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RMFU convention highlights

PUEBLO—Retiring Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President Dave Carter in his farewell address before the RMFU 93rd annual convention here, Nov. 17, urged those in attendance to remember that the strength of Farmers Union is in its heritage as a grassroots organization. Carter retires after eight years as RMFU president and nearly 24 years total with the organization.

“I came to this organization shortly after graduating from college and had no intention of staying for any length of time, but I was enticed by the passion of Farmers Union’s leadership,” said Carter in his emotional farewell address. “So, I urge you today, to embrace the mission of our organization with passion. Start locally and continue to build this fine organization.”

Carter outlined a handful of accomplishments occurring during his presidency, including establishment of the RMFU Cooperative Development Center, which annually distributes nearly a third of a million dollars in funds for farmer-owned cooperative projects. He also noted the full program of educational opportunities from kids camps, to scholarships to adult educational forums.

In addition, Carter highlighted recent RMFU legislative involvement, including a bill passed earlier this year that will provide up to $4 million in tax credits to producers who invest in value-added cooperatives. RMFU also played a key role in country-of-origin food labeling and growth legislation.

Carter leaves a growing organization that is financially sound. RMFU membership numbers are expected to finish 2001 with a 5 percent increase.

During Carter’s tenure as president, RMFU has developed a reputation as a technical and marketing resource for producers selling direct to consumers and for those producing for a niche market. Carter will continue to serve on the National Organic Standards Board, having recently been elected chairman.

During the convention, RMFU members also heard from Professor Greg MacLeod, University College of Cape Breton, Canada, on innovative ways to use cooperatives to form new or to augment existing local, rural enterprises.

“Very often cooperatives are passive but they need to be proactive in creating jobs within the community,” said MacLeod, author of the book Mondragon to America, which examines how the success of the Spanish cooperative giant can be successfully applied to the United States. “If we are to keep our rural communities alive, we have to act big while staying small.”

Also on the schedule during the two-day event were reports from RMFU members participating in a National Farmers Union legislative fly-in during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Youth attending the convention had their own day camp, with youth people from the RMFU Senior Youth Advisory Council addressing the entire convention.