LINCOLN — Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) held their 104th annual state convention in Grand Island at the Hotel Grand Conference Center December 8-9. The convention theme was: “Harnessing the Power of Cooperation Since 1913”. The attendance was good and the weather cooperated as NeFU members elected officers, set policy, and were informed on the issues facing agriculture in the year ahead.
NeFU Election Results:
John Hansen was re-elected to his 15th two-year term without opposition. Hansen’s 28 years at the helm as president is the longest in the organization’s 104 year history. Elton Berck served 17 years from 1957 to 1974.
Delegates from their respective districts elected two NeFU Board of Directors. Al Davis of Hyannis was elected to his first three-year term for NeFU District 1. Ben Gotschall of Raymond was re-elected to his second three-year term for NeFU District 5.
Out of a field of 14 candidates, two from each of the 7 NeFU Districts, Mina Davis of Omaha, Bill Armbrust of Elkhorn, and Art Tanderup of Neligh were elected to represent NeFU as delegates to the upcoming National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention in Kansas City, Missouri March 4-6, 2018. Katie Jantzen of Plymouth, Mary Stoltenberg of Cairo, and Ed Hansen of Newman Grove were elected first, second and third alternates.
Katie Jantzen of Plymouth was elected by the membership to serve on the NeFU Foundation Board.
President’s Award Winners:
The President’s Award is NeFU’s highest award, and is presented to individuals who provide outstanding service and leadership to family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities at the state or national levels.
This year’s President’s Award winners were Art and Helen Tanderup of Neligh. Art is the NeFU District 7 President. Art and Helen’s family farm is on the TransCanada pipeline route north of Neligh. “This farm couple has showed extraordinary courage to stand up for their private property rights, and conducted themselves in a time of great conflict and pressure in a very positive manner. They are great role models for all of us as to how to get informed, get constructively engaged, and harness the power of cooperation to fight for their interests.” said NeFU President John Hansen. Art and Helen hosted the Willie Nelson and Neil Young concert opposing the pipeline on their farm, and have testified against the pipeline dozens of times at the local and state levels. They also built a solar project on their farm and bought an electric vehicle. “They practice what they preach,” Hansen said.
Friday Morning Highlights:
· NeFU President Hansen reported on the NeFU and NeFU Foundation’s educational activities for the year.
· KRVN General Manager Tim Marshall reported Nebraska Rural Radio Association’s activities.
· Jeff Downing, General Manager of the Midwest Regional Agency described the growth of the Nebraska and Kansas insurance sales the past year. He reported that the agency now has a total of 58 agents located in 44 communities, with 25 agents in 18 communities in Nebraska. He said he was continuing to add new professional agents, and was pleased with the quality and competitiveness of their insurance products.
· National Farmers Union’s (NFU) new biofuels advisor Ann Steckel and Nebraska Ethanol Board’s Executive Director Todd Sneller provided updates on the status of the Renewable Fuels Standard and biofuel development and utilization challenges and opportunities.
Alan Guebert, nationally syndicated agricultural journalist and columnist, entertained the group as the Friday luncheon keynote speaker described his recent efforts to retrace the steps of his grandparents to find the farm south of Rising City in Butler County they were forced from during the Great Depression when his mother was a little girl. NFU Historian Tom Giessel of Larned, Kansas described the organizational reasons for the NFU emblem and symbols, and why they teach us basic organizational skills.
Friday Afternoon Highlights:
· Tiffany Seibert Joekel, Policy Director of Open Sky Policy Institute provided an overview of Nebraska’s tax system that showed our state has altogether too much reliance on property taxes compared to income and sales taxes. K-12 funding was the primary reason property taxes are way too high.
· A lively panel discussion of “Three Paths in Search of Property Tax Relief, Adequate Education Funding, and a More Fair and Balanced State Tax System” described the particulars of current legislative, legal, and initiative options to bring long overdue property tax relief to struggling family farmers and ranchers. The panelists included: Tiffany Siebert Joekel, York Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Lucas, NeFU and Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska Board member Al Daivs, Nebraska Farm Bureau Vice President of Government Relations Bruce Rieker, and Legislative District 41 Legislative Assistant Edward Boone. There was a great deal of interest in the subject matter, and many questions. .
· The “Preview of the 2018 Legislative Session” with Senators LD10 Bob Krist of Omaha, LD35 Dan Quick of Grand Island, and Legislative Assistant Edward Boone who works for Sen. Tom Briese of Albion shared their view of issues facing the next legislature, including a budget deficit and property tax initiatives.
· After the refreshment break, participants heard from candidates running for public office.
U.S. Senate candidate Jane Raybold; Governor candidate Sen. Bob Krist; Third Congressional District candidate Paul Theobald; Nebraska Legislature candidates Chuck Hassebrook—LD16, Mina Davis—LD8, and Don Schuller—LD30; and Public Service Commission candidate John Atkeison.
NFU President Roger Johnson was the keynote banquet speaker. Ted Genoways, Nebraska author of “This Blessed Earth” that featured the challenges and rewards of family farmers and NeFU members, the Hammond family from Hamilton County. Genoways shared photos while reading passages from his book.
Saturday Morning Highlights:
· Vern Jantzen gave his NeFU Vice President and NEBFARMPAC reports.
· “The Art of Cooperation” by NFU Historian Tom Giessel of Larned, Kansas.
· Nate Belcher, Green Acres Cover Crops on “Uncovering the Upside Potential and Uses for Cover Crops”.
· NFU President Roger Johnson provided the NFU legislative report at the closing NeFU luncheon that included the status report on the many issues NFU works at the national level.
NeFU delegates set policy. Under the guidance of Vern Jantzen, NeFU Policy chair, NeFU delegates adopted the 2017-2018 NeFU policy Saturday afternoon along with five Special Orders of Business. The new policy and the Special Orders of Business are posted on the NeFU website at: www.nebraskafarmersunion.org.
Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 3,500 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.
— Nebraska Farmers Union
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