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Nine Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members attended the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) 36th World Farmers’ Congress, June 1-4 in Washington, D.C. More than 400 farmers from 70 countries attended the congress. It was the first time in 25 years the biennial event was held in the United States.
The closing policy statement of the congress included a consensus on reducing market concentration, the priority of protecting the environment, agricultural access to irrigation water, and reducing poverty and hunger. IFAP leaders will take these priorities to world leaders to affect global agricultural policies.
“These resolutions are important, as they will enable us to lean on international organizations to make decisions and change policies to be more beneficial to family producers throughout the world,” Stencel said. “While the types of production, methods, climates, governments, cultural considerations and other factors represented by the members of IFAP vary greatly, we usually find a great deal in common with agricultural producers in other parts of the world. It is important that we speak in a unified voice on those issues that we agree.”
IFAP President Jack Wilkinson of Canada weighed in: “Profitability is the universal issue central to all discussions. When it comes to trade, IFAP is comprised of some countries that are more protective of their domestic markets and others that are ‘free-traders.’ (But) we all agree that trade deals must enhance farm income and that returns from trade should reach down to farm families.”
“Farmers and ranchers across the globe are becoming increasingly vocal in advocating for family producers and rural communities and policies that will enable them to survive and thrive,” said RMFU President John Stencel, one of the nine RMFU representatives to the congress. “In order to educate and activate RMFU’s leaders for tomorrow, four of RMFU’s participants at this international event were collegiate members.”
Collegiate members include Paige Ferguson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Kaprice Franke, Akron, Colo.; Ann Mailander, Denver, Colo.; and Kendra Wolf, Ault, Colo. The four RMFU collegiate participants joined 23 other college students from across the country, who attended National Farmers Union’s (NFU) Collegiate Leadership Conference held in conjunction with the IFAP conference.
“We hope this leadership conference will help educate these young leaders about he differences and similarities between cultures, governments and issues affecting producers throughout the world,” said NFU President Dave Frederickson. “These young leaders will be key decision-makers someday, and providing experiences that create a deeper understanding of how organizations, governments and peoples in other countries operate will only enhance their abilities to make better decisions for their own countrymen and humanity as a whole.”
All RMFU members attending the conference christened it a resounding success. For many of them, it was the first time to be involved in international agricultural discussions. Paige Ferguson, an RMFU Torchbearer from Holyoke, Colo., called the conference “awesome.”
“I learned so much about the issues facing other countries, especially in the areas of water and biodiversity. The impact of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on the environment is something I learned a lot about, and something I think we need to examine more closely,” Ferguson said. “I was surprised that a lot of issues of concern, such as water, are the same for farmers in other parts of the world.”
According to Ferguson, the collegiate members enjoyed the opportunity to participate, and the IFAP members were very glad to see them getting involved. She says what she learned at the conference is important for her future plans. She is majoring in organizational communication and will get her minor in Spanish and leadership. She plans to pursue an international career. We spoke with her from Bailey, Colo., where she and her peers were preparing for the RMFU Summer Camps. It is her third year as a camp counselor.
Other RMFU participants included Trish Hergenreder, Longmont, Colo.; RMFU board member Elwin Poe, Holyoke, Colo.; RMFU Education Director Amy Meyer, Aurora, Colo.; and RMFU Cooperative Development Center Director Bob Mailander, Denver, Colo.
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