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Pride, joy and a twinge of sadness

By John Stencel

As I address Rocky Mountain Farmers Union members through this column for the last time, my heart is filled with pride, joy, and a twinge of sadness. After 30 years of service to this organization, I will be retiring following RMFU’s annual convention Nov. 17-18.

Following a stint at CSU, I came to work for RMFU in 1964, as assistant education director. Before being elected president in 1970, I was given the education director’s position upon the retirement of Esther Harbo. Then I was drafted and spent two years in the U.S. Army, one of them in Viet Nam. In 1970, I was elected RMFU president. Twenty-three years later, in 1993, I was appointed by President Bill Clinton to head Colorado’s Farm Service Agency. Following this, I was appointed to a position with the FSA in Washington, D.C., and Packers and Stockyards Administration, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I was again elected your president in 2002. These past 40 years have been good to me, Marian and my family.

Looking back on my career of service to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and 10 years of service to the federal government, I retire with satisfaction. During this time, RMFU membership has grown and stabilized. We established the RMFU Educational and Charitable Foundation, and before leaving in 1993, I helped lay the groundwork for establishment of the RMFU Cooperative Development Center, which was launched under the tenure of RMFU President Dave Carter. We also established the Fellows Program, an RMFU training program for young farmers and rural citizens. On the legislative front, we’ve had many successes at the local, state and federal levels. Perhaps one of the most memorable is in 1976, when RMFU advocacy efforts ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that coal slurry, and with it farmers’ water, could not be moved from Wyoming to Texas.

While reminiscing is important, we must not stop there. We need to build on RMFU’s solid foundation over the last 100 years and move forward to continue to be the advocate of the family farmer and rancher. We need to continue to bring producers and consumers together. As members, it is YOUR responsibility to adopt good policies and elect leaders that implement these policies.

I urge you to come to this year’s convention, to express your opinion, to vote if you are a delegate, and to ensure that RMFU is effective for the next 100 years. Three years ago, convention delegates voted to change the bylaws, making the president’s position a per diem job, rather than a full-time position. This provides the opportunity for producers to serve as president. See the ballot on page 12 for those running for president and board positions.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you, the RMFU members, for your support and for allowing me to spend my career serving you. I am retiring as your president and full time staff member, but I will still be around and involved in Farmers Union as a member.

I look forward to seeing you at convention!