“In 1985 is when the entire ag industry, business leaders decided to come after Hightower and attempt to defund the agency in various components. Those guys hated (John) Vlcek and hated the marketing program. They just thought we were nuts and that Hightower was nuts by focusing on small farmers, which of course was exactly what Farmers Union wanted. Vlcek was gay. These guys just could not stand Vlcek, that was the big issue in my memory, they came after his marketing program. They came after all types of regulatory programs to attempt to defund through the legislative process, but they really wanted Vlcek gone…Alex Moreno was a state representative and lawyer from Hidalgo County. I was talking to him one time about trying to bring people to the table and negotiate some of these farm worker protection issues. He was a leader on our behalf on farmworkers’ behalf and Hightower’s behalf. He just looked at me with those glinty eyes and he said, “Pete, sometimes to solve a problem, you’ve got to make an even bigger problem.” Which was his way of saying, I’m gonna throw a metaphorical grenade right in the middle of those Farm Bureau guys and, as I recall, he did a number of times.”
Pete McRae was a lobbyist for Texas Farmers Union when Hightower recruited him to join the Department of Agriculture. Texas Farmers Union represented small family farmers and supported many of Hightower’s initiatives, including pesticide regulations. Practically speaking, most Farmers Union members weren’t big enough to have farm workers. In traditional row crops you don’t really need that type of labor. You’ll usually have one or two or three guys that assist in planting and harvesting, but in most row crops, the commodity programs support, you don’t need that type of labor. It’s really fruit and vegetable production, planting and picking, where you need farmworkers. So the Farmers Union board agreed in principle to the pesticide regulations, because it didn’t really gore their ox. Once a traditional ag group like Farmers Union was supportive, it gave Hightower something to promote, to brag about. Pete is president of Prevailing Trends, Inc., which specializes in City, County, RMA, and Transit Authority Issues across the State of Texas.