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RBC | Locals Kelly Osborn, Kathleen and Reed Kelley attended agricultural conventions in Denver days before Thanksgiving. Osborn, who puts in her daily work at White River Energy, represented the Rio Blanco County Farm Bureau at the Colorado Farm Bureau’s (CFB) 99th annual convention at the Hyatt Regency. J.D. Amick, president of the Rio Blanco County Farm Bureau, was unable to attend this year’s convention. The Kelleys, members of Northwest Colorado Farmers Union as well as the Rio Blanco County Farm Bureau, attended various sessions of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) 109th annual convention at the Crowne Plaza, but especially enjoyed the Harvest Moon fundraising dinner gala Friday where Kathleen was honored with a meritorious (lifetime) service award.
The recurring message from panelists and speakers at the RMFU meeting were ideas on how to meet the challenges those in agriculture face in surviving current downturns in the ag economy. RMFU President Dr. Dale McCall spoke to the importance of the 2018 Farm Bill on agriculture and rural communities so dependent on agriculture. He urged members to voice their concerns and their needs to state and federal legislators. RMFU includes Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico in its membership.
Kelley received the meritorious service award for years of productive activity in agriculture. After seven years being vice-president of RMFU, she became the first and is still the only woman to serve as president of the organization, including its affiliated insurance arm. Kelley worked with others to raise awareness of the impact foreign countries had in “dumping” live cattle (exporting subsidized cattle) into U.S. markets. Through those efforts she co-founded the Ranchers-Cattlemen’s Action Legal Fund (R-CALF, USA) which continues to fight the battle to this day, concentrating recently on the need for the re-establishment of mandatory country of origin labeling of beef products in retail markets and the irony of check-off dollars (payments made on each head of cattle every time it’s sold) being spent without true government oversight and toward policy actually contrary to the interests of cow-calf producers in the U.S.
Through Farmers Union, Kelley published “Packer Concentration in the Beef Industry” in the mid-1990s which highlighted the growing concentration of market power among corporate processing and marketing agribusiness. Kelley had previously served on the Colorado House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee as a state representative from her west central district she fondly called “Aspen, Vail and Oil Shale.” Today she works to impart some of the wisdom gained of her experiences to her students at Meeker High School.
Marsha and Doc Daughenbaugh of Steamboat Springs, their kids and grandkids, were recognized as the RMFU Farm Family of the Year for decades of work across generations as advocates for family farming and ranching. Marsha is currently a member of the state committee for the federal Farm Service Agency and serves as the executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance in Routt County. Doc has been recognized by the Colorado Riparian Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for careful and conscientious habitat management on the ranch. The next generation of Daughenbaughs still do ranch work while holding banking and veterinary jobs in Steamboat.
The theme of the 99th annual CFB convention was “Growing Agriculture.” The keynote speaker was Gen. Ron Keys (Ret.), who had been commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command. He spoke to issues faced by modern agriculture, as well as threats to our electrical grid. Other speakers included Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown, originally from Yuma, and Dale Moore, director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, also from Yuma, made a brief, unexpected visit.
CFB President Don Shawcroft of Alamosa (and Denver) told his group, “This year has been one of great uncertainty on both the political and economic fronts. Farm and ranch income is down, and all signs point to a continued trend of low commodity prices… [but we’re looking forward to] our upcoming centennial celebration, and our leap into the next 100 years.”
Osborn is also the regional representative on the CFB Women’s Leadership Committee which hosted live and silent auctions to support Ag Readers provided to grade school students statewide and other ag education programs. In addition, the committee hosted a luncheon featuring Kelsey Pope. Pope is an avid blogger, a city girl turned rancher, and an advocate for agriculture. Her presentation focused on our story of “why.”
“Knowing how to share our story of why we are involved in agriculture, why it’s important, and why we can produce more food on less land,” Osborn said, “is critical.” Pope is heavily involved in social media and speaking events to promote understanding of current agriculture. She emphasized that agriculture has challenges beyond the weather, market whims and the nature of the work. We are faced, she said, with criticism from many sides, citing animal welfare, chemical contamination, GMO concerns and other issues of consumers exposed to misinformation.
Of interest from a policy perspective is that RMFU supports mandatory country of origin labeling for all food commodities including beef and pork at retail while CFB opposes required country or origin labeling.