Delegates participate in policy deliberation at NFU’s 115th Anniversary Convention.
NFU Holds its 115th Anniversary Convention
NFU held its 115th Anniversary Convention from March 5-8 at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in San Diego, California. More than 450 Farmers Union members from across the country gathered for the annual event to learn and collaborate and set the stage for NFU’s policies and priorities in the year ahead.
The event kicked off with an opening reception on the William D. Evans Boat, followed by a banquet and luau party featuring Polynesian fire dancers.
At the opening session the subsequent morning, Kent Peppler, Cheryl Cook, and Merle Anderson were presented the Meritorious Service Award for their respective contributions to NFU and to agriculture as a whole. The morning also featured a conservation panel, moderated by Jason Weller, Senior Director of Sustainability at Lank O’Lakes, and comprised of David Gagner, Director of Government Relations and External Affairs for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Laura Lengnick, founder of Cultivating Resilience; and Ron Nichols, Senior Marketing Communications Practitioner for the National Resources Conservation Service. The panel discussed the intersection of agriculture and environmental resilience.
NFU President Roger Johnson
Before lunch, NFU President Roger Johnson gave his annual State of the Farmers Union Address. He discussed the primary concerns of farmers and ranchers in an increasingly hostile political climate, including access to healthcare, the upcoming Farm Bill, immigration policy, trade relationships, and the farm economy. After lunch, attendees had the choice of a farm tour or several breakout sessions. The farm tour visited two local San Diego farms – Suzie’s Farm, a 70-acre, USDA
Suzie’s Farm in San Diego
certified organic operation that grows over 100 different crops per year, and Dickinson Farm, a half-acre urban fruit and vegetable farm. For those who stayed at the Catamaran, there were three breakout session options: Tom Giessel, NFU’s historian, presented on the history of NFU’s legislative activities and influence; Jen Kucera of USDA Soil Health Division and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures presented on regenerative agriculture and local foods; and Rob Larew, NFU’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications hosted an informal session on NFU’s policy priorities.
On Tuesday, NFU recognized individuals, chapters and states for recruiting membership for Farmers Union. Awardees included Gary Wertish of Minnesota Farmers Union, Tiffany Wright of Northwest Farmers Union, Kriss Marion of Wisconsin Farmers Union, William Miller of Ohio Farmers Union, and Bessie Klose of Minnesota Farmers Union. Additionally, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union received the highest organizational honor, the Outstanding Leadership Award.
Jerry Hagstrom moderates the Farm Bill Panel.
The morning session was concluded with a Farm Bill Panel, moderated by Jerry Hagstrom, agricultural journalist, and featuring Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farm Cooperatives; Vince Smith, Professor of Economics at Montana State University, and NFU President Roger Johnson.
Tuesday afternoon commenced NFU’s annual bylaws and policy discussion, which continued into Wednesday afternoon. The adopted policy book and special orders of business will guide the organization’s government affairs priorities over the course of the next year, including the current farm crisis and upcoming deliberations on the 2018 Farm Bill. As a means of providing the organization a prescriptive set of priorities, 136 delegates from 33 states also approved six special orders of business on crisis relief, the Farm Bill, trade policy, climate change, ethanol, and dairy policy. More information about these policies can be found on NFU’s website.
Attendees of NFU’s Women’s Conference
NFU Hosts Annual Women’s Conference
Building on a strong history of providing women in agriculture with important leadership and risk management skills, NFU hosted its annual Women’s Conference in San Diego, California from March 3-5. This year’s conference, with a theme of “Shaping the Future,” prepared attendees and their operations for their own future in many areas, including business planning, succession planning, running for local office, communications, and innovative marketing.
The Women’s Conference was also a great opportunity to network and hear from leaders and experts in the field of agriculture. This year, the conference featured a number of special guests, including
Audra Mulkern, founder of The Female Farmer Project
Lisa Kivirist, author of Soil Sisters
Kriss Marion, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter
Bridget Holcomb, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Madeline Schultz, manager of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program
Dr. Shannon Ferrell, associate professor at Oklahoma State University
Poppy Davis, adjunct professor at University of Arkansas School of Law
Sarah Campbell, stakeholder engagement specialist at USDA Farm Service Agency
Charlotte Smith, founder of 3CowMarketing.com, and owner of Champoeg Creamery and Charlotte Smith Pastured Meats
Read about farmer and NFU intern Meighen Lovelace’s experience at Women’s Conference on NFU’s blog.
