Mark Watne of Velva was reelected to a tenth year as North Dakota Farmers Union president by members and delegates attending the organization’s 96th annual state convention this past weekend, Dec. 9-10, in Bismarck.

In his message to voting delegates, Watne emphasized the importance of member engagement through advancing technology and their involvement in legislative priority areas, including the crafting of a new farm bill, efforts to address corporate monopolies and fairness in the marketplace, protection of North Dakota’s corporate farming law, and growth of renewable diesel and other fuels.

“What is it about NDFU that makes us unique? It’s the grassroots,” Watne said.

Farmers Union members adopted four special orders of business during the two-day convention in addition to their 2023 Program of Policy and Action. The orders outlined priorities for the upcoming North Dakota legislative session and a new farm bill; Congressional and administrative action to ensure fair markets for farmers and ranchers; and adequate staffing and compensation for employees of the Farm Service Agency.

Members enjoyed a series of breakout sessions that focused on fuels of the future, wetland and water issues, Farmers Union’s Fairness for Farmers campaign, and report from NDFU’s Farm Bill Working Group. Other convention speakers included National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, NDSU crop economist Frayne Olson, Greg Tehven of Emerging Prairie and others.

The Agraria Mutual Group (dba Farmers Union Insurance Company) also held its 79th annual meeting in conjunction with the NDFU state convention.

In other elections, Bob Kuylen of South Heart was reelected vice president. Bob Finken of Douglas was reelected District 2 director for Bottineau, McHenry, Pierce, Rolette and Ward counties. Shane Sickler of Gladstone was reelected to the District 4 seat. That district encompasses the counties of Adams, Billings/Golden Valley, Bowman/Slope, Dunn, Hettinger, McKenzie and Stark counties. Shelly Ziesch of Pettibone was reelected to the District 6 seat. District 6 comprises a nine-county area: Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Stutsman and Wells.

Members also elected delegates to represent North Dakota at the National Farmers Union Convention, slated for San Francisco in early March. They are:

ANAMOOSE – April Marquart. ASHLEY – Terry Ulrich. BARNEY – Dalton Wiest. BOTTINEAU – Philip Neubauer, Tyler Neubauer. BOWMAN – Tim Fischer, George Siverson. CENTER – Dave Berger. COGSWELL – Olivia Throener. DAZEY – Justin Sherlock. DOUGLAS – Bob Finken. EDGELEY – Mike Schlosser. EGELAND – Adam Held. ELGIN – Wes Niederman. FORDVILLE – Julie Gemmill. GLADSTONE – Lenci Sickler, Shane Sickler. GRAND FORKS – Jeanna Smaaladen. JAMESTOWN – Lori Carlson, Mike Huebner. KINDRED – Josh Heinrich. MADDOCK – Richard Lynne. MANDAN – Mary Blumhagen, Marjorie Tomac, Miles Tomac. MCCLUSKY – Missy Axt. MENOKEN – Bill Kershaw. NAPOLEON – Carmen Rath Wald. PEKIN – John Kelly. PLAZA – Kevin Johnson. REGENT – Aaron Krauter. RYDER – Tyler Stafslien. SHARON – Ben Vig, Megan Vig. SHERWOOD – Jeri Keith, Steve Keith. SOUTH HEART – Sarah Kuylen. STANLEY – Ken Halvorson. TOLNA – Don Rude. VELVA – Shawn Kaylor. WILLISTON – Floyd Miller.WYNDMERE – Jim Dotzenrod.

In addition, 21 youths received the Torchbearer Award, the highest honor in the Farmers Union youth program. This year’s honorees are:

BARNES COUNTY – Haidyn Becker, Joesi Klein and Karina Olson, all of Valley City. BURLEIGH – Molly Jennings of Washburn, Luke Gader, Connor Wald and Mitchel Wald, all of Bismarck. DICKEY – Paige Henningsen of Monango. EMMONS – Paige Hulm of Linton and Kaylee Weninger of Strasburg. GRANT – Emilie Raab of Carson and Tate Rafteseth of Elgin. LAMOURE – Rylee Fischer of Edgeley. NELSON – Mary Rude of Tolna. OLIVER – Kayleigh Kraft and Breanna Vosberg, both of Center. ROLETTE – Clayton Brown of Rolette. SARGENT – Olivia Throener of Cogswell. WILLIAMS – Taylor Rath of Williston, Shelby Knox and Natalie Oster, both of Ray.

Three Torchbearers also received a $1,000 Bergman Scholarship each to help offset college education costs. Recipients were Shelby Knox of Ray, Taylor Rath of Williston and Mary Rude of Tolna.