Exactly 35 years ago this Saturday, four state organizations joined forces to create a new national group, the American Agri-Women.

"Beset with many serious problems, American agriculture, as a fragmented industry, lacked a single voice through which to speak to bring about effective change," Sharon Steffens and Pat Cohill wrote in the history of the first 20 years of the American Agri-Women. "Women were to play an important role in developing a united voice for agriculture."

During the past decades, the issues facing agriculture have remained much the same. From grass seed field burning in Oregon to federal estate taxes to fighting ill-conceived notions about meat and other food crops, the Agri-Women have stood their ground, speaking on behalf of the people who own and operate the nation's 2.2 million farms and ranches.

Today the American Agri-Women, with its 50 affiliated organizations, continues to stand as a loud and clear voice. Members have lobbied in the halls of Congress and in state capitols from Florida to Washington state to make sure the voice of agriculture is heard.

Among their many accomplishments:

* USDA recognition of spouses for farm program purposes.

* Creation of the national and state Ag in the Classroom programs.

* Support for the federal Healthy Forests Initiative.

* Improving state and federal endangered species acts.

* Better labor laws.

* Promotion of renewable fuels.

This week, American Agri-Women representatives from across the country are in Salem, Ore., for their annual convention.

We'd like to welcome them all to our hometown, and wish them continued success as an effective and powerful voice for America's farmers and ranchers.

Founding organizations

Following are the founding organizations of the American Agri-Women:

* Women for the Survival of Agriculture in Michigan.

* Wisconsin Women for Agriculture.

* Oregon Women for Agriculture.

* Washington Women for the Survival of Agriculture.

They were joined soon after by the Illinois Agri-Women and the Kansas Agri-Women. Now, 50 state and commodity organizations are affiliated with American Agri-Women.

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