Passing the Torch: Shawcroft retires from Colorado Farm Bureau
The 2020 Colorado Farm Bureau annual meeting will signal a changing of the guard as president Don Shawcroft retires. Shawcroft, a rancher from Conejos County, became involved in the organization alongside his father. At his first state meeting, he had been signed up for the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet, unbeknownst to him. It was his first annual meeting and his first appearance in the contest, a notable moment in a long career of service to agriculture.
He came through the YF&R program and served on the state committee and then chaired that committee. After that introduction to CFB, Shawcroft said he recognized it was something he was anxious to participate in. When the opportunity presented itself to seek a state board position, he was elected to represent District 1, the youngest board member at the time by a significant margin.
He became president of the organization in 2010, leading CFB for a decade, succeeding Dr. Alan Foust. Shawcroft was Foust’s vice president for 10 years as well.
“I think back about the challenging times people had, going back to the blizzard in southeastern Colorado when we organized the CFB Disaster Relief Fund, and the success of that effort and the help we gave to at least some who were impacted that way,” he said. “Then the fires in northeastern Colorado and what we were able to do there. I also think of the trying times people had in the drought in 2002 and 2003, the drought that happened in some parts of the state in ’12 and ’15 and I certainly think of the change in political conditions of the state, if you will, and the absolute need for CFB to work more effectively and more consistently across the aisle.”
Most recently, he recalls when the Colorado House Agriculture Committee changed its name and created a firestorm and back to a time when the legislature was attempting to create a fund to bring money in to fund water projects across the state. Over the years, Shawcroft said he has learned the importance of how issues are approached and how solutions are presented to the stakeholders. Meeting the needs and concerns of as many people as possible is a goal he said is always top of mind. Wins and defeats on the ballots abound, but he said his goal of representing agriculture has not wavered.
He said when he announced his plans to retire, a virtual annual meeting wasn’t something anyone could imagine. Though it may not be the ideal mark to the end of his tenure, he said it will undoubtedly be memorable. The counties and districts will meet, he said, to elect leadership positions for the upcoming year but the policy from the previous year will be adopted as the policy for 2021.
Early in his Farm Bureau years, he said a poignant moment came in discussions that led to water policy being written that represented interests of agriculture producers on both the eastern and western sides of the state.
“There was a great amount of concern over the water that was moving for development, but at the same time, recognition that some of that water, even at that time, was moving before it benefited agriculture. The Western Slope folks were anxious about what that would mean for their future. In the process of that policy development debate, we came to an impasse.”
A committee was appointed, policy was written and approved, and that language remained in the policy book for decades, he said. This instance, Shawcroft said, is one of many illustrations of how people with differing opinions, if willing to sit down and have an honest conversation, they can come out of that conversation with language that both sides can support. This is a task the organization, at both state and local levels, faces in representing the interests of all of agriculture.
With changing representation at both the state House and Congress, there is uncertainty about soil health and climate change topics likely to surface in the upcoming sessions and the opinions of the powers that be in regard to those topics and others.
“There’s a great need for the community, the state, and the nation to recognize what agriculture has been doing and will continue to do,” he said.
If potentially expensive practices are mandated to address those topics, he said there must be fair and just compensation.
Shawcroft said he has always contended — and will continue to do so — that agriculture policies ought not be partisan.
“They might be divisive based on how you understand or how you perceive the impact of different actions by people in agriculture, which can be debated and it often tends to fall in one political camp or another.”
He said retirement will find him home on the ranch south of Alamosa enjoying his 17 grandchildren and awaiting the arrival of the 18th in late January. He said he plans to make himself available and continue to find ways to make the world a better place.
“The people I have met in Farm Bureau, as Ann and I have said several times, are truly salt of the earth people,” he said. ‘They’re good people and they’re committed to good principles and that has made this an enjoyable experience and absolutely rewarding.”