Several Wisconsin Farmers Union members served as delegates at the National Farmers Union (NFU) 119th Anniversary Convention this week, enacting policy positions that support American farm families and strengthen rural communities. For the first time in the organization’s history, the event was held entirely online, with over 500 farmers and ranchers taking part in the activities. Representing Wisconsin Farmers Union as delegates were President Darin Von Ruden, Westby; District 2 Director Dave Rosen, Glenwood City; District 3 Director Ed Gorell, Eleva; Rachel Henderson, Menomonie; and Michelle Miller, Madison.
“Many of us are feeling some frustration at not being able to gather together, and we hope to be able to do so soon,” Von Ruden said. “In the meantime, we’re making the most of it, and continuing the important work of setting policy that will help farmers weather the pandemic. Through the hard work of the NFU policy committee and delegates, we put forth some important priorities for 2021.”
Delegates finalized the policy book and several special orders of business which will guide NFU’s work over the next year. They also adopted a bylaws amendment that will require delegates to future national conventions to be actively engaged in farming or ranching.
The Wisconsin delegation was pleased to have language passed that urges Congress to develop a comprehensive program to allow dairy producers across the nation to receive a profitable return on their investment, including an adjustable base make allowance that reflects the difference between milk prices and cost of production. The language notes that a federal milk marketing order system that includes all areas within the continental United States should emphasize maximum return to producers.
Attendees heard remarks from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. John Boozman, Rep. David Scott, and Rep. Glenn Thompson. NFU President Rob Larew delivered his first State of the Farmers Union address as well, offering a reflection on an eventful first year in office and hopes for the future.
“Between the pandemic, natural disasters, and deep political division, the last year has tested all of us,” Larew said. “But tough times are something this organization and its members know well – and every time we encounter a stumbling block, we respond quickly and constructively to find solutions. Whatever difficulties we may be facing, Farmers Union members come together to reflect on how our food system can better serve farmers, consumers, rural communities, and the environment.”
A series of convention webinars on a variety of subjects, including rural mental health, diversity and inclusion in agriculture, climate-focused economic development, and Farmers Union history is available to view here.
“Though we’ve all confronted unexpected challenges since our last convention, there are reasons to feel optimistic about the future,” said Larew. “While this convention provides an important platform to discuss the hardships we’re experiencing, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate our shared passion for farming and look towards a stronger and more resilient future.”
The 216 Farmers Union delegates approved four special orders of business: