National Farmers Union members wrapped up their virtual annual meeting this week after listening to Secretary Tom Vilsack, Ag Committee leaders and other speakers. In addition, voting delegates debated changes to the organization’s bylaws and policy positions. Some of the most contentious discussion focused on a bylaw change that would require voting delegates to meet USDA’s definition of actively engaged in farming. “We allow all kinds of families to join,” noted North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne. “However, if you want to come to the NFU convention and vote as a delegate, you have to be a farmer.”  NFU President Rob Larew said the bylaws change was “sought by those who felt it appropriate to do so at the national level to ensure that the farmer's voice remains center to the organization.” Currently state organizations have different types of memberships and set their own processes for determining eligibility for voting delegates in their state conventions. Some states require that delegates either were or currently are farmers, he explained. The change was overwhelmingly approved by a weighted vote. In addition, delegates adopted all of the organization’s existing policies from 2020 for 2021 and approved four special orders that address a wide range of issues including rural health care, livestock marketing, dairy policy, biofuels and checkoffs. Those special orders include: Family Farming and Moving Forward from Covid-19; Family Farming and Issues Facing the Livestock and Dairy Industries; Family Farming and Climate Change; Family Farming and Biofuels.

“Between the pandemic, natural disasters, and deep political division, the last year has tested all of us,” said Larew. “But tough times are something this organization and its members know well – and every time we encounter a stumbling block, we respond quickly and constructively to find solutions, which is the essence of our grassroots policy-making process.”


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