RMFU Convention Discusses Urban Agriculture, GMOs and Drones



DENVER, Colo. ­­– Farmers and ranchers attending the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s annual convention did not shy away from hot topics during policy discussion and adoption. The Nov. 13-14 event drew members from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. 

Increasingly, the changing face of agriculture is including beginning farmers who are younger and focusing more on small-scale production for local markets. The RMFU policy discussions generated spirited debate on definitions of food labels, urban agriculture, genetically-modified foods, and more. The discussions also took on more traditional topics, from federal farm programs to conservation. 

Members attending the event adopted two Special Orders of Business. One calls for the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations that allow civilian use of small unmanned aerial systems to include operations beyond the visual line of sight. The other special order urges Congress and the Obama Administration to mitigate the impact on small communities that will come from decreasing demand for coal or eliminating coal-fired power plants before they reach the end of their maximum intended operational life. 

Farmers Union is a general farm organization whose members represent all aspects of production agriculture, from managing large livestock operations to planting irrigated row crops, and from growing specialty foods for local markets to organizing food distribution cooperatives. As a grassroots organization, all members are welcome to voice their opinions and recommendations regarding policy positions and priorities. 

The theme for this year’s convention was Persistent Progressives, a nod to more than a century of service to farmers, ranchers, local communities, and member-owned cooperatives. John Freeman, who wrote the just-published 220-page book, “Persistent Progressives, The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union,” was a featured speaker at the convention. Freeman noted the farm organization has survived and thrived for more than a century because of the commitment of members across generations and types of operations to make a difference. “The common denominator is a concern for the soil.” Members who registered for the convention received first editions of the book. 

Recently retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs provided a detailed look at how cultures across history and across the globe learned to farm in weather extremes and especially how to manage water to produce food in arid climates. Justice Hobbs said Colorado’s water issues are linked to its legal commitment to deliver two-thirds of its headwaters to 18 downstream states, and because the balance of water available puts the agriculture, tourism, and residential communities at odds with each other. 

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told members that his leading priority is finding a workable solution to keeping Country-of-Origin Labeling as a viable consumer information law for meat products. Johnson said Farmers Union remains opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, based on the impact similar past agreements have had on rural America and because the agreement fails to address currency manipulation. 

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown welcomed RMFU members to their convention. James Pritchett, executive associate dean at the College of Agriculture Sciences on the Colorado State University campus, updated delegates and guests about the current and future focus of the research and educational priorities of the land grant university. 

Other guest speakers included National Farmers Union historian Tom Giessel and Julia Hutchins, CEO of Colorado HealthOp. RMFU presented Hutchins with the 2015 Cooperative Leadership Award. RMFU was instrumental in supporting the Colorado HealthOp from its conception to inception. Hutchins said the consumer-owned health cooperative was financially viable and operated as a true business co-op. 

Delegates and members attending the convention were able to tour the new offices of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and GrowHaus, a venture using food production, distribution, and education to build a healthier community in northern Denver.


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