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Oren Lee Staley; Led Farmers Group

September 22, 1988|From Times Wire Services

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Oren Lee Staley, founding president of the National Farmers Organization, a group that grew from farmers' price protests in the mid-1950s, has died of the complications of a fractured skull.

Staley was 65 and sustained the injury when he slipped on pavement Sunday in St. Joseph, Mo. He was taken to a hospital here where he died Monday.

Staley, who nine years ago resigned the presidency of the farmers organization founded in Corning, Iowa, in 1955, died not far from his family's 400-acre farm in Rea, Mo., to which he had returned after World War II service. The farm, faced with falling prices and high payments on borrowed money, was in bankruptcy at the time of his death but is continuing to operate.

The group he headed from 1955 to 1979 came into being almost overnight after Iowa farmers began to demonstrate over a lowering of prices under President Dwight D. Eisenhower's agriculture secretary, Ezra Taft Benson.

Staley agreed to accept the presidency because of his belief that the nation's farmers should have organized years earlier--in the 1930s.

The National Farmers Organization, which over the years has withheld milk, meat and other farm products from market because of low prices, represents 250,000 farmers nationwide and handles delivery of their products to food processors.

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