NFU President Roger Johnson speaks at the March for Science in D.C.
NFU Marches for Science
Bill & Sibyl Miller at the March for Science in Oxford, Ohio.
Last Saturday, April 22, National Farmers Union joined the first-ever March for Science, organized to celebrate science, call for science that upholds the common good, and demand evidence-based policies in the public interest.
NFU President Roger Johnson addressed the crowd at the flagship event in Washington, D.C., emphasizing the importance of science-based policy for the success of America’s farmers and ranchers. He also voiced support for publicly funded, independent and peer-reviewed agricultural research to inform both farmers and policymakers.
Mardy Townsend marches for science in Cleveland.
Johnson was joined by farmers and agricultural leaders, both in D.C. and at satellite marches across the country. At the Shenango Valley March for Science in western Pennsylvania, Michael Kovach, a diversified livestock producer and member of Pennsylvania Farmers Union, spoke about the relationship between agriculture and climate change. Further west, Mardy Townsend, a beef cattle producer and member of Ohio Farmers Union, joined the Cleveland March for Science to protest cuts to the National Weather Service, on whom she says she relies for weather predictions and analyses.
Read about why NFU marched for science in Johnson’s blog post, and learn more about the event in NFU’s press release.
Perdue Confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture
After significant delay, on Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 87-11 to confirm former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Nominated just days before inauguration, Perdue was the last of Trump’s cabinet members to be named and among the last to be confirmed. The confirmation process continued to be postponed as the White House took several extra weeks to submit his ethics paperwork and the Supreme Court confirmation tied up the Senate in the days leading up to April’s congressional recess.
The absence of agricultural leadership in Washington concerned and dismayed farmers and ranchers, who have endured months of the current farm crisis and drastic policy changes in Washington without representation, as NFU President Roger Johnson noted in a statement on Perdue’s confirmation. Johnson expressed relief and optimism about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new leader, and urged him to work immediately to address the depressed farm economy, offer assistance to dairy producers, and review and approve the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.
Perdue did not waste any time diving into his new role. First thing Tuesday morning, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas officiated Perdue’s swearing in ceremony, which was immediately followed by his first speech to USDA employees as Secretary. Shortly thereafter, Perdue joined President Trump and 14 farmers at the White House for a round-table discussion about agriculture and rural issues. He will also head up rural task force “to examine the concerns of rural America and suggest legislative and regulatory changes to address them,” as described in an executive order issued by the President on Tuesday.
Minnesota Farmers Union Reports on Rural Issues
On Wednesday, Minnesota Farmers Union released a report entitled “What Do Rural People Think?” The report is a culmination of 14 separate MFU rural issues discussions held between between March 27 and April 6 and involving more than 450 individuals across the state.
In a press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol, MFU President Gary Wertish, accompanied by Lt. Governor Tina Smith, Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper, and Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Wohlman, presented the results of the discussions, which covered a wide range of issues, including health insurance, farm labor, the farm bill, rural hunger, and infrastructure, among others. Read the full report here.
Fifty Farmers Form New Delmarva Division
Nearly 50 family farmers from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia recently came together to form a new Farmers Union division to represent their region. Evolution Brewing in Salisbury, Maryland hosted the energetic and informative meeting, where participants asked numerous questions about NFU’s policy, programs, and history.
Newly elected President Stewart Lundy remarked, “We had a packed room and not a single apathetic soul. Everyone cared, and that’s exactly that kind of energy we need going forward.”
In addition to the election of Lundy as President, six board members – two from each of the three states in the region – were also elected. Mavie Mayor and Patricia King represent Delaware, Lisa Garfield and Ashley Harrison represent Maryland, and Bruce Penland and Mark Belknap represent Virginia.
The group is in the process of approving bylaws and recruiting new members, and plan to achieve chapter status in time for NFU’s Legislative Fly-In this fall.
“The task ahead of us is complex but the idea is simple,” added Lundy. “We need to network farmers and bring them concrete solutions that make their lives better – through educational opportunities, cooperative efforts, or legislation. One of the first steps that everyone can participate in is expanding membership. You don’t have to be a farmer – just a supporter of farmers. This is about all of us. We can’t eat without good farmers and we can’t farm without good eaters.”
