A long exposure of an elevated view of Kansas City, Missouri skyline at night. tomofbluesprings/ThinkstockPhotos

NFU members gather for annual convention in Kansas City

NFU honors members, others and sets ag policy priorities.

National Farmers Union held its 116th anniversary convention in Kansas City, Mo. More than 450 Farmers Union members attended the annual event, which ran March 4-6.

“As a family farmer-driven organization, NFU’s convention is the organization’s most important event of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate what makes Farmers Union truly unique – and that is family farmers of all types, sizes, ethnicities, regions and religions banding together to make sure they all can enjoy the American dream,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. 

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Members laid out their Farm Bill priorities in a special order of business decided at the meeting. Their Farm Bill priorities include:

  • Passage of the Farm Bill by Sept. 30, 2018. If this is not done, extend the current Farm Bill in its entirety until the new bill is passed.
  • Increased and robust reference prices under the Price Loss Coverage program that accounts for cost of production,
  • Technical corrections to the Agricultural Risk Coverage program for improved performance,
  • Substantial reform to the Margin Protection Program,
  • Expansion of insurance options for livestock,
  • Continuation of disaster relief programs,
  • Meaningful mechanisms to address oversupply of grain and dairy,
  • Incentives to encourage young and beginning farmers to enter and remain in agriculture,
  • Strong nutrition programs to provide a safety net against hunger,
  • Increases to overall conservation spending,
  • Additional acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program,
  • Maintenance of funding for working lands conservation programs that promote active stewardship and locally led conservation activities, and;
  • Climate mitigation research and technical assistance at national and local levels. 

Other special orders of business

  • Family farming and cooperatives - NFU calls on Congress to reject calls for the elimination of Section 199A, which gives tax benefits to farmers selling to cooperatives.
  • Family farming and crop insurance enhancement – NFU encourages the Risk Management Agency and Congress to expedite the Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool and make it available to farmers as quickly as possible.
  • Family farming and dairy – NFU calls on Congress to provide both a safety net and a mechanism that manages milk inventories in the next Farm Bill.
  • Family farming and E30 - All American auto owners should have the opportunity to fill their fuel tanks with lower cost, better performance, same mileage splash blended 94 octane Premium E30 ethanol blends
  • Family farming and immigration – NFU urges comprehensive and long-term solutions for agriculture and its workforce.
  • Family farming and leading the way on climate change – NFU supports policies that expand renewable energy systems, support research funding for soil health, climate-smart production and improved water management for cropping systems, and the promotion of voluntary conservation practices that focus on water quality.
  • Family farming and livestock production – NFU is concerned with development of cultured meat and synthetic products made from alternative proteins. This is not agriculture, NFU says, and it urges labeling requirements that reflect the traditional production of meat.
  • Family farming and trade policy - NFU encourages the federal government to conduct a formal and thorough analysis of current agricultural trade agreements to determine their success at meeting their promised goals.

Meritorious Service Award

National Farmers Union (NFU) presented Matt Birgen, Sue Carlson and Janet Nelson with the Meritorious Service Award. Birgen, Carlson and Nelson were selected for their outstanding leadership and service to family agriculture and to Farmers Union over the course of their lifetimes.

 “As advocates for family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, it is important to our mission as an organization that we recognize those who work to aid progress in rural America and in family agriculture,” Johnson said. “Matt, Sue and Janet dedicated their careers and lives to bettering life for family farmers, ranchers, their communities, and to farmers across the world. I am proud to recognize their contributions with our organization’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award.”

  • Matt Birgen made a notable impact on Farmers Union and the agriculture industry as a whole. He has served on his Clay County Farmers Union board for more than 50 years, he has also served on multiple other boards since coming back from the Korean War and starting his own operation in 1955.
  • Sue Carlson is a passionate family farm advocate and has championed Farmers Union policies for most of her life. She provided strong leadership at every level - from serving as a youth leader in her local, to president of Wisconsin Farmers Union, to sitting on the NFU Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and in developing the World Farmers’ Organization. Most recently, she played a key role in development of the Women’s Committee of the WFO. 
  • Janet Nelson has been a member of Farmers Union since 1961. She served on the NFU Policy Committee, bringing what she learned back to Wisconsin and taking on the role as WFU Policy Committee chair. Her greatest accomplishment has been the quilts she has created and donated for the NFU Convention Foundation fundraiser over the past 40 years.

Membership Achievement Award

Sherri Dugger of Indiana Farmers Union received this year’s Membership Achievement Award for her dedication to grassroots recruiting. NFU also acknowledged 23 local, county and district sub-divisions with the Leadership Achievement Award for their outstanding leadership and service to their communities. 

“Thanks to the dedication of members and divisions like those honored today, Farmers Union has been able to grow our robust grassroots network over the course of the last year,” Johnson said.

Excellence in Agricultural Communications

Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Art Cullen, through his series of editorials in The Storm Lake Times, shed light on dark money that was undermining the interests of rural Iowa residents and family farmers. For his resolution in challenging powerful interests and his outstanding reporting on agriculture and rural issues, National Farmers Union honored Art Cullen with its Milton D. Hakel Award for Excellence in Agricultural Communications.

The Milton D. Hakel Award is presented to reporters or news outlets that demonstrate exceptional reporting of agricultural issues. The award was named in honor of Milton D. Hakel, a well-respected Farmers Union communicator.

Cullen’s 10 editorials on the infamous Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against the drainage districts of three Iowa counties questioned the legality of a dark money fund set up to finance the counties’ legal fees. This also led Cullen to question the ability of those counties to represent the best interests of their citizens, rather than only those funding their lawsuit. His series led to the fund being disbanded and the lawsuit being dismissed.

“Art Cullen’s editorials are a striking reminder of the importance of local, investigative journalism,” Johnson said. “In this day and age, powerful interests can dictate rural and agricultural policy without enough examination. Art’s work benefits not only the family farmers and residents of Iowa, but all of us in agriculture who rely upon both a clean environment and a positive relationship with the general public.”

Source: NFU

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