Keeping Grassroots Policy Healthy During COVID
Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle will be the Keynote Speaker during the S.D. Farmers Union Virtual Business Meeting to be held at 1 p.m. December, 9, 2020. Traditionally, this meeting is held in-person during the State Convention, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it will be held virtually.
The success of this summer’s virtual policy meeting is the reason S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke is optimistic about the Annual Business Meeting being held virtually.
“We had strong participation. In fact, more members showed up for the 2020 virtual Policy Meeting than the in-person 2019 meeting,” recalls Sombke. Sombke attributes this to the convenience factor. “Many farmers and ranchers don’t have someone who can fill in for them when they are away. Within minutes of this summer’s Policy Meeting adjourning, I had phone calls and texts from members with comments like, ‘I’m now moving cows.’ ‘I’m back in the field baling hay,’” he explains. “Because the Annual Business Meeting will be virtual, I’m hoping even more members can participate.”
The ability to be engaged in policy development is the reason Jenae Hansen became involved in Farmers Union. “I knew policy was our springboard as an organization to how our voice as farmers will be heard in our state, and across the nation,” explains the Turton farmer, who also works as the SDSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Development Field Specialist.
Hansen currently serves as the Policy Committee Chair. She explains that to ensure Farmers Union policy represents them, it is important membership participate. “What we decide as a membership is then carried to policy makers at the state level, and some is even taken to policy makers at the national level,” she says. “Member involvement ensures that the policies we have in place are relevant to what is going on. During this meeting, we make sure we address anything our members want to take to policy makers.” As she reviews the updated policy from this summer’s Policy Meeting in preparation for the Annual Business Meeting, Hansen says she is impressed with just how relevant S.D. Farmers Union policy is. And she encourages members to take the time to participate.
“We are living in unique times and our policy reflects these times. We have policy relating to healthcare, to our schools and to supporting teachers,” Hansen says.
Ensuring the organization’s policy reflects the needs and interests of its members, is the reason members are brought together each year to vote, explains Sombke. “As a grassroots organization, our policy guides our direction. Keeping it current is one of the reasons our organization has been around for so long and remains relevant.”
Dallis Basel grew up attending Farmers Union State Conventions. And like his parents, who were lifetime members, the Union Center rancher and District 5 Board Member says of all the farm organizations he could belong to, he believes Farmers Union’s policy best represents family farmers and ranchers. “I look upon Farmers Union as being the organization for the family farm and ranch, not the big corporate farms,” Basel says.
And right now, Basel says family farmers and ranchers need all the support they can get. “They said on the TV the other night, that 32 percent of farm income is coming from government programs. So, what we are getting from the market is not enough. We need the market to work for us.”
Fair prices for producers is a policy focus of Farmers Union. Basel says he is eager to hear what other issues and focuses members bring forward during the 2020 Virtual Business Meeting.
“We need all the input and ideas you have. Hopefully, being virtual will make it easier for members to speak up than getting up in front of a large group in-person,” Basel says.
To learn more, click here.