To join the Delmarva group and help it grow, click here, or contact President Stewart Lundy at [email protected].
All-States Leadership Camp Registration Open
Each summer, NFU members between the ages of 17-20 who have distinguished themselves as leaders are given the opportunity to attend NFU’s All-States Leadership Camp. Youth come from across the United States to Bailey, Colorado, where they spend a week at the NFU Education Center, nestled among the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Campers explore their personal leadership skills, identify issues important to their generation, and discuss their role in effecting positive change throughout rural America, both individually and through involvement in Farmers Union.
This year’s All-States Camp, themed “Stewardship: Care for the Land, Care for the People,” is scheduled for June 25-29. If you are interested in attending, contact your state chapter’s education director. For more information, visit NFU’s website.
People’s Climate March
We hope you can join us on Saturday, April 29 at the People’s Climate March in D.C. We’ll be marching to show the world and U.S. leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities, and our planet. To register, click here, or find a sister march near you.
You can find more information about the event on NFU’s website.
New on the NFU Climate Column: Soil Health Champions Network
The Soil Health Champions Network is comprised of 150 landowners and operators who are implementing conservation practices on their land and championing the benefits of soil health within their communities. It functions as a space for soil champions to exchange best management practices, tell success stories, and learn how to make improvements in their own operations.
New on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column: Cooperatives
Cooperatives are found in every industry in the United States, including housing, banking, agriculture, food retail, and healthcare, providing people with basic goods and services through collectively owned and democratically organized businesses and organizations.
The seven principles of cooperatives, including democratic member control, voluntary and open membership, education, cooperation, and concern for community are at the core of NFU policy. These principles allow for individuals to collectively take back and maintain control of the goods and services on which they depend.
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Stay in Paris Agreement
WASHINGTON (April 12, 2017) –
As President Donald Trump weighs the merits of keeping the United States in the Paris Agreement, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the administration to maintain U.S. commitments to global leadership on climate change. The Paris Agreement is vital to enhancing the climate resiliency of family farm operations and rural communities, and it allows family farmers and ranchers to join carbon sequestration efforts that stimulate economic growth in rural America.
The President is expected to make a decision on whether to stay in the Paris Agreement by late May. NFU has been an adamant proponent of the agreement since its adoption in 2015.
Trump Executive Order Reverses American Climate Change Progress
WASHINGTON (March 28, 2017) – In a sweeping and regressive executive order on energy, President Donald Trump reversed years of progress in the U.S.-led fight against climate change. The order dismantles critical Obama-era policies that prepare the United States to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“Climate change jeopardizes American food security and the livelihoods of American family farmers, ranchers and rural residents,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “This executive order sends a very clear message to Americans and the rest of the world that our country will not lead the global effort to curtail climate change. It also stems any further progress the United States can collectively make to thwart the severe effects of climate change.”
WASHINGTON (March 24, 2017) – Unable to gain adequate support for the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Congressional leadership withdrew the bill today. National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response:
“Today’s decision to pull the American Health Care Act highlights a host of concerns the American people have with this failed legislation. The AHCA would have had serious negative impacts on millions of people’s access to affordable health insurance coverage, particularly family farmers, ranchers and rural citizens. As such, NFU applauds the withdrawal of the bill.
The NFU Beginning Farmer Forum is a community of farmers, ranchers, educators, policy makers, and the general public that share common knowledge and interest in helping beginning farmers and ranchers overcome the challenges to starting and sustaining a farming operation in the U.S. It hopes to spread awareness about these challenges, provide insight into how they can be addressed at local, state and national policy levels, and share current resources and tools that benefit.
Join the Beginning Farmer Forum on Facebook to connect with hundreds of other farmers and contribute to the conversation.
NFU Farm Safety Video Series
NFU released a series of farm safety videos in 2016. Through these 10 short videos, we hope to build mass awareness to farm safety issues and contribute to reducing the number of annual farm-related accidents.
Visit our website (http://nfu.org/farmsafety) to find all of the videos that pertain to your operation, and share with your friends, family and neighbors to help prevent farm-related accidents and casualties! You can also order them here on DVD or USB.
