From March 3-5, we attended the lively National Farmers Union 117th Anniversary Convention in Bellevue, Wash., where 40 of our members and staff convened with more than 460 Farmers Union members, staff and friends from across the country. Minnesota is one of NFU’s 33 state and regional divisions.
As at the state level, most of the time spent at the NFU Convention was in policy debate and special orders. The policy document approved by the delegates will guide the NFU’s policy goals with Congress and the Trump administration. Delegates also passed eight special orders, which are available online at the NFU website.
Delegates spent a great deal of time discussing the need for farmers to be involved in mitigating climate change, the need to better enforce antitrust laws and the need for fair trade policy that benefits family farmers. These policies will guide the D.C. staff’s positions and priorities for the year ahead and ensure that NFU continues to advocate on behalf of its members, family farmers, and rural communities. It’s always a treat to hear from Farmers Union members from states vastly different from Minnesota. Every state is a farm state!
NFU President Roger Johnson gave his annual State of the Farmers Union address, covering topics such as the currently depressed farm income, climate change, consolidation in the ag sector and the trade war.
Andrew Winston, a globally recognized expert on environmental sustainability in businesses, gave the keynote address. Other speakers included USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey, Michael Stumo of Coalition for a Prosperous America and Kathy Baylis of the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.
The NFU convention always provides opportunities for members to delve into topics they are interested in. This year included breakout sessions on the environmental benefits of E30 gasoline, regenerative agriculture, soil health, grassroots organizing, farmers markets, fighting rural consolidation and farm stress crises. The last of these had Minnesota Department of Agriculture Senior Advisor for Strategy and Innovation (and MFU member) Meg Moynihan as a panelist, reminding attendees that you are not alone.
The National Farmers Union Convention is always a good reminder that Minnesota agriculture isn’t on its own, separated from the rest of the world. We stand together with our fellow members to lift the collective voice of family agriculture. We aren’t alone, but united in the work to achieve a thriving countryside.
MFU had ten delegates at the NFU Convention. They were Vicki Barnes of St. Paul; Rachel Sannerud of Milaca; Maria Fatz of Waubun; Linda Larson of Rosemount; Eric Monson of Eagle Bend; JoAnne Riegert of Waubun; Peter Schwagerl of Browns Valley; Mary Sullivan of Franklin; Cindy VanDerPol of Kerkhoven; and Tim Velde of Granite Falls.
Representing MFU on the National Youth Advisory Council was Jade Person of Oklee. Representing MFU on the NFU Policy Committee was Steven Read of Nerstrand. Andrea and Chris Koller of Le Sueur are Minnesota’s Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership Couple.
Others representing MFU at the NFU Convention were President Gary Wertish and his wife Jeanne of Renville; Vice President Bryan Klabunde of Waubun and his wife Sarah; State Secretary Anne Schwagerl of Browns Valley; Farmers Union Insurance Agency President and General Manager Rodney Allebach and his wife Linda of Maple Grove; Carol and Steve Anderson of Foley; Chris Fullerton of St. Paul; Larry and Gina Jacobson of Hitterdal; James Kanne of Franklin; Stu Lourey of Kerrick; Alan Perish of Browerville; Brian Rohrenbach of Rosemount; Joshua VanDerPol of Kerkhoven; Connie Velde of Granite Falls; and Ted Winter of Fulda.
MFU staff in attendance were Programming Director Michelle Medina; Membership and Outreach Director Bruce Miller; Public Relations and Communications Director Brita Moore; Education Director Glen Schmidt; and Operations Director Laura Sherar.