The Texas Farmers Union (TFU) is an organization made up of farmers, ranchers and small town residents. The union is now in its 107th year of promoting progress and development in rural America.
The current president of the union, Wes Sims, makes his home right here in Sweetwater. Sims, 72, is a long-time member of the union, and has served in many capacities related to TFU. Sims serves as one of four officers on the National Farmers Union board and has held the office of president of the TFU for 14 years.
Sims and the TFU's philosophy for progression is based on three tenets — legislation, cooperation and education. The union was founded in Point, Texas in 1902. Since then, the organization has strived to improve the quality of life for all rural residents. And if anyone knows what it is like to live a rural life, it is Sims.
The son of a sharecropper, Sims was born on a cotton farm in Fisher County during the great depression. He grew up without electricity or running water, and relied on the quiet, rigorous life he inherited as a farmer's son to occupy his time. "I farmed and ranched all my life," said Sims. "I was born and raised in this area, and spent all my life in Fisher and Nolan Counties."
Sims still lives the life of a farmer. When he isn't traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with congress or giving a speech on the state of agriculture today, he prefers the solitude of his ranch that he and his wife, Latria share.
The TFU is active in many areas of the political landscape. Sims says that the TFU is anticipating the changes brought about by the new administration and the recent bills that have passed from the beltway to the books. "You have to care about the common good," he said. "It's the only way to sustain a democracy. If these policies of greed continue, the common people will always struggle."
One particular point of interest for Sims is the renewable energy field. He feels that that the advent of such technologies is the key to the future of rural locations — including Sweetwater. "There is going to be tens of billions of dollars given to develop new technology, and it's all coming to rural communities — not Dallas or Austin or San Antonio, but places like this," he said.
Sims believes that with the current economic trends, renewable energy may account for up to 25 percent of all power generated in the United States by 2020. According to Sims, it is vital to the world as a whole to curb the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere which contribute to global warming. "We are at about 380 (carbon) parts per million in the atmosphere. 450 parts per million, and the world could become iceless." Sims went on to explain the urgency of the situation saying, "The 48 living Nobel Peace Prize winners all wrote a letter stating that global warming is happening. There is no real division in the scientific community regarding global warming."
Sims also took the opportunity to express his position on the proposed 600-megawatt, coal-fueled power plant that may be built in Nolan County by Tenaska, an Omaha-based energy corporation. "Sound science says that this area of the world will see less rain and less run-off over the years," he said. "We don't have an abundance of underground water here. We need to have some more research done. If rainfall is declining, what future will we leave here?"
Though Sims doesn't appear to be diametrically opposed to Tenaska, he insists that further studies be performed before allowing the $3.5 billion project to proceed. "We need to know what affects it will have on our water, the people, the livestock, our crops and the beautification of the area," he said.
The TFU, under Sims' advisement, recently joined the Multi-County Coalition. The coalition, which is comprised of concerned citizens who are either against the coal plant or wish to see more research done on the potential impact it will have on the environment, has welcomed Sims and the TFU to its cause. "Wind energy is the future of this community. Not this coal plant," Sims said. "Progressive communities will be the beneficiaries of new legislation concerning renewable energy. Those communities that look backward will be left behind. We are moving into a new era."
Sims contends that the TFU will continue to be a force in ushering in the new agricultural age of America saying, "When the last family farm is forced off the land we'll close our doors. Until then, we are going to be here for them."
|Texas Farmers Union, P.O. Box 738, Sweetwater, Tx 79556|