Members of Wisconsin Farmers Union at NFU’s Women’s Conference
2016 Beginning Farmer Institute Participants Graduate
The 2016 cohort of the Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) graduated at NFU’s 115th Anniversary Convention.
Betty Anderson (WI), Jaime Baker (WI), Brittany Ann Bula (WI), Layne Cozzolino (WI), Jimmy Dula (CO), Tommy Enright (WI), Caitlin Hldaky (CO), Katie Jantzen (NE), Justin Loch (MT), Christy Ottinger (MD), D’Quinton Robertson (IA), Eric Sannerud (MN), Amanda Schaub (MT), Josh Stolzenburg (WI), Ariana Taylor-Stanley (NY), Zack Teske (KS), and Daniel Waldvogle (CO) completed the year-long course in leadership and farm management skills for beginning farmers.
The curriculum includes educational sessions, business tools and professional speakers in a structured setting that includes on-farm experiences and tours of cooperatives. Many of this year’s graduates have already taken on leadership roles in NFU and their state chapters, serving as delegates at the annual Convention.
Applications for next year’s BFI are now available on NFU’s website. Application postmark deadline is March 30, 2017.
Take the Health Insurance in Agriculture Survey
Health insurance affects family farmers and ranchers and influences their business decisions. Take this USDA-funded survey to help researchers understand how health insurance policy affects farms’ and ranchers’ decision to invest, expand, and grow their enterprises.
The study is a joint effort with between the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Policy and the four USDA Rural Development Centers. Findings will be used to develop training materials for professionals who work with farmers and ranchers. The study was originally conducted in 10 states but is now open to farmers across the country until March 31.
New on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column: Paper Pots Transplanting
Tools and equipment appropriate for small-scale, highly diversified vegetable farms have been a passion of mine for a long time. I discovered one of my favorite tools about 12 years ago while living in Japan. I was abroad with my wife, who was doing international relations work, and my two young sons. Knowing that the average farm is much smaller in Japan than in the U.S., I set out to discover what kinds of equipment Japanese farmers were using to grow vegetables.
New on the NFU Climate Column: Russ Zenner’s Story
Russ and Kathy Zenner have been farming in the Palouse Region of Idaho, near the Washington-Idaho border in Genesee, for more than forty years. Located about a hundred miles south of Spokane, Washington, Zenner Family Farms includes ground that was first farmed by Russ’s grandfather in 1935. Kathy and Russ joined the family business in 1970 and took over management of the farm fourteen years later. In 2012, Russ’s cousin Clint Zenner and his wife Alicia took on some management responsibilities, becoming the fourth generation to carry on the farming tradition of the Zenner family in Idaho.
NFU Lauds Bill to Add USDA to Foreign Investment Committee
WASHINGTON (March 14, 2017) – U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced a bill to add the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Food Security is National Security Act also directs CFIUS to consider U.S. food and agriculture systems when determining whether or not to approve foreign investment in U.S. companies.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson lauded the bill, citing the importance of maintaining food security for the sake of U.S. national security.
“Potential impacts on global and domestic food security should be a primary consideration for those tasked with ensuring our national security. As we’re seeing across the world, food shortages and disputes are leading to massive international crises. Without stability and certainty in our food systems, we can expect similar crises on our own soil.” said Johnson.
The U.S. agriculture sector has recently experienced an alarming amount of investment from foreign governments and companies, notably Smithfield’s sale to Chinese firm Shuanghui, the Syngenta acquisition by Chinese-government owned group ChemChina, and Bayer’s proposed acquisition of Monsanto.
“This foreign investment threatens our domestic food security,” noted Johnson. “In the case of biotech, it transfers critical technologies to foreign entities. In meat processing, it has disrupted trade markets, giving foreign competitors an unfair advantage.”
“NFU is pleased Sens. Stabenow and Grassley are calling for increased scrutiny on food security implications, and we call on Congress to adopt this commonsense legislation.”
WASHINGTON (February 28, 20217)- President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress tonight, offering a blueprint of his vision for the future of the country. NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response:
“President Trump’s agenda must begin to consider and prioritize the economic well-being of rural and farming communities. In tonight’s speech, the President failed to mention the words ‘rural,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘agriculture,’ yet touched on a myriad of policy issues that could have major impacts on family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
“For instance, the President plans to revitalize the American economy and support the creation of jobs by renewing our nation’s trade agenda. While his focus on improving trade agreements is appreciated, our members are increasingly concerned about his earlier harsh rhetoric and the strain it has placed on our trading partners.
