Hi, this is a SPECIAL president’s report for me!
For the first time since 1936, Kansas is hosting the National Farmers Unions’ annual convention! It will be March 14 through the 17 in Wichita at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Kansas Farmers Union was awarded the opportunity to host the national convention several years ago and now it’s coming at us rapidly. The theme for the 113th national convention is “Driving the Future of Agriculture”.
You don’t need to be a voting delegate from Kansas to attend. Anyone is welcome to attend but especially so for Farmers Union members.
At the 2015 convention you will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with many of the larger names in American agriculture. We anticipate Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack will address the convention, as well as EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, who did such an excellent presentation at our state convention, will be the featured speaker at the NFU Foundation gala. This event raises much of the funding for our national education programs.
Other probable speakers and breakout sessions include: Temple Grandin, animal behavior specialist, and the subject of the 2010 film “Temple Grandin” which profiled her autism and her ability to use the condition to make her work with animals and their behavior more successful; the Land Institute’s Wes Jackson on the development of a perennial wheat called Kernza; and Walton Rural Life Center representatives on how they adopted an agriculture curriculum to transform a small, rural school in decline into one of the top schools in the state.
There will be other speakers too. I’m lobbying for Army climate specialist Dr. Chris King to speak on world and national security in the face of climate change, and Dr. Felix Tarn from Wichita, who is so knowledgeable about stress and what it can do to the human body.
On Sunday afternoon there will be tour opportunities. They are still being whittled down at this time, but we are looking at the Elk River Wind farm on my good friend Pete Ferrell’s beautiful flint hills ranch in Butler County to learn how he holistically manages his cattle in conjunction with the wind turbines; the Salt Mine museum and tour 600 feet below the surface in Hutchinson; Allied Manufacturing in Hesston where they make swathers, big square balers and combines and lots of other stuff; and probably an aircraft manufacturing plant in Wichita. Tours will be finalized in the near future.
What makes me so proud during the NFU convention, however, is the truly grass-roots policy development that the annual national event revolves around. This is where state Farmers Union chapter delegates – selected to represent their own state policy – negotiate, debate, and develop the NFU policy. Policy approved at the national convention dictates what our organization stands for and provides the marching orders for NFU staff and leadership as they represent our organization.
It’s going to be a great convention. Normally there are about 500 in attendance and I hope that we will surpass that mark with this one. Kansas is centrally located, flights are economical with a major airport within minutes of the hotel, and the rooms are significantly cheaper at this convention than a destination location would be. All pluses in my book!
Registration is now open on the NFU website, nfu.org. There are hotel rooms blocked off for us at the Hyatt, but it is up to you to reserve your own rooms. You reading this in our newsletter, the Kontact, will never have an opportunity to experience a national convention more convenient or economical. And it will mean a lot to the KFU board and myself if we can get strong attendance from Kansas members. And it will reflect well on this great state we so love to live in. What a great opportunity to share it with the rest of the Farmers Union family across the country!