BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota Farmers Union, the state’s largest farm organization, kicked off its 96th annual state convention Friday at the Bismarck Event Center.

The latest in farm technology, renewable fuel trends, and the 2023 farm bill are among the featured topics.

KX News stopped by to learn the needs and goals of farmers during this year’s convention.

Gathering for the greater good to make changes for us all.

That’s exactly what farmers and ranchers all over North Dakota are doing this weekend at the NDFU 96th annual state convention.

“Members come together to set our policies that we operate under for the next year and of course, we do a little bit of celebrating and we do a little education,” said NDFU President, Mark Watne.

Farmers produce an abundance of healthy food and many other valuable goods for our local communities. 

They also care for our soil, conserve water resources and wildlife, and they’re the caretakers of mother nature.

“You know we’re a grassroots organization, so as an individual farmer, I can come together with my other farmers to talk about issues that are important to my farm issues that impact my operation, financially, operationally, and hear from other farmers we can come together and try to work to solve issues and have a greater voice together. We’re better together, than on our own,” said Dazey ND Farmer and Mayor, Justin Sherlock.  

The union president will update members on the organization’s Fairness for Farmers campaign, a nationwide effort to fight back against corporate monopolies and market consolidation in the food and agriculture sectors. 

He and Sherlock both say they have some key points and agendas they are eager to discuss and find solutions to.

“The big thing is the farm bills coming up, that debate happens in 2023. We’ve been working on concentration issues, we’ve been trying to get local foods developed, we’re trying to advance, renewable fuels and renewable diesel again trying to create opportunities to enhance commodity prices, and obviously make farmers and ranchers more profitable,” said Watne.

“I think you know, right now, we’re in a very blessed time and agriculture in North Dakota. We’ve had pretty good commodity prices. We’ve had several disaster years the last few years with crop failure and financial issues and so I think we’re looking at hopefully some better years ahead, but we know input prices are a huge challenge going ahead. We’re struggling the cost of everything. Farmers are facing the same insulation and pressures as everyone else, and so, even though we’re getting hopefully a greater income and more revenue for our crops, the cost to produce is getting close to outpacing that increase in revenue, and as farmers, we know, prices can drop quickly so financial security for our farming operations is probably top of mind,” said Sherlock.

Watne says as more winter storms come and more natural occurrences take place, this makes it tough from farmers but lessons have been learned and they are prepared

“Back in the late 90s, we actually started and we work really hard for disaster programs like when we have these major blizzards and storms, some of the programs like the livestock demi program and the 4H program, so that was stuff that came from work that we did along with other farmer organizations to get done so we’ve actually created a system where the federal government and the state government can be more responsive to these challenges and sometimes these storms are getting pretty bad, so they are very challenging,” said Watne. 

As farmers help one another, locals take a part too, and continue to support them.

Knowing how food is produced, buying local, buying from sustainable sources, and supporting family farm agriculture are new market considerations.

“Even though more and more of our state is transitioning from the world population to maybe an urban population it just goes to show you how many jobs agriculture supports even in our bigger communities as well,” said Sherlock.

Watne says agriculture deserves the same time and investment as the energy sector to make it successful and sustainable in the future.

The union now has about 60,000 members. At the convention, members will also debate policy, set legislative priorities and elect officers.

To learn more about the convention and the North Dakota Farmers Union visit their website.