It was quite a National Farmers Union convention in Santa Fe, a beautiful, historical city that has been on my bucket list for many years. Many thanks to the Kansas members who agreed to be voting delegates for you-all: Herb Bartel, Patrica Bartel, Mary Fund, Chris Schmidt and Sherri Schmidt. They took their responsibility seriously and represented you all very well. Our policy is truly grass-roots.

Also, I was surprised and impressed to see our very own Chris Schmidt on the NFU convention agenda as a break out presenter on the High Plains Food Co-op.

The Election

In my last president’s report I announced that I had filed for the position of National Farmers Union Vice President, a position being vacated by Claudia Svarstad. I was elected NFU Vice President. Also, during the Midwest Insurance Agency Board of Directors reorganization after convention, the board elected me to serve as chairman. The Midwest Agency comprises the Farmers Union insurance agents in Kansas and Nebraska and is based out of Lincoln.

The election was quite a process and the VP campaigns brought a lot of energy to the convention. The last time I can remember a competitive NFU campaign would have been when David Frederickson was elected national president in 2002. The three of us did our thing to get out our message to the voting delegates. I ran on my experience, my involvement on the NFU executive board over the years and my service as NFU Treasurer and also on my work with the Midwest Agency.

The election process began with nominations during the opening session on Sunday morning, March 9th. Each candidate had 10 minutes to have someone nominate him, someone second the nomination, and then for the candidate to convince the delegates to vote for him. I asked John Hansen, president of Nebraska FU to nominate me, and Joe Logan, president of Ohio FU, to second the nomination. Both graciously accepted and were eloquent in their orations. I appreciated their efforts immensely. It was a bit of a risk knowing John’s tendency to “extend” his speaking opportunities as he does, but he was great! I timed him, 3 minutes, 36 seconds!

Monday morning’s voting process was extended and lengthy. Staff had prepared two ballots for each certified delegate listing the number of NFU members they represented. Credentials reported that there were 138 voting delegates, representing 187,592 members, present. Delegates were called forward by states with each delegate having the opportunity to mark their ballot in private. The ballots were collected from each delegate as they exited the voting stall area.

After the first round of balloting the convention attendees were addressed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. I don’t remember much of anything the secretary said; adrenaline was running pretty high. During this time, the election committee counted the ballots. Once Secretary Vilsack was done it was announced that there was not a clear majority winner for the position of VP and that a second round would be required. The notes I jotted down were 79,731 votes for me; 68,328 votes for Darin Von Ruden; and 34,754 votes for Roger Noonan. That eliminated Roger and the whole voting process was repeated. I won the election in a close race.

Moving Forward

Roger Johnson made the statement before the convention delegation that he fully anticipated whichever candidate won the vice presidency would continue in his role as state president. That surprised me. As I said in the last Kontact, Claudia was a really busy person as VP and I thought the role would be full-time.

On Monday, April 14th, the KFU state board of directors met and after a LOT of discussion asked me if I would be willing to remain on as president on a ¼ time basis. After a LOT more discussion I agreed. At least until convention in December.

KFU is blessed with a great staff that has it’s feet under them right now, directing the team might work. Have patience with me.

I guess we will see how it works to take a step back on the state level and see if it works to herd the chickens…