall presented the award.
Hana Fullmer and Ben Pfeffer each accepted the John Stencel Leadership Award. The recognition is named for John Stencel, a past president of RMFU who worked tirelessly to encourage members to grow their leadership abilities. Fullmer is from the Four Corners Chapter while Pfeffer is a member of the Latimer County Farmers Alliance.
Convention keynote speaker Baldemar Velasquez recalled how growing up as a migrant farm worker in Texas inspired his lifelong focus on improving conditions for farmworkers. In 1967 Velasquez and others tired of the mistreatment formed the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. In 1978 he started a strike and boycott of the Campbell Soup Company that culminated in the first multi‐party contracts in labor history between farmworkers, farmers, and numerous industrial produce corporations. These were the first supply‐chain agreements in labor history achieving precedent‐setting human rights reforms.
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew explained how the organization is putting “Fairness for Farmers” at the forefront on Capitol Hill. Consolidation in the agribusiness sector has put control of the food supply chain into the hands of a few multinational companies. The outcome of this control comes at the direct financial expense of farmers, ranchers, and rural Main Street businesses.
U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper addressed the Farmers Union members. In addition to updating farmers and ranches on the whirlwind actions in Congress, he urged farmers and ranchers to stay actively engaged in federal legislative actions as opportunities allow.
Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg also updated Farmers Union members on what has been a busy year for her department. She reviewed the department’s resources and her own outreach efforts to continue learning how to deliver programs to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
Dr. James Pritchett, Dean of the CSU of Agricultural Sciences and Director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, likewise updated the group on how the university is positioning itself for future needs.
Retta Bruger, a rangeland specialist at Colorado State University, walked members through steps they can take to better prepare their operations for drought. “Hoping for rain is not a drought strategy,” she said.
Delegates to the convention introduced, debated, and adopt policy priorities for the farm organization. These policies guide RMFU’s efforts during the upcoming legislative sessions in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, as well as on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The convention concluded with delegates adopting a Special Order of Business that directs Congress, the White House and USDA to make a number of reforms to improve worker standards and create a more level playing field for businesses to assure farmers and farmworkers are better able to earn a living income from their efforts and investments.