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Rocky Mountain Farmers Union sends delegation to national convention

DENVER – Eleven delegates from Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) joined 650 farmers and ranchers from throughout the United States at National Farmers Union’s (NFU) 101st anniversary convention, Feb. 28-March 3 in Anaheim, Calif.

Among the participants was RMFU President John Stencel, who was a member of a panel that addressed international agricultural trade. Stencel represented National Farmers Union in October 2002, traveling to Switzerland to meet with Word Trade Organization (WTO) officials and leaders of other non-governmental organizations to talk about the issues facing independent family farmers and ranchers.

“Unfortunately, when U.S. trade negotiators talk agriculture, they seem to advocate for the U.S.-based multinational food processors, rather than for the independent producer,” Stencel said. “I believe the higher goal of WTO negotiations is to assure global food security and safety and to enhance farm income.”

“Producers cannot allow themselves to fight between one commodity and another. Nor should we be sucked into the belief that the only way we are going to succeed is if a producer in another country fails. There is a win-win solution, but we cannot achieve it if we continue to allow the buyers of our commodities to speak on our behalf,” Stencel said.

The convention also dealt with the topic of estate tax and featured Bill Gates, Sr. The RMFU delegation appreciated Gates’ pithy humor, including his formula for success: “Get up early, work hard all day, and have a stupendously successful son.” Gates was asked to share his position on estate tax reform with convention delegates.

“Farmers Union supports estate tax reform, not elimination,” Stencel said. “We would like to see the estate tax exemption raised to $4 million per individual and $8 million for a couple. We support wealth creation, but also support estate tax on very large estates, which is one tool for keeping independent family farms and ranches from being pushed out by very large estates.”

Stencel also said he was pleased with the discussion on future farm policy. “There are definitely some positive aspects to the 2002 farm bill, but we as independent producers need to push forward on a number of policies that will be important in future discussions. Among these will be incentives for production of energy from renewable sources, reduction in subsidy cap levels in order to free up more funding for other uses, and producer-friendly trade negotiations,” he said.

RMFU delegates included Darrick Fehringer, Peetz, Colo.; Michael Gardener, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.; Trish Hergenreder, Longmont, Colo.; Fred Macy, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.; Roland Naibauer, Kersey, Colo.; Paul Stout, Broadview, N.M.; Charles Petty, Clovis, N.M.; Armando Valdez, Ft. Collins, Colo.; Rudy Valdez, La Jara, Colo.; Ollie Ridley, Las Animas, Colo.; and Joseph Zavorka, Torrington, Wyo.

By attending the convention, RMFU delegates had the opportunity to contribute to NFU policy priorities for the coming 12 months.