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Consider Farmers Before Agribusiness Mergers
Extreme concentration in the agribusiness sector has long threatened the wellbeing of farmers and ranchers. A recent wave of consolidation in the agricultural inputs sector has farmers particularly on edge, with three major proposed mergers: Dow-Dupont, Bayer-Monsanto and ChemChina-Syngenta. If all three are approved, it would limit major players in the agrichemical and seed sectors to just four companies. The resulting reduction in concentration would decrease innovation, increase input costs, and limit choice for farmers.
In January, NFU was alarmed when then-President-elect Donald Trump met with Bayer AG, a German agricultural input company. During that meeting, the two parties struck a deal, committing Bayer to invest $8 billion towards research and development, should the company be permitted to acquire competitor Monsanto Co. This deal suggesed the administration’s tacit approval of the Bayer-Monsanto merger, which would occur at the expense of family farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the timing of this meeting was troublesome, as it occurred before the President-elect had selected his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. This left many concerned that after inauguration, President Trump would continue to prioritize the needs of agribusiness over those of rural communities.
Similarly, NFU was worried by last month’s approval of the proposed merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. by the European Union, and urged the Trump administration to block the deal. The merger of Dow and DuPont, the 4th and 5th largest firms, would give the resulting company about 41% of the market for corn seeds and 38% of the market for soybean seeds. If the Dow-DuPont and Bayer-Monsanto mergers were both approved, there would effectively be a duopoly in the corn and soybean seed markets.
Craig Watts, North Carolina Poultry Grower
NFU Stands with Contract Growers
Contract farmers raise 97% of the chicken consumed in the United States, but they face unfair challenges and hidden risks under the production contracts that are commonly offered by large corporate firms today.
In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as the GIPSA rules, as an interim final rule and two proposed rules to help balance the relationships between producers and meat packers in the concentrated livestock and poultry industries. NFU was pleased that the long-awaited rules were finally released.
However, in February, the Trump Administration delayed the effective date and comment periods for the three Farmer Fair Practices Rules. In response, NFU President Roger Johnson said, “Family farmers and ranchers have been waiting on the protections provided by the Farmer Fair Practices Rules for far too long, enduring heavily concentrated markets and the unfair practices associated with lack of competition. After having been delayed and obstructed for the past seven years, it’s time to end the unnecessary delays to the Farmer Fair Practices Rules and allow these basic protections to be finalized.” In April, USDA delayed the implementation of the interim final rule yet again, from April 22 until October 19.
There is a common misconception that the Farmer Fair Practices Rules were a “midnight rule” of the Obama Administration. In fact, they are the culmination of nearly a decade of work, having been provided for in the 2008 Farm Bill and undergone the full regulatory process. The USDA went to extensive lengths to ensure public comment was considered and Congress’s intent was realized, only to be blocked by riders stuck on appropriations bills in the middle of the night. Though some have disagreed on the policy, both producers and consumers will benefit from the competitive, transparent markets that these rules will help protect. Consequently, in March, NFU President Roger Johnson submitted testimony to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, advocating for the expedient adoption of the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.
Trump Administration Neglects Rural Communities
In mid-March, President Trump issued his fiscal year 2018 federal budget blueprint, calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture- and rural-related agencies and programs.
Among his recommendations is a $4.7 billion cut to USDA, which equates to a 21 percent drop for programs that serve rural and farming communities across the U.S. This huge cut to discretionary spending puts rural development, food safety, conservation and research programs on the chopping block. Additionally, the blueprint provides for a $2.6 billion cut to EPA funding. This 31 percent drop guts the agency’s ability to provide essential environmental services and pesticide approval.
Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade as well as an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. Further cuts to agencies and programs that provide support to agriculture and rural communities will compound the difficulties farmers endure, particularly during the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing.
To compound these concerns, President Donald Trump failed to mention the words ‘rural,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘agriculture’ in his address to a joint session of Congress in February, even though he touched on a number of subjects that will both directly and indirectly affect American farmers and ranchers. NFU released a statement in response, expressing dismay about the President’s stance on trade, immigration, and healthcare.