“Trump’s plan to switch away from the ‘current system of lower-skilled immigration’ neglects the unique and important work that immigrant laborers provide for our nation’s food system and rural economies.
“And Trump’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act must ensure affordable access to health insurance for rural Americans, especially for family farmers who can not be part of large plans.
“If the President intends to be a champion for all Americans, he must consider the real and lasting impacts his policy agenda will have on rural America and family farmers and ranchers.”
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Avoid Changes that Undermine RFS
WASHINGTON (February 28, 2017) – Amidst reports of a pending executive order to change the point of obligation for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the Trump Administration to avoid changes to the RFS that would undermine the success of the nation’s strongest biofuel policy.
Echoing concerns raised by the organization in a recent letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement:
“To this point, President Trump has expressed support for renewable biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard, and his administration has stated it’s intent to administer the program as written by Congress. Any attempt by the administration to change the point of obligation through an executive order would unnecessarily complicate compliance and undermine the underpinnings of the RFS.
“NFU strongly urges the Trump Administration to avoid changes that would undermine the RFS. We look forward to ensuring the program continues to grow the ethanol market and be a boon to rural economies, energy independence, and the environment.”
Beginning Farmer Institute Registration Open
NFU Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) develops leadership and farm management skills in beginning farmers and additionally encourages them to apply those abilities in their community organizations. Farmers Union employs educational sessions, business tools and professional speakers in a structured setting that includes on-farm experiences and tours of cooperatives.
For applications and more information, visit NFU’s website.
Join NFU’s Beginning Farmer Forum
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.
USDA Corn Ethanol Report Supports Environmental Benefits of RFS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a report titled “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol.” The study, prepared by ICF, compares the environmental impact of corn ethanol and gasoline, emphasizing the benefits of the former.
According to the report, in 2014, corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provided a 43 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional gasoline. With anticipated engineering efficiencies, the value is expected to approach 50 percent by 2022.
Furthermore, when farmers employ a variety of conservation practices including no-till, cover crops, nitrogen inhibitors, and precision fertilizer applications, corn ethanol provides GHG reductions of up to 76 percent when used in lieu of conventional gasoline.
These values project a greater positive environmental impact from the use of corn-based ethanol than previous studies. ICF attributes this largely to the methods by which increases in ethanol production have been achieved. The anticipated land use change to meet growing demand has been less significant than initially predicted, as have the associated emissions. Instead, intensification on existing cropland has had a greater role in meeting increased demand.
NFU is pleased to see the results of USDA’s report provide further evidence of the environmental benefits of corn ethanol, particularly when coupled with conservation practices. The findings of this study underscore the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other biofuels policies that encourage the agricultural community’s involvement in mitigating climate change.
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, 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, 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.”
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, NFU urged the Trump Administration to stand up for family farmers, ranchers, and rural Americans by reviewing and implementing these rules as soon as possible.
Dairy Industry In Need of Support
U.S. dairy producers are facing the business-crippling burden of multi-year price lows. Milk prices have dropped by more than 40 percent in the past two years, and the Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) has not provided the safety net needed to cope with this decline. As a result, additional avenues for direct assistance must be explored to help struggling dairy farmers.
NFU put together an emergency dairy committee in July to address shortcomings of the DMPP and work with Congress and the USDA to propose meaningful adjustments to the dairy farm safety net.
In September, NFU asked Congress to allow the USDA to either respond to the crisis through price support activities or to refund 2015 DMPP premiums, which totaled $73 million. And in October, several lawmakers offered their support, echoing NFU’s request for Congress to provide USDA the necessary scope to provide assistance to the dairy sector.
Last month, NFU’s Board of directors released a resolution calling on Congress to provide the USDA the authority to provide direct assistance to struggling producers, and to refund diary Margin Protection Program premiums.
While the USDA has taken several steps within their existing authority to help dairy producers who are struggling to stay in business – like the announcement that they will again purchase $20 million in cheese – the most meaningful relief will come from Congress providing additional authority.
Member Benefit Highlight: DripWorks
NFU members receive a 10%discount on retail purchases. For discounts up to 25%, NFU members are invited to take advantage of DripWorks’ one-step signup process for wholesale pricing. DripWorks provides quality drip irrigation supplies and equipment to people wanting to reap the savings and benefits of using drip irrigation.
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.