Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) members are in San Francisco this week for the National Farmers Union 121st Anniversary Convention. Hundreds of farmers and ranchers from throughout the nation gathered March 5-7 to set the family farm organization’s 2023 policy.
“Farmers Union has a rich history dating back to 1902, when its founding farmers saw the need to strengthen the voice of rural America,” WFU President Darin Von Ruden said. “We’re proud to take up
that torch yet today and work together to ensure the future of the next generation of family farmers.”
Representing Wisconsin Farmers Union as delegates in the deliberation of policy were Paul Adams,
Eleva; Tina Hinchley, Cambridge; and Darin Von Ruden, Westby. Krist Kvalheim of Sun Prairie guided
delegates through the policy process as convention parliamentarian.
Joe Childs of Boscobel attended the convention in the first event in a year-long commitment to the
Farmers Union Enterprises Leadership Program. Olivia Roth of Albany, WI addressed the delegation as a
member of the NFU National Youth Advisory Council, a role in which she is serving as a voice for youth
across the country.
Former long-time WFU Education Director Cathy Statz received the Bruce Miller Membership Award.
The award recognizes individuals within Farmers Union who display a true passion for family farming
and rural America, while promoting the work of Farmers Union. Statz wrapped up her WFU career and
30th year staffing the camp program in 2022. She stepped down from the position to pursue other
work in the cooperative education realm and move to Poland with her husband, Tom Pamperin, who
teaches in an international school.
Eight Wisconsin Farmers Union chapters were recognized for engaging members and increasing their
membership the past year, including Amnicon-Douglas, Eau Claire, Polk-Burnett, Dane, Lake to Bay,
Marathon, South Central, and Sterling Local.
Other members of the Wisconsin delegation included Linda Ceylor, Catawba; Grace Clardy, Eau Claire; Patty Edelburg, Scandinavia; Danielle Endvick, Holcombe; Duane Hinchley, Cambridge; Julie and
Chuck Keown-Bomar, Chippewa Falls; Rachel Kvalheim, Sun Prairie; Sarah Lloyd, Wisconsin Dells;
Michelle Ramirez-White, Madison; Alicia Razvi, Madison; Dave and Caitie Rosen, Glenwood City; and
Michael and Nancy Slattery, Maribel.
Delegates set special orders of business around dairy policy reform, fairness for farmers, and the farm bill. These frames will guide NFU’s work over the next year. The Wisconsin delegation was pleased to have language passed that urges Congress to pass a farmer-led, incentive-based milk production growth plan to match milk supply with profitable market demand.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the convention-goers, sharing progress the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made to strengthen the food supply chain, promote competition, and protect consumers and producers. Vilsack earned a standing ovation as he announced a proposed rule
that would strengthen standards and close loopholes for the voluntary ‘Product of USA’ label for meat,
poultry and egg products.
“This rule is about truth in labeling, plain and simple,” NFU President Rob Larew said. “For too long,
family farmers and ranchers have been competing in a market where imported products were fraudulently labeled as a product of the United States.”
Larew noted the change will bring more fairness for farmers and ranchers across the country but also
vowed that NFU will continue to fight for mandatory country of origin labeling. In a hopeful State of the Farmers Union address Larew emphasized the importance of farmers sharing their stories in the upcoming farm bill process.
“Our members are leading the way on farm policy from the local to federal level,” he said. “One thing
we’ve learned is that when Farmers Union members speak with a united voice and tell our story, we get
results. A great example of this is how the Fairness for Farmers campaign is catching the eyes and ears
of lawmakers across the country and Farmers Union priorities are being put into action. 2023 is a big
year for agriculture policy and because of our unity, NFU is well positioned to be a leader.”
Attendees heard from key players in NFU’s efforts to boost competition. Tom Undlin, Partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, discussed how legal action can help spur greater competition and fairness in the food system and the market marketplace. Kevin O’Reilly of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) discussed Right to Repair and updates on NFU and PIRG’s efforts for legislation and regulations to guarantee the Right to Repair. Michael Kades, Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice discussed antitrust efforts in the Administration. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, a key player in
previous farm bills, provided a special welcome as the farmers gathered in her district.
The full NFU policy book will be available online soon at www.nfu.org.