Every year after we hold a national election, I am reminded about the importance of participation in our democracy. Nationally, we had a large voter turnout for a midterm election, even though it was less than 50% of eligible voters. But locally in North Dakota, our voter turnout was light in comparison to prior elections. 

With the number of races nationally that were very close, it is surprising many citizens missed the opportunity to be counted. Citizens of other countries in the world are jealous of our right to vote and question why we would not take advantage of this great opportunity.

Electing not to vote is just a wrong choice. It does matter.

At North Dakota Farmers Union, we pride ourselves in being grassroots and encourage people to show up. We even tell people, “Those who show up set the policy for what we stand for.” I am always surprised by the number of people that believe, as president, I can choose a different policy than our members. NDFU does not function that way. Our members, those who show up, set the policy. And that policy is what we work for until members choose a different direction. This is the same concept in elections. Those who show up and vote determine the future direction of our nation.

I am also proud to say NDFU is nonpartisan. We do not support campaigns and we do not donate to campaigns. We are always positioned to work with whoever is elected and we do our best to find avenues that will allow us to accomplish our members’ wishes. We also encourage our employees to be active in the process and to work to support candidates that support their beliefs, and we allow them time to go vote. It is that important.

December is the time of year of our annual meeting. We will be going through a line-by-line process to approve our policy of action for the next year. We have input by resolution from members, locals, counties and cooperatives. We have a committee that sorts the information and then presents it for a majority vote on the floor of our convention. It is a process, and it works well to maintain our grassroots representation of members.

Both in North Dakota and nationally, we have many issues that impact our members. Nationally, we will focus on the new farm bill, renewable fuels, competition in our markets, and logistics. In state, we will focus on value-added agriculture, keeping our anti-corporate farming law in place, balanced taxation, and infrastructure needs. We will be prepared to work with elected officials to accomplish the policies put forth by our members.

Do not be surprised if we call you or reach out to you through email or social media to ask for your help. After an election, there is a responsibility to participate in the process to ensure our elected leaders deliver on their promise to work for their constituents.

— NDFU President Mark Watne