Westby dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden was re-elected president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union during their 89th annual State Convention Jan. 31-Feb. 2, and two members were newly elected to serve on the board of directors.
New to the board are Sarah Korte, at-large, and Jen Schmitz, District 4.
Korte and her husband raise chickens, beef and Gloucestershire Old Spot hogs on their Chaseburg farm. Schmitz, of Cashton, recently returned to farming after growing up on a dairy farm and harvested her first hemp crop in 2019.
Linda Ceylor, District 1, was re-elected to her position as director.
Von Ruden, in his presidential address, noted that rural Wisconsin will be in the spotlight as a key election battleground state.
“This national attention will create opportunities to carry out of Farmers Union values and call for stronger democracy, fair maps, a stronger role for farmers in shaping climate change and water quality policy, greater awareness of monopolization in agriculture and, last but not least, the need to restructure agriculture with sound policy that ensures family farmers have a shot at fair prices,” Von Ruden said.
During the convention, delegates adopted policy priorities that will guide WFU’s work at the Capitol, in Congress and across the country. Wisconsin delegates will be able to bring those stances to the National Farmers Union Convention in Savannah, Georgia, March 1-3.
“The policy discussion at the annual State Convention is the democratic process in its purest form,” Von Ruden said.
Among the Special Orders of Business that were decided to reflect WFU’s top policy priorities for the coming year are dairy policy reform; oversight of large livestock facilities and CAFOs; concentration in the agriculture industry; hemp; BadgerCare and BadgerCare public option; family farmers shaping climate change policy; and meat processing infrastructure.
In regards to these topics, WFU intends to call on Congress to establish a mandatory program for managed growth based on market demand and price stability as it relates to dairy policy.
WFU is urging the legislature is amend ATCP51, the livestock siting rule, to require that the findings of the Technical Committee be presented in writing to the Board of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and that the board must present a scope statement to the Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary within 90 days.
WFU also supports lifting the preemption of local control of siting of large livestock operations and also approves removing the fee cap in ATCP51.
WFU is seeking further antitrust investigation and prosecution; increased oversight of consolidation and vertical integration; and a constant dialog in ag about market control and trust concerns. They oppose investment in arable lands in all countries by institutional investors.
Regarding hemp production, WFU’s priorities include formulateing an open-source hemp seed-saving program; lowering DATCP testing fees; removing background checks for permitting and licensing applications; raising the allowable THC cont from 0.3% to 1%; removing the ban on hemp license applicants that have completed and served sentencing for a non-violent cannabis-related felony; adding hemp to the list of prohibited crops in Wisconsin’s anti-corporate farming law; and state-appropriated grant program funding for building hemp fiber processing facilities.
WFU supports legislation to create a public option to buy into BadgerCare, available to any resident of Wisconsin no matter their income and inclusion of the BadgerCare public option on the Healthcare.gov marketplace. WFU opposes cuts to funding and/or more restrictive eligibility requirements, including work requirements, for Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus.
WFU believes that farmers and rural communities are uniquely positioned to meet climate goals set forth in any climate change legislation and that farmers need to have a seat the table as legislation is developed.
WFU advocates for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to offer financial support to increase the capacity of and start new state and USDA-inspected meat processors throughout the state. WFU urges increased support from County Economic Development agencies as well as streamlined regulation from DATCP to help facilitate small-scale processors, as well as processors that offer USDA, organic, Halal, and Kosher certification and also mobile and other on-farm processing facilities and use of animal by-products and waste.
WFU further supports allowing meat and poultry products sales across state lines if they have been inspected through state, Meat and Poultry Inspection programs. WFU supports the formation of cooperatives and other business structures that form to address specific local and regional processing needs, and offers assistance to chapters to do so.
Support for food labeling, discontinuation of “injudiciously applied” tariffs, state aid for maintaining farm buildings, ranked choice voting in elections, trading of phosphorous nutrient credits, agronomy research on composting and the inclusion of water quality parameters in nutrient management planning were among other items of policy highlighted at the convention.
Several individuals and organizations were recognized for their dedication to family farmers.
Hans and Katie Breitenmoser of Merrill and Dennis and Deb Rosen received the Builders Awards for outstanding commitment to building Farmers Union through county involvement, leadership development and member recruitment.
Farm Aid was awarded as Friend of the Family Farmer, which recognizes those who have gone above and beyond in efforts on behalf of family farmers and rural communities. Farm Aid, held in East Troy in 2019, distributed over $1 million in grant funding last year.
The Dunn County WFU chapter was recognized for excelling in membership growth in 2019. Outgoing District 4 Director Craig Myhre, Osseo, was recognized for his years of service on the board.
Craig Dunnum, Westby, and Bryce Luchterhand, Unity, will serve as WFU delegates to the upcoming national convention.