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DENVER– Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s (RMFU) bids farewell to farmers and ranchers from throughout the nation after serving as host to National Farmers Union’s (NFU) 104th anniversary convention here March 3-6. A primary purpose of the event is to establish the policy priorities of the national organization, a process in which RMFU played a major role.
In addition, the convention goers heard addresses from former presidential candidate John Edwards and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, as well as from U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. Fuels from the Farm—Our Nation’s Future was the theme of the program, which was heavily focused on farm commodities as a solution to the nation’s energy dependence of foreign oil.
During the March 6 policy debate, RMFU influenced the adoption of a number of national policies important to its 23,000 members in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. A policy proposed by the RMFU delegation to disallow foreign companies from receiving tax incentives for production of renewable energy was passed unanimously by NFU convention delegates. Other energy policies passed included a proposal that the nation be energy independent by 2015; a call to target government program funding to community-based energy systems that create jobs and new wealth in rural areas; and, measures calling on farmer-owned cooperatives to aggressively promote renewable energy. In addition, the NFU delegates passed language that would not allow government or private entities the use of eminent domain except for public use and only after a public hearing process.
“Farmers Union members in our organization and throughout the nation have been alarmed by the use of eminent domain for private use and are asking, through adoption of this policy, that the U.S. Congress and the judicial system return eminent domain to the definition used for decades prior to the 2005 ruling condemning property for a shopping mall,” said RMFU President John Stencel.
RMFU proposed, and had accepted to NFU policy, a provision restricting management of the nation’s port system to U.S. owned and based companies. Another measure brought forward by the RMFU group and accepted is the opposition to using U.S. tax dollars to purchase food aid commodities from other countries.
Also important to RMFU for inclusion in NFU policy is a statement on immigration. While the organization has debated and had differing views on immigration, a statement urging Congress to write laws that better meet the labor needs of U.S. agricultural producers, while considering the nation’s safety and security was adopted by the NFU convention.
“Immigration policy has been a big issue, as evidence by the myriad of bills in this year’s Colorado Legislature,” said Stencel. “We wanted a provision in NFU policy that would urge Congress to address the infrastructure costs of immigration, as well as how we might structure a guest worker program to benefit the U.S. tax structure, so that the costs of immigrant services might be offset and not fall on our social system. We also do not want to overlook the human rights abuses that occur under illegal immigration.”
The NFU convention also served as the venue at which RMFU launched the celebration of its 100th Anniversary. RMFU history dates back to 1907 when seven men met in Crystola, a Teller County community, to form the first Farmers Union group in Colorado. The following year, the Colorado Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union, today know as Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, was founded. A slate of 100th anniversary activities will run through November 2007. During the NFU convention, RMFU hosted a reception featuring food from members and cooperatives owned by members. A video on RMFU history and current activity also was shown for the first time.
Over 75 RMFU members and guests attended the festivities. In addition to Stencel, RMFU (voting) delegates to the NFU convention included: Jan Kochis, Matheson, Colo.; Richard Wolf, Ault, Colo.; Marvin Schmidt, Riverton, Wyo.; Barb Marty, Henderson, Colo.; Armando Valdez, LaJara, Colo.; Kathleen Kelley, Meeker, Colo.; Marty Brophy, Eckley, Colo., Michael Gardner, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.; and Roland Naibauer, Kersey, Colo., and Mark Waltermire, Crawford, Colo.
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