Mark Watne of Velva was reelected to a ninth year as North Dakota Farmers Union president by more than 500 members attending the organization’s 95th annual state convention this past weekend, Dec. 10-11, in Bismarck.

In his message to voting delegates, Watne emphasized the importance of having highly engaged members lead the organization, especially at a time when great diversity of opinion is hampering the ability to have dialog in rural America, legislatively.

“We are unique. We are grassroots. What we’re struggling with is maintaining generational family farms on the land … we have to think big picture and quit arguing amongst ourselves,” he said.

Watne outlined organizational successes, including disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers, and construction of a new youth camp facility at Jamestown, along with issues the organization is tackling, namely market concentration and supply chain bottlenecks.

Farmers Union members adopted three special orders of business during the two-day convention. The first called for a comprehensive, farmer-focused approach to climate change initiatives. The second order urged passage of mandatory price reporting for livestock to improve price transparency and discovery, and reinstatement of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The third order urged swift action to address supply chain challenges, including investigations into disruptions and companies engaged in price gouging; initiatives to address truck driver shortages; steps to increase rail competition and limits on rail rates; and investments in fertilizer and propane infrastructure in North Dakota.

On Saturday morning, a panel of experts addressed monopolization and ways to create fair markets for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Other convention speakers included National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, NDSU crop economist Frayne Olson, state climatologist Adnan Akyuz, Tammy Krings of The Conversations That Matter, and others.

The Agraria Mutual Group (dba Farmers Union Insurance Company) also held its 78th annual meeting in conjunction with the NDFU state convention.

In other elections, Bob Kuylen of South Heart was reelected vice president. Jon Iverson was reelected District 1 director for Benson, Cavalier, Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina, Ramsey, Towner and Walsh counties. Tyler Stafslien of Makoti was reelected to the District 3 seat. That district encompasses the counties of Burke, Divide, Mountrail, Renville and Williams. Wes Niederman Jr. of Elgin was reelected to the District 5 seat. District 5 comprises a nine-county area: Burleigh, Emmons, Grant, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan and Sioux. Ronda Throener of Cogswell was reelected to represent NDFU members in District 7. The district encompasses the counties of Barnes, Cass, Griggs, Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Steele and Traill.

Members also elected delegates to represent North Dakota at the National Farmers Union Convention, slated for Denver in late February. They are:

ANAMOOSE – April Marquart, Kellen Olson. BOTTINEAU – Philip Neubauer. BOWMAN – George Siverson. CARPIO – Troy Hedberg. CENTER – David Berger, Deb Berger. FLAXTON – Denise Miller, Stephen Miller. FORMAN – Wyatt Sundquist. GLADSTONE – Dean Baar, Paulette Baar, Jon Pierce. GRANVILLE – Kendra Larsen, Kyle Larsen. HUFF – Bailie Graner. JAMESTOWN – Sandy Franke. KENMARE – Ron Jensen. KINDRED – Josh Heinrich. KULM – Jordan Gackle. LAMOURE – Lynn Haro. MADDOCK – Gary Smith, Keith Smith. MANDAN – Miles Tomac. MENOKEN – Bill Kershaw, Karen Kershaw. MONANGO – Pam Henningsen. PAGE – Brad McKay. PEKIN – John Kelly. REGENT – Dylan Witte. RUTLAND – Deb Banish, Mike Banish. SHARON – Ben Vig. SHERWOOD – Steve Keith. SPIRITWOOD – JP Lueck. SOUTH HEART – Sarah Ewoniuk. TIOGA – Patty Jensen. TOLNA – Don Rude, Mary Rude, Sheila Rude. VALLEY CITY – Bob Bruns. VELVA – Shawn Kaylor.

In addition, 20 youths received the Torchbearer Award, the highest honor in the Farmers Union youth program. Members of the 2020 Torchbearer class were also recognized and participated in the graduation ceremony, as they were unable to do so last year due to the pandemic. This year’s honorees are:

BERLIN – Katrina Just. CARTWRIGHT – Christian Lassey. CENTER – Ariana Marklevitz. DICKINSON – Draven Nadvornik. ESMOND – Andrea Arnold. FARGO – Krista Kramer. JAMESTOWN – Madison Grieve, Rebecca Willer. KATHRYN – Amber Knutson. KENMARE – Arand Bartlett. LINTON – Angie Vetter. RAY – Johnathan Ketelsen. ROLETTE – Sierra Heinz. SPIRITWOOD – Mara Bjornson. TOWNER – Marshall Taylor. WIMBLEDON – Emily Ames. VALLEY CITY – AJ Kotta, McKenzie Current, Jacob Pfeifer, Thomas Pfeifer.

Three Torchbearers also received a $1,000 Bergman Scholarship each to help offset college education costs. Recipients were Madison Grieve of Jamestown, Katrina Just of Berlin and Sierra Heinz of Rolette.