In March, Montana Farmers Union members and staff attended the 118th National Farmers Union Convention in Savannah, GA. More than 500 Farmers Union members from across the country convened. The delegation elected Rob Larew to succeed Roger Johnson as president and re-elected Patty Edelburg to serve as NFU Vice President. “The reason for Farmers Union’s longstanding success – and the reason why I am so enthusiastic about leading this organization – is its grassroots structure,” said Larew. “Each year, our members set organizational directives and federal policy priorities in a democratic process, which ensures that the work we do in our national office is really in the best interest of the hard-working family farmers and ranchers.”
MFU sent ten delegates to represent the organization. President Walter Schweitzer said the national convention is a great chance for Farmers Union members to come together.“I always enjoy getting together with other farmers,” said Schweitzer.“The National Farmers Union Convention brings together farmers from all over the world to discuss issues that affect family farms. It is therapeutic to share experiences with others facing the same concerns.It always amazes me how much I have in common with another family farmer even if they are from California, New York or South Africa. We are all struggling to survive in a world where the multinational corporations control our inputs and our markets. The only way the family farm will survive is through education, organization, cooperation and legislation. We have to ban together to fight for the family farm or lose it.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke to the group, and NFU President Roger Johnson delivered his final State of the Farmers Union address. Attendees also heard from a panel on black land loss and voting rights and breakout sessions on precision agriculture, the history of grassroots organizing, regenerative farming, farm to table, and hemp production. MFU Member Kirby Hancock served on the hemp production panel and spoke to the potential of using Hempcrete as a building material.
One of the special orders passed by the body was truth in labeling. MFU Board of Director and delegate William Downs said truth in labeling is a key policy item. “Consumers want to see truth in labeling in the markets. Consumers are being misinformed and as an organization we are addressing that with policy.”
Delegate Jeri Copenhaver said many of the policy items discussed relate to Montana because of the diversity of the state’s agriculture industry. Specifically Copenhaver mentioned consolidation in agriculture and truth in labeling as two main policy items. “Farmers Union is a grassroots organization so we bring policy items from our counties to the state convention and then the national convention to make sure Montana is heard.”
Delegates representing Montana included Jeri Copenhaver, Helena; Tyce Erickson, Dutton; Lilly Green, Great Falls; Kirby Hancock, Bozeman; Cory Kelly, Chester; Paul Neubauer, Havre; Maggie Shane, Floweree; Walter Schweitzer, Geyser; Will Downs, Molt and Jan Tusick of Polson.
Each year MFU takes a youth delegate to expose them to the policy making process and provide a voice for the next generation of ag leaders in Montana. Tyce Erickson served as the youth delegate and comments on his experience. “I enjoyed the National Farmers Union convention in Georgia from the people to the sites,” said Erickson. “The convention was everything I thought it would be and then some. The policy meetings were entertaining with the debates and learning how other states differ from Montana. It is essential to stay involved with an agriculture organization to determine what is new and happening within the farming community. In total, I learned a lot about farmers around the nation and the importance of attending policy meetings, which help gives a voice to the agriculture community.
Member Sarah Rachor served on the national policy committee. She said it’s important to have representation from Montana at the national level. “Serving on the 2020 National Farmers Union Policy Committee was a great experience,” said Rachor. “Montana does not always get a representative so I wanted to make sure all areas of our state had a say. There were plenty of interesting updates to our national policy after 2019, especially in regards to our safety net and how we as a nation help our farmers and ranchers in years of need. Plus Montana was able to remain at the forefront in industrial hemp policy to help shape this industry and any regulations needed by our producers and processors.”
Farmers Union delegates approved the following six special orders for the coming year.
– Family Farming and 2019: A Most Challenging Year
– Family Farming and the 2020 Election
– Family Farming and Climate Change
– Family Farming and Cooperatives
– Family Farming and Dairy Policy Reform
– Family Farming and Truth in Labeling and Promotion of Meat Products
Visit www.nfu.org to view the special orders and changes/additions to the National Farmers Union Policy Manual.