Our 92nd annual state convention recently concluded, and I want to thank all of our members for making it truly special. We had excellent attendance as our grassroots policy development was in action. We are a grassroots organization driven by member involvement and to see so many participate really speaks to the strength of our organization. Thanks to all of you!

Looking back on 2018, it was a busy year for North Dakota Farmers Union. We’ve been working hard on improving the farm economy, educating the consumer and getting the word out on mental health. Here are some of the big moments from your farm organization in 2018.

• In January, we held a two-day event titled: “Life Beyond Breaking Even: Farm Economic Summit 2018.” The event was held at the Energy Center at Bismarck State College. It featured speakers and panels that spoke about farm economics and mental health. As farms get bigger and more isolated in the country, observing your neighbor’s habits and behavior is getting increasingly more difficult, and that means it’s harder to catch the warning signs of significant stress. We will continue to work hard on this issue in the coming year.

• In April, NDFU opened its seventh farmer-owned restaurant, this time in Reston, Va. The restaurants are a great tool to educate consumers on the importance of family farm agriculture. We’re feeding about 50,000 consumers a week, and each consumer gets a subtle message about family farm agriculture.

• In June, we held the 2018 Rally for Agriculture in West Fargo, and it was well-attended, especially by the media. In addition to state and regional news outlets, we had multiple national news outlets show up and report on our message. There were over 150 people from farm country in attendance to raise concerns about the ongoing farm crisis. It was a great event that had to be put together quickly, and it really showcased the strength of our grassroots. This effort helped in getting trade assistance to farmers with the challenging trade war we are currently experiencing.

• In September, we sent nearly 100 farmers and ranchers to Washington, D.C., to advocate for family farms. It was the largest attended fly-in in recent memory. We pushed to get a farm bill completed and advocated for raising PLC reference prices, a fix to trade issues, protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard and expanding to E30. The farm bill appears complete, and it’s similar to the senate version that was proposed. That’s good news for farmers.

• Also in September, we released a children’s book, “Our Family Farm: Everyone Works on a Family Farm.” This book really tells the story of family farm agriculture and the hard work that multi-generational families put into the farm each day. I encourage you to buy more than a few and send them to your city cousins as a way of doing your part to help educate the consumer. Consumer support of family farm and ranch agriculture is essential to our efforts to enhance farm and ranch income. The books are available online at ndfu.2020brands.org, or you can call the state office at 1-800-366-8331 and ask for Eunice.

• In October, Judge Daniel Hovland of the U.S. District Court for North Dakota handed down a decision that preserves our corporate farming law. The judge’s decision doesn’t just reinforce what we believe — it supports the 76 percent of North Dakotans that said no to corporate farming at the ballot box in 2016. It’s a great victory in our effort to maintain our corporation farming laws, and we thank all of the North Dakotans that voted to keep agriculture in the hands of family farmers.

• In December, we held our state convention, and our goal was to provide a truly unique experience for our members. It’s fair to say we succeeded, especially with the unveiling of our Family Farms chopper that will soon be featured on the show, “American Chopper.” Not only do we get the benefit of a 40-minute TV show about family farm agriculture (plus re-runs), but we also have the bike itself and the ability to reach consumers that wouldn’t typically pay attention to ag issues. Watch for our episode to air on the Discovery Channel soon.

I hope this gave you some insight into what we’ve been working on this past year. They’re important efforts, and they represent only a small portion of what’s done on a daily basis at NDFU. Your organization works extremely hard on the challenges facing family farmers and ranchers in a time of great uncertainty. Thank you for your commitment to NDFU!

— NDFU President Mark Watne