You are invited to show up, stand up, and speak out
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By Kent Peppler
It has been said the world is run by those who show up. That’s not quite true. Showing up is important, but it is not enough. The world is run by those who show up, stand up, and speak out. Trust me, if you don’t say what’s on your mind someone else will do it for you. You cannot expect them to have your best interests as their priority.
In just a few days farmers and ranchers will get together at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union convention to tell us what is important to them. They will decide what they want our farm organization to work on in 2015. This will be your chance to share your ideas on what we can do to make life better for farmers, ranchers, and local communities.
I am proud that RMFU is a grassroots organization. It means we are run from the bottom up, not the top down. Too many organizations follow agendas pushed by there board of directors or their professional staff. At Farmers Union we believe the priorities need to be set by you as members. This philosophy has been in place since Farmers Union was founded in 1907. I do not expect it to change for any reason.
In my travels I run across plenty of people who want to give me a piece of their mind. I love hearing from farmers and ranchers. If you want your comments to count, we’d love to hear them as well. Our convention is designed specifically to make it easy for you to stand up and speak out and share your ideas. Our delegates decide what goes in our policy book by introducing, debating, and then adopting or rejecting recommendations submitted by members. We may change a word, rewrite a paragraph, remove something entirely, and adopt a special order of business to give added weight to a timely topic. When I run into a farmer who disagrees with RMFU policy, I usually ask if they have attended a county convention or our RMFU convention. It’s where people are heard and its where things happen. We really do make it easy for you to share your thoughts, and we follow a civilized format so you won’t have to worry about someone trying to win at your expense.
Also, by now we have had time to consider how the election results have changed the political landscape in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Also, we have a good sense of how Congress will (or will not) function during the next two years. Congress, your state legislature, governor, and other elected and appointed officials make decisions that affect you. Of course, you can complain to your regular coffee shop crowd about how things should be done. You can write a letter to USDA or a senator to complain about a program after it becomes law. As a general farm organization that has both heart and soul, we at RMFU find it is much easier to be at the table when programs and policies are being developed. In this way we make sure your concerns are heard when and where they can make a real difference. We do this in part because of what you as members adopt as policy at the convention. And here’s one more thing to consider. When our policy is adopted, we follow it. RMFU’s board and staff will not change our position on issues. Those changes are up to you as members. Our policy book is written by members, changes are made by members, and any one individual cannot change it for his or her own good during the rest of the year. To me that shows real democracy in action, as we are sure to have a healthy debate on some topics. It also shows a real effort to work cooperatively for the common good.
Last month I used this space to let you know what it is like for farmers and ranchers to be in Washington, DC, and ask questions of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and talk to U.S. senators, representatives, and their staffs about farm policy. Farmers Union makes it possible for you to be on Capitol Hill, thanks to the annual legislative fly-in to Washington, DC. We also host legislative drive-ins to our state capitals. In addition to thinking about our convention, please plan to attend a legislative drive-in. Lawmakers pay attention to farmers and ranchers who show up at the state capitols in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. It shows lawmakers that farmers and ranchers are actively engaged in the legislative process and not passively standing by to see what happens.
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