RMFU: Farmers, ranchers focus on surviving, thriving
DENVER, Colo. – Farmers and ranchers from across Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming are bracing for a year of change and uncertainty, yet they are looking at innovative ways to make a living from the land. An Innovation Fair and a look at how the recent election will impact ag policy in Washington, DC, were among the key attractions at Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s annual convention.
Dr. Dale McCall, Longmont, was elected president of the general farm organization. McCall had been serving as president during 2016 to fill out the term of Kent Peppler, who stepped down after nine years as president. McCall had been vice president during Peppler’s presidency. McCall operates a family farm near Yuma. In his comments to members, McCall assured members that RMFU will continue to be a pro-active organization in allowing farmers and ranchers to be at the table for legislative policy development in Cheyenne, Denver, Santa Fe, and Washington, DC. McCall said RMFU will continue its commitment to offering strong educational programs and working with groups and organizations to build cooperative business ventures. At the top of the organization’s priorities is making sure Congress, USDA, and the Trump Administration begin preliminary work on the 2018 food and farm bill.
Chad Franke, Roggen, was elected vice president. He earlier this year had been appointed to the position when Dale McCall became president. Delegates re-elected Steve Nein, Ovid, CO, Ken Macy, Pine Bluffs, WY, and John Field, Montrose, CO, to the board of directors. The balance of the board includes President Jan Kochis, Matheson, CO, Barb Marty, Strasburg, CO, Ken Anderson, Center, CO, and Kathleen Box, Tucumcari, NM.
McCall presented the President’s Award for 2016 to immediate past president Kent and Colleen Peppler, who farm near Mead, CO. The Pepplers are well recognized as leaders in Farmers Union, agriculture, and their hometown community. The award recognizes an individual whose achievements are having a positive and lasting impact on farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
John and Jane Stulp, along with their children and grandchildren, were named the Farm Family of the Year by Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The Stulps are movers and shakers in agriculture, having helped shaped opportunities ranging from new export markets to making the most of water resources. Eric Scalzo of Gillette, WY, was honored as the RMFU Agent of the Year. Scalzo excels in being there for his policyholders. Patrick Horvath of the Denver Foundation accepted the Cooperative Achievement Award for his role in supporting the growth of cooperatives in urban Denver.
Dr. James Pritchett of Colorado State University addressed delegates, members, and guests attending the convention. Pritchett noted that consumers are more demanding in their choices of food products, which is driving the food processing and marketing industries to place new demands on farmers and ranchers.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson agreed with McCall that Washington lawmakers need to start writing the 2016 food and farm bill. Johnson said there are policy topics that President-elect Trump and Farmers Union share similar viewpoints, including rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Act trade agreement, and giving mega-mergers a more critical look.
The convention featured an economics panel that looked at farm finances and another panel dug into soil health. More than 100 people attended the pre-convention Innovation Fair to learn more about such topics as niche marketing, installing small-scale renewable energy systems, and applying for grant funding.
The convention closed with members introducing, debating, and then adopting or rejecting policy positions. The organization will upload the new policy once updates are made to rmfu.org.