DENVER – Twenty-five Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) members were in Denver this week for the 120th Annual National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention. Nearly 500 family farmers and ranchers convened in the Mile High City to set policy positions that support American farm families and strengthen rural communities.
“Our annual convention is an exciting opportunity for Farmers Union members to gather together, in person, to work towards our shared goal of economic prosperity and social justice. With all the challenges we face today, our grassroots organization is needed more than ever to confront these obstacles,” said NFU President Rob Larew.
Larew, who grew up on a West Virginia dairy farm and has served as NFU President since 2019, was re-elected without opposition. In a rousing State of the Farmers Union address, he committed to continue to push for fairness for farmers and called on members to engage in NFU’s work.
“Time and time again over Farmers Union history, when faced with challenges, we rise to the task and we get it done,” he said. “Farmers Union is strong and we are steadfastly in the fight.”
The three-day event highlighted NFU’s advocacy efforts around competitive markets in agriculture through the Fairness for Farmers campaign, with featured speakers including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Colorado Agricultural Commissioner Kate Greenberg.
“We need to make production agriculture for family farmers vibrant once again,” said Sen. Tester, who was presented with the Fairness for Farmers Champion Award for his work on fair markets, meat processing infrastructure, and other rural issues.
Both Vilsack and Ducheneaux touched on how the extractive economy present in rural America is not serving family farmers or their communities.
“It sure seems to me as though we all work so hard to try and fill a gap,” Ducheneaux said. “What if we addressed why there is a gap? Why don’t we start treating agriculture like an infrastructure investment?”
“What we’ve had in rural America for far too long is an extraction economy, where essentially things are grown on the land and taken to be processed someplace else,” Sec. Vilsack said. “We need to move away from the extraction economy that benefits only a small percentage of the people to a circular economy that takes full advantage of the natural resources we have and creates wealth in rural America.”
Breakout sessions were held on NFU’s history of fighting for fair markets, engaging the next generation of agriculture leaders, addressing confusion on carbon markets, and the potential of biofuels. Those conversations set the stage for the organization’s annual line-by-line policy review and approval of special orders of business, including one on dairy policy reform that was championed by WFU.
Wisconsin dairy farmer Patty Edelburg ran for re-election as NFU Vice President but was ousted by fifth-generation crop and cattle rancher Jeff Kippley of South Dakota.
“We all are disappointed that Patty Edelburg was not successful in her candidacy for another term as vice president; she has done a tremendous job in her service in that role,” Adamski said. “But all-in-all, being here has been inspiring, as we’ve had the chance to learn more about Farmers Union history and the cyclical nature of the challenges many of us are facing today on our farms.