WASHINGTON, June 18, 2015 – Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer who was president of the American Farm Bureau Federation from 1986 until 2000, died June 15 in Wayzata, Minnesota, from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 82.
Kleckner, who raised corn, soybeans and hogs near Rudd, Iowa, was president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation for 10 years before his election to head the AFBF. He was an outspoken advocate for expanded global farm trade, serving on advisory committees for trade negotiations under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.
Kleckner was defeated in 2000 by Bob Stallman, then president of the Texas Farm Bureau and AFBF’s president since then. Stallman’s supporters contended that Farm Bureau had become too partisan under Kleckner’s guidance and argued that he spent too much time on international travel. Kleckner’s vocal opposition to the movement to include labor and environmental standards in negotiating trade agreements also sparked opposition from producers who felt threatened by imports from countries with lower wages and environmental regulations.
Following his failure to win re-election, he expanded his efforts to promote international trade liberalization and adoption of agricultural biotechnology by helping create the advocacy group Truth About Trade & Technology (TATT) in 2000, along with several Farm Bureau allies and other farm leaders, and served as its head until 2012.
A statement on the group’s Web site said, “We join the world in mourning the loss of Dean Kleckner – a true farmer leader … Dean Kleckner was a farmer first and foremost. With a passion for people, he was known for his stories, his opinions, his willingness to listen and learn and his great love of St. Louis Cardinals baseball.”
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill called Kleckner “an iconic leader and advocate for farmers, recognizable around the globe,” adding, “His singular efforts to elevate the merits of and status of free and open markets with regards to trade have been matched b few in American history.”
Kleckner was the only farmer on the Trade Advisory Committee during the Uruguay Round trade negotiations beginning in 1986. In 1988, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the National Economic Commission created by Congress to find ways to balance the budget.
Kleckner also served on many company and organization boards including the World Food Prize, the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council, the National Policy Association, the National Livestock Producers Association and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. In his name, TATT established the Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award and Iowa State University created a Dean Kleckner Global Agriculture Graduate Scholarship Award.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Natalie Kitzmann; five children; eleven grandchildren and a brother Rex Kleckner, of LeRoy, Minnesota.
A public memorial will be held Aug. 18 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Urbandale, Iowa. The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, 600 Maryland Ave. SW, Suite 1000W, Washington DC 20024, or The Alzheimer’s Association, PO Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011.