MFU members re-elect Wertish and Klabunde, pass state policy and special orders at 78th Annual Convention
Nov. 25, 2019
The 78th consecutive Annual Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) Convention wrapped up yesterday after a weekend of cooperative policy debate; remembrance of recently-passed Membership and Outreach Director Bruce Miller; the re-election of the organization’s President and Vice President; and election of ten delegates to the next National Farmers Union Convention.
The main purpose of convention each year is to debate and pass the organization’s policy platform, which is developed by members at the grassroots level. Members debated issues including agricultural anti-trust, renewable energy policy, drainage policy, transportation and much more.
They also passed three special orders calling for rebuilding agricultural markets, including by rebuilding trading relationships with China; the creation of a public option for health care and opposition to pharmaceutical provisions in international trade deals; and a state bonding bill that invests in the Rural Finance Authority, broadband infrastructure, ag emergency preparedness, upgrading organic facilities at the University of Minnesota-Morris dairy and upgrading the processing facility at the Northeast Regional Correctional Center.
MFU members also re-elected farmers Gary Wertish of Renville and Bryan Klabunde of Waubun as organization President and Vice President, respectively.
“I’m grateful for the continued opportunity to serve as MFU President and advocate for rural communities in this position,” President Wertish said. “We have to be at the table for policy makers to know what we stand for and what it’s been like out in farm country. I’m committed to representing MFU members and policy in all discussions we need to be involved in.”
“My goal as MFU Vice President is to be someone whom family farmers know will listen to them and advocate for their needs,” said Vice President Klabunde. “I’m proud to join President Wertish again to fight for Minnesota’s family farmers and rural communities and supporting our grassroots members in their work to keep family farmers on the land.”
There was one person missing at the convention – Bruce Miller. Many of the speakers, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Angie Craig and Tom Emmer, mentioned Miller in their remarks and recognized his strong advocacy for family farmers. His celebration of life will take place Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at Carpenters Local 322, 710 Olive St., St. Paul. The program begins at 5 p.m. with a local foods lunch following.
“Although Bruce wasn’t physically present at convention, his legacy was with us,” President Wertish said. “He spent his life fighting for social justice, especially with MFU in the local foods movement.”
Another outcome of the convention was the election of delegates to represent Minnesota at the National Farmers Union Convention, which takes place March 1-3 in Savannah, Ga. They are:
Erik Hatlestad of New London
Brent Imker of Lamberton
James Kanne of Franklin
Sarah Klabunde of Waubun
Steven Koering of Fort Ripley
John Larsen of Mantorville
Deborah Mills of Lake City
Melissa Roach of Cook
Roger Schaefer of Frazee
Harmon Wilts of Kerkhoven
The keynote speaker at the convention was Lori Wallach, the Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, speaking on how international trade agreements too often disadvantage U.S. farmers.
Other speakers included National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew, the Minnesota FFA Officers, Farmers Union Insurance Agency President and General Manager Rodney Allebach, Green View, Inc. Executive Director Mike McShane, Farmers Union Industries CEO Dan Hildebrandt, Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership Couple Andrea and Chris Koller and Minnesota Cooks Program Manager Claudine Arndt and Photographer Katie Cannon.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)