Kansas Farmers Union President Donn Teske and a group of KFU members recently traveled to the 112th National Farmers Union convention in Santa Fe, NM, which was held March 8-11, 2014. The four-day event drew nearly 600 family farmers, ranchers, and fishermen from across the country, and featured a number of high-profile speakers.
KFU members joining President Teske at convention included: Kathy and Stephanie Teske, Wheaton and Manhattan, respectively; Herb & Patricia Bartel, Hillsboro; Chris and Sherri Schmidt, Atwood; Mary Fund, Goff; and Tom Giessel, Larned. Bartels, Schmidts, and Fund served as delegates to this year’s convention. Attending from KFU’s state office were Mary Howell, KFU membership director, and Nick Levendofsky, KFU communications and projects director.
“This year’s convention was a tremendous success,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The convention is the cornerstone event on our calendar each year. Our grassroots structure is something in which we take great pride, and the feeling of family was apparent throughout all of the proceedings.”
“Delegates took the policy adoption process very seriously, considering the needs of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural residents,” said Johnson. “Policy discussion was thoughtful and thorough, and it is an honor to represent the views of our members.”
Johnson was elected to his third full term as president of the organization and Donn Teske, Kansas Farmers Union president, was elected the new vice president. The president and vice president are elected separately to two-year terms.
“I am so humbled by the faith and trust the delegates have shown by electing me vice president,” said Teske. “I’ll do my best to help NFU President Roger Johnson move the organization forward under the direction of the grassroots policy formed here today.” Teske was elected from a field of three candidates, and replaces former NFU Vice President Claudia Svarstad, who did not seek re-election.
Delegates to the convention adopted eight special orders of business recognizing 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming and setting priorities for implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, immigration reform, trade policy, animal disease protection and research, the Renewable Fuel Standard, reform of the beef checkoff, and budget sequestration.
Mary Fund, who served as a delegate to the convention for the first time, said this about the diversity of representation in delegates, “I was impressed by the broad range of farmers and ranchers that are NFU members; from typical ranchers and livestock and grain crop farmers, to specialty crop and organic farmers. Big and small. Niche markets, new, and value added enterprises combined with more traditional farms, you name it. They were all represented.”
Fund went on to say, “There were some sharp differences on a few critical issues, which you’d expect given the range of membership, but I was impressed by the spirit of compromise and respect during the policy debates. Congress could take a lesson.”
Convention attendees heard from a panel on the 2014 Farm Bill comprised of staff from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency, as well as a panel of agriculture commissioners from the Rocky Mountain states. The highlight of the convention was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s keynote address, in which he praised NFU for its work on the 2014 Farm Bill and announced new and expanded efforts to connect small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers with USDA resources.
On Monday evening during convention, the National Farmers Union Foundation (NFUF) held its fifth annual “Evening for Education” gala. The foundation’s focus is to empower people to educate others on the social, economic and cooperative contributions of family agriculture.
The event featured speakers who were past participants in the wide variety of educational programs the Foundation makes possible throughout the year.
Nearly 400 people from across the nation attended the event. Farmers Union has a rich history of educating all ages, especially young people, for more than 80 years. NFUF also supports scholarships, internships and conferences on cooperatives for college students. In addition, the Foundation is making it possible for adults to participate in a wide variety of learning opportunities, such as the Women’s Conference, Beginning Farmer Institute, adult educational curriculum, and other adult educational opportunities. Approximately $40,000 was raised in support of National Farmers Union Foundation’s educational programming throughout the convention.
For the third year, National Farmers Union (NFU) partnered with Feeding America to raise funds and donate produce to food banks in rural communities. Farmers Union members donated $196,700 to Feeding America and its local food banks – the most money raised annually since the campaign’s inception.
“Feeding the less fortunate is not a mission family farmers and ranchers take lightly. Farmers Union members have always sought innovative solutions to food security challenges, whether in their own communities or on the other side of the world,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.
The 2015 National Farmers Union Convention will be held March 14-17 in Wichita, KS.