NDFU is an organization committed to strengthening opportunities and success for all citizens and people of the world. While we focus on family farm agriculture, we also include in our policy statements and action items our support for society in general.

With nearly a year of dealing with COVID-19, it appears we have some positive movement forward. That being said, we are a long way from over with this challenge. The pandemic will probably not simply end with vaccinations; it will take ongoing efforts.

I am well aware of the good information, the poor information, the conspiracy theories and even some crazy information about COVID-19. All of us need to try and sort through this information and do what is not only a benefit for ourselves, but for the health of all society.

In our effort to control COVID-19 at NDFU, we have followed the guidance almost perfectly from the N.D. Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We have done our best to ignore the extreme opinions and follow the most credible science. We do not plan to deviate from this guidance and strongly encourage others to follow the guidelines, get vaccinated and continue to employ practices that reduce the chance of spread.

In our history, we have seen vaccines prevent diseases to the extent that we almost forget they even existed. The list is long: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and A, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, chickenpox and Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b). We can add COVID-19 to the list, if we all participate.

The primary purpose of this message is to strongly urge you to get the vaccine when it becomes available to you. Not only will this protect you, it will help us get COVID-19 to the nearly forgotten list. It will also help stop variants of the virus that may come in the future, if more people are immunized.

Some of you may ask why am I pushing vaccination and other reasonable guidelines? I am looking for all of us to get back to normal or as close to normal as quickly as possible. I, like many of you, have made fundamental decisions to avoid family, to travel less, to do our job well but maybe not as effectively because of COVID-19 restrictions and limitations. In fact, many of the things I most enjoy have been taken away and I believe we can get back to a place of normalcy, if we all pull together. I want our conversations to be about the future of our lives, our families and where we take our organization without these constraints.

In mid-February, Gov. Doug Burgum lowered some COVID-19 restrictions in our state. Always refer to these sites (health.nd.gov/diseases-conditions/coronavirus and cdc.gov) to determine risk levels and latest recommendations. Currently, the CDC and the governor recommend mask wearing, social distancing and vaccination.

Thank you for all your efforts to contain this virus.

— NDFU President Mark Watne