The President’s plans to replace the “current system of lower-skilled immigration” has many farmers and ranchers on edge, as it neglects the unique and important contribution of immigrant laborers to our national food system and rural economies. Farmers are similarly concerned about the proposed changes in national health insurance policy. Notably, motions to cut support to Medicaid would disproportionately affect farmers and ranchers, a population that is older than average.
To this point, the president has put the needs of rural America and agriculture on the backburner, and, in many cases, on the chopping block. If the President intends to be a champion for all Americans, he must consider the real and lasting impacts of his policy agenda and budget on rural America and family farmers and ranchers.
Member Benefit Highlight: Sow True Seed
Sow True Seeds provides a broad selection of premium quality vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, bulbs & tubers, and cover crop varieties. The seeds come from a network of skilled regional growers and independently owned North American seed producers. Their seeds are open pollinated, with many heirloom and organic seed varieties to choose from. NFU members receive 10% off.
Visit nfu.org/join to become a member and start saving today.
Have you heard the term “telemedicine” recently and wondered what it is? Wonder no more! Telemedicine is a convenient new way to talk to a doctor 24 hours a day 7 days a week when you’re having non-emergency medical issues at home or anywhere else not close to a doctor’s office.
So how does it work? You get telemedicine when you sign up for the Wellness Access Card for a low $99 yearly fee for the entire family. You will then get access to a 24-hour physician phone line that lets you speak to a real doctor, who will make treatment recommendations and even write prescriptions over the phone for common sickness such as flu, sinus infections, respiratory infections, pink eye and more.
Telemedicine is a great option for those who live in rural areas far away from a doctor’s office. You don’t need to wait until the morning to visit the doctor if you’re feeling under the weather at night.
There are no age restrictions, and there are even pediatricians available for when your children get sick. On average we see 97% member satisfaction and 97% physician satisfaction. On average members receive a call back from the physician in 22 minutes and a guarantee call back within three hours.
All you have to do is sign up for the Wellness Access Card and choose whether you want a monthly or annual membership. Once enrolled you will receive your membership kit, which comes with the telemedicine phone number and specific instructions on how to use it. That’s it. No long forms to fill out. Simply call the number and get medical assistance.
Farmers Union Insurance has always been a community-based insurance provider. Founded by Farmers Union leaders in 1945, the company offers personalized, relationship-based service to farmers and rural residents across the Rocky Mountain and upper Midwest states. Last year alone Farmers Union Insurance provided more than 90,000 policies.
In 2005 Farmers Union Insurance was integrated into the Americas division of the international QBE Insurance Group. As part of the QBE family, Farmers Union Insurance continues to offer quality care and protection to policyholders. Together, QBE and Farmers Union work to maintain the Farmers Union brand to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents know that Farmers Union respects and supports their economic needs and livelihoods.
It is an exciting time for Farmers Union Insurance. By working with QBE, Farmers Union Insurance is poised to expand its offerings to new regions and enhance its product line. New products are ready to be rolled out under the Farmers Union brand that will allow family farmers, ranchers and rural residents to choose a policy that is better tailored for their needs. There are imminent plans to expand the geographic offering of Farmers Union Insurance beyond the current footprint and to further support our Nation’s rural communities.
Looking to get the most out of your insurance policy or know a farmer who is? Remember that by choosing a Farmers Union Insurance product you are supporting your state Farmers Union as well as National Farmers Union’s 114 year old effort to advocate on behalf of the American family farm.
Farmers Union members join for lots of different reasons, but a very fundamental reason is a business reason. They want to get added-value from their membership for their farming operation. In the states where Hasting Mutual Insurance Company operates, the added-value is a very high-quality health insurance partnership that provides many of the insurance products farmers across the country need.
Hastings Mutual provides members top farm insurance products as well as other great coverages including home, auto and commercial insurance. The company operates in six Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Last year alone, the partnership garnered over 500 new memberships in those states.
Know a farmer in one of these six states? Tell them to contact their state farmers union or a Hastings insurance agent in their area to receive discounts on their farm owners policy premium.
Watch the Hastings Mutual/NFU partnership video here.
Visit our website to learn more about your state farmers union. Call Hastings Mutual at 1-800-442-8277 to find an agent near you.