Utah Farm Bureau President Resigns Amid Farmworker Abuse Allegations
According to a statement from Utah Farm Bureau, Gibson’s resignation was offered effective immediately. He had taken a leave of absence from his state presidency as well as his board position for the American Farm Bureau Federation last week, when Gibson was arrested for the misdemeanor assault of one of his farm’s employees.
“Utah Farm Bureau welcomes this development,” the organization said in a statement to Agri-Pulse. “We are grateful for his years of service to our organization, but his mistreatment of a farm worker last week was unbecoming of a leader and inconsistent with Farm Bureau’s values.
“Treating people with respect is a core value that must not be compromised. Workers who accept positions on farms face hard work in the fields and pastures across America. They deserve our gratitude and respect. Farmers and ranchers would not be able to carry on the important role of feeding America without them,” the organization added.
In addition to arresting Gibson for the assault — caught on video during an argument between Gibson and several workers over unreceived paychecks — the Weber County Sheriff’s Office also said in a statement that an investigation into the incident “has also brought to light allegations of fraud and human trafficking, which are currently being thoroughly investigated by the Department of Public Safety's Special Bureau of Investigation.”
A Labor Department official also confirmed to Agri-Pulse the existence of a federal investigation into the matter.
Gibson also had a seat on the American Farm Bureau Federation's board of directors, one of several state presidents from across the country serving on the panel. AFBF President Zippy Duvall confirmed in a statement to Agri-Pulse that Gibson's resignation was effective for both his state and national leadership posts, something Duvall said was “the right thing to do.”
“Although his apology for mistreating a worker on his farm was heartfelt, such conduct is unacceptable and inconsistent with the values of Farm Bureau. Mistreatment of an employee is never okay,” Duvall said. “Farm workers, like all workers, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We recognize the critical role they play on farms across America and deeply appreciate their commitment to helping deliver a safe and abundant food supply to families everywhere.”
Gibson had been among American Farm Bureau officials voicing opposition to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the House in the last two sessions of Congress but never cleared the Senate. The group argued the bill’s provision to allow farmworkers in the H-2A visa program to file lawsuits to enforce the terms of their employment agreements would open up employers to a flurry of cases.
Utah Farm Bureau’s statement noted Gibson “has apologized for his actions and indicated that he welcomes the investigation into the additional allegations against him.
“We urge the public to follow the advice of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office to allow the investigation to run its course to ensure justice is served,” the group said. Duvall offered a similar sentiment.
The organization’s board of directors plans to carry out essential functions until a replacement is selected.