Montana Farmers Union Delegates Help Shape NFU Policy

by Colter Brown

Montana farmers and ranchers joined producers from around the country last week in San Francisco for the 121st Anniversary Convention of National Farmers Union.

The convention left Montana Farmers Union delegate Phillip Prewett excited for what’s next.

“There’s hope for growing my business and being able to be profitable for my family in the future,” Prewett said.

“I always leave the NFU annual convention with renewed optimism for the family farm future but this convention was extra special. Having Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack meet privately with several Farmers Union leaders to update us on USDA plans and hear our concerns, as well as hearing from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Kades from the antitrust division sharing their successes in enforcing the Packers and Stockyard Act with promise of future success, demonstrates the importance of having a strong farmer organization advocating for the family farm,” Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer said.

MFU delegates were: Trudi Peterson, Heather Siderius, Mark Siderius, Ron de Yong, Phillip Prewett, Walter Schweitzer, Erik Somerfeld, Jan Tusick, Tom Clark, Sarah Degn, and Eric Doheny, with Eric Bergman and Amanda Doheny serving as alternates.

MFU also was represented on the national policy committee by Paul Neubauer and on the national board by Schweitzer and Sarah Degn, who serves as a Next Generation Advisory Representative.

With an agenda that was focused on the ability of NFU and Farmers Union members to create change, delegates and attendees heard from United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, keynote speaker Dr. Glenda Humiston, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, as well as representatives from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the Department of Justice. 

Delegates also took part in the democratic policy debate that is fundamental to the structure of Farmers Union. This grassroots policy process informs the work of NFU and sets a basis for the advocacy that Farmers Union does throughout the year.  

During the policy process, delegates approved three special orders of business listed below along with some of the priorities included in each of the orders: 

  • Fairness for Farmers
    • Ensuring the next farm bill includes provisions that increase competition and fairness in ag markets;
    • Legislation to strengthen antitrust and competition laws;
    • Legislation to bring greater transparency and price discovery to cattle markets;
  • Family Farming and the 2023 Farm Bill
    • A dedicated competition title in the farm bill;
    • Creating the Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters at USDA
    • Reinstate mandatory country-of-origin labeling;
  • Family Farming and Dairy Policy Reform
    • Pass a farmer-led, incentive-based milk production growth plan to match milk supply with profitable market demand.

The work delegates did will impact the work NFU leadership does over the coming year, including through the Farm Bill renewal process over the coming months.

Prewett served as the youngest delegate from MFU and said it’s important to include young voices in farm policy.

“It shows that the voices of young people in agriculture have a say in what their lives and industry look like for the next 50 years,” he said.

MFU delegate Trudi Peterson said she enjoyed the convention, including the policy debate and learning from speakers.

“It reminds us … that each of us has a voice and that probably we should use that voice to encourage and be positive to the community around us,” Peterson said.

In Montana and elsewhere, NFU members are leading the way in farm policy, Larew said.

“One thing we’ve learned is that when Farmers Union members speak with a united voice and tell our story, we get results. A great example of this is how the Fairness for Farmers campaign is catching the eyes and ears of lawmakers across the country and Farmers Union priorities are being put into action. 2023 is a big year for agriculture policy and because of our unity, NFU is well positioned to be a leader,” NFU President Rob Larew said. 

Larew highlighted members who have been educating lawmakers about the issues producers face, including Montana Farmers Union board member Sarah Degn, who spoke about challenges she faces when repairing equipment during a meeting with Federal Trade Commission leaders at NFU’s Washington, D.C., Fly-In.

“[Degn] spoke so clearly and so effectively that you could just see the gears in the chairwoman’s head turning and the lights start to come on,” Larew said.

Similar conversations around the country are critical to educating lawmakers and leaders about the importance of issues facing farm country.

“When visiting with members from around the nation, there is general enthusiasm and excitement for the progress we have been making under the Biden administration. President Biden clearly is listening to Farmers Union, not just because of his recorded speech that was directed to the Farmers Union, but the fact key members of his administration joined us for the convention. Announcements from the USDA, DOJ and FTC as a result of his executive orders on anticompetitive practices demonstrate follow through on our priorities,” Schweitzer said. 



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