Mark Watne of Velva was reelected to an eighth year as North Dakota Farmers Union president at the organization’s 94th annual state convention, broadcast virtually from Jamestown on Friday, Dec. 11, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his message to delegates, Watne touched upon the resiliency of farmers and what they have learned from past experiences, farm bills and ag policies. “Remember when trade was the answer? But to get that trade, we’re going to price [commodities] low,” he recalled farmers were told and shared statistics that show the U.S. world market share of corn, soybeans and wheat is lower today than 20 years ago. “We’re not really winning the trade war… and the lower prices are causing farmers worldwide to suffer.

“Many ag economists and politicians continue to repeat the mythical idea that lower crop prices will increase trade. We have to rethink this process. Knowing what we know today should open the door to an agriculture future that is focused on diverse family farms and ranch operations with a fair and free market.”

To achieve fairer markets and improve farm income, Farmers Union delegates adopted six policy resolutions and initiatives focused on:

  • Strengthening biofuel markets;
  • Implementing a farmer-focused approach to climate change;
  • Improving the farm bill safety net;
  • Improving food security and deconsolidating America’s food supply chain;
  • Restoring competition to the livestock industry; and
  • Supporting state legislation that directs Legacy Fund earnings toward infrastructure expansion, such as competitively-priced, high-speed broadband in rural areas; and expanded livestock processing in the state.

Sen. John Hoeven and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp also addressed delegates virtually during the convention, sharing ideas and initiatives they are working on to further family farm and ranch agriculture.

In other elections, Bob Kuylen of South Heart was reelected vice president. Bob Finken of Douglas was newly elected to the organization’s board of directors, replacing Ryan Taylor of Towner, who did not seek reelection. Finken will represent members from District 2, encompassing the counties of Bottineau, McHenry, Pierce, Rolette and Ward. Shane Sickler of Gladstone was reelected to the District 4 seat. That district encompasses the counties of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Slope and Stark. 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 (NFU) Convention, slated in March 2021. They are:

ALAMO – Devin Jacobson. BALDWIN – Denise Brown. BARTON – Josh Stutrud. BEULAH – Dawn Martin. BOTTINEAU – Philip Neubauer. CENTER – David Berger. COGSWELL – Bernie Planteen. CRARY – Adam Leiphon. DAZEY – Justin Sherlock. DOUGLAS – Holly Sobieck. DRAKE – Ashley Bruner. FORBES – Ryan Brokaw. FORMAN – Wyatt Sundquist. FORT RICE – Matt Rebenitsch. GLADSTONE – Dean Baar, Paulette Baar, Jon Pierce, Jamie Sickler, Lenci Sickler. GRAND FORKS – David Gorder. HUFF – Bailie Graner. JAMESTOWN – Lori Carlson. KENMARE – Troy Hedberg. LANKIN – Scott Udby. LITCHVILLE – Ron Van Bruggen. MCGREGOR – Steve Overlee. MOHALL – Stacey Johnson. NAPOLEON – Carmen Rath-Wald. OSNABROCK – David Lundeby. PAGE – Brad McKay. PETTIBONE – Shelly Ziesch, Robin Ziesch. ROLETTE – Mark Heinz. RYDER – Jon Hansen. SHARON – Ben Vig. SELFRIDGE – Patrick Becker. SOUTH HEART – Sarah Ewoniuk. TIOGA – Patty Jensen. TOLNA – Sheila Rude. WILLISTON – Kurt Andre.

In addition, 28 youths received the Torchbearer Award, the highest honor in the Farmers Union youth program. Recipients (listed by county) are:

BARNES – Avery Murray, Olivia Olson, both of Valley City. BOWMAN – Kevin Fischer, Bowman. BURLEIGH – Madelyn Jennings, Washburn; Eliza Konieczka, Bismarck; Joe Wood, Lincoln. DICKEY – Wyatt Henningsen, Monango; Joshua Olson, Forbes. EDDY – Billy Fleming, Warwick. EMMONS – Precious Vetter, Linton. GRANT – Trevor Rafteseth, Elgin. LAMOURE – Karly Just, Berlin; Sammi Weber, LaMoure. LOGAN – Janae Weigel, Kintyre.  MCLEAN – Kassidy Reiser, Turtle Lake. MOUNTRAIL – Lily Obert, Stanley; Jaylene Rosencrans, Powers Lake. SARGENT – Anthony Banish, Rutland; Ethan Bergeman, Forman; Isaiah Throener, Cogswell. STARK – Warrick Morel, Dickinson. STUTSMAN – Matt Anderson, Jamestown. TOWNER – Isak Dease, Munich. TRAILL – Noella Kritzberger and Sydney Owens, both of Hillsboro. WARD – Logan Redding, Donnybrook. WILLIAMS – Madelyn Oster and Lane Veach, both of Ray.

NDFU awarded three Torchbearers a Bergman Scholarship in the amount of $1,000 to help offset college education costs. Recipients were Anthony Banish of Rutland, Sammi Weber of LaMoure and Janae Weigel of Kintyre.

Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company’s annual meeting was also held in conjunction with the NDFU state convention.