More than 600 North Dakota Farmers Union members participated in the organization’s 92nd annual state convention Dec. 14-15 in Bismarck. A mix of educational speakers, remarks from North Dakota congressional leaders who will be sworn into the 116th Congress, unveiling of the Family Farms chopper, introduction of Our Family Farm children’s book, organizational elections, youth achievement recognition, policy debate and entertainment highlighted the year-end celebration.
Velva farmer Mark Watne was re-elected president, a position he has held since 2013. Bob Kuylen of South Heart was re-elected vice president.
Ryan Taylor of Towner was elected to the state board of directors, representing District 2. He replaces Jim Teigen of Rugby, who did not seek re-election. District 2 encompasses the counties of Bottineau, McHenry, Pierce, Rolette and Ward. Shane Sickler of Gladstone was re-elected to the District 4 seat, running unopposed. That district encompasses the counties of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Slope and Stark. Michelle Ziesch of Pettibone was elected to the state board of directors for District 6. She replaces Ellen Linderman of Carrington who did not seek re-election. District 6 covers Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Stutsman and Wells counties.
Of special note were two special orders of business that were adopted by members. The first called on the Trump administration and USDA to distribute the second round of trade relief payments to farmers hurt by the trade war with China. The second recognized the undue economic stress farmers are facing with net farm income at a 12-year low. Farmers Union members called on the state to provide adequate mental health services in rural areas and adequate funding for mediation services.
Closing out the convention was the Torchbearer Award ceremony, where 10 youths earned the highest honor that can be achieved in the Farmers Union youth program. Recipients, listed by county, were:
BARNES – Braylen Bruns, Nicholas Pfeifer, both Valley City. DICKEY – Breanna Olson, Forbes. LOGAN – Veronica Schwartzenberger, Alexa Young, both Napoleon. MERCER – Robert Fitterer, Golden Valley. MOUNTRAIL– Lane Gandrud, Stanley. STARK – Makayla Tysver, Dickinson. STUTSMAN – Noah Wegenast, Ypsilanti. WILLIAMS – Emily Ketelsen, Ray.