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DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) at its 92nd annual convention in late November honored Kathleen Sullivan Kelley, 46, of Meeker, Colo., by paying tribute to her many contributions to family agriculture.
Elected RMFU vice president in 1992, Kelley assumed the position of interim president of the organization in 1993 when John Stencel left to take a U.S. Department of Agriculture appointment. She then served three consecutive terms as RMFU vice president, deciding not to run for re-election in 1999.
Kelley is one of four cattle producers who in 1998 founded the Ranchers and Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) to address the problems to the U.S. livestock industry of live cattle being dumped into the United States from foreign countries. She currently serves as vice president of R-CALF, which is endorsed by over 120 associations and supported by some 28,000 individuals nationwide. R-CALF has brought—with some success—anti-dumping suits before the International Trade Commission against both Canada and Mexico. Prior to the formation of R-CALF, Kelley helped raise awareness of market concentration by publication of her extensive research entitled Market Concentration in Agriculture, which was published in 1995-96. The research outlined the increasing concentration of power in the agricultural processing and marketing sector over the past century, which has resulted in just four firms controlling more than 80 percent of all beef processing and marketing.
Following publication of Market Concentration in Agriculture, Kelley gave more than 30 speeches in 17 states and one foreign country. In speaking at the South Dakota Governor’s Cattle Conference, then South Dakota Gov. William Janklow publicly proclaimed, “Kathleen Kelley is among the five best public speakers in the nation.”
Kelley also was appointed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to serve as vice co-chair of the National Commission on Small Farms. The commission’s final report, A Time to Act, outlines the steps suggested by the commission to make independent family producers viable into the 21st Century.
“Kathleen is a tireless campaigner for policies that strengthen family agriculture and America’s free enterprise system,” said RMFU President Dave Carter. “She has earned the respect of everyone from our national leaders to her friends and neighbors.
Two decades ago, at the age of 26, Kelley was the youngest woman ever elected to the Colorado State Legislature. Following her term, in 1986, she was invited to teach a nine-week study group on the American Farm Crisis at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
A fourth-generation Coloradoan, Kelley was born and raised in Meeker, Colo., where she and her husband, Robert (Reed), raise registered Hereford cattle and Appaloosa horses on the ranch where she was reared. She is on the board of directors of the Center of the American West and also serves on an advisory board for Colorado State University’s College of Agriculture.
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