Gerald McCathern reviews AAM's rich history at convention
The American Agriculture Movement completed its 30th Annual Convention in Oklahoma City, Okla., where the organization celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the Washington D.C. farmers' protest for equality. AAM President Larry Matlack welcomed Gerald McCathern, the chief organizer of the grassroots action and acclaimed western novelist from Herford, Texas.
McCathern explained that the late Marvin Meek, AAM's first national chairman, assigned him the title of "National Wagon Master" and the task of organizing a major protest in the nation's capitol to highlight the plight of America's farm and ranch families. "I really didn't know where to start such a process," reported McCathern. We knew that our movement included approximately 2.5 million farmers at the time, but we sure didn't know at that time that we would facilitate the movement of over 3,000 tractors and over 10,000 farmers, some of which traveled almost the entire breadth of the continent, to all arrive in Washington at the same time.
"We figured we could travel 100 miles per day," explain McCathern. "So we laid a map out on the table, broke a matchstick to a length equal to 100 miles on the map and planned accordingly to determine where and when farmers from every community would start their journey. It worked well, even during inclement winter weather and well before cell phones or the Internet. Thousands of tractors and farmers converged on D.C. on Feb. 5, 1979."
Matlack stated that not only did the 1979 event help drastically improve farm policy for several years following the action, but was also the genesis for modern federal policy measures such as ethanol production and country-of-origin labeling of the nation's food.
"Farmers built an ethanol still on the Mall to help pass 'gasohol' legislation enacted by President Carter soon afterwards," explained Matlack. "And following the brutal beating by McAllen, Texas police of farmers protesting inaccurate labeling of Mexican produce the previous year, we were able to start the process of proper food labeling which was finally enacted this past year."
"We had a great celebration at our convention with a remarkable trip down memory lane and a constructive look to the future," concluded Matlack. "AAM has a rich and proud history and we will continue our work to keep farm and ranch families on the land."