National Farmers Convention Business
Normally, we feature the president’s message in this space. However, President Olson wanted to dedicate this page to important Convene ‘23 business that was held March 7-8 at the Isle Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa. Olson thanks everyone who attended the organization’s annual farm-business meeting and urges everyone to read about the commodity division reports, as well as two important issues members addressed below.
By Director of Communications Perry Garner
On March 7 at Convene ’23, two important issues were discussed by members that impact the organization and its members, as well as its future governance structure.
The first issue was a bylaw proposal that was debated on the convention floor and then passed on a ballot vote by members, allowing mail-in voting on bylaw changes. The second issue was a proposal to recraft National Farmers’ board of directors structure.
I interviewed a special board committee, whose members were approved by the national board in July 2022. The committee is chaired by former president Gene Paul and includes a board member from each major commodity: Jeff Rose, livestock; Harold Walker, grain; and Wayne Prichard, dairy. National Farmers national secretary, Dave Reed, rounds out the five-member group.
The committee was charged with studying changes in the organization’s makeup, and its membership and structure over the past 50 years. They also considered how our marketing and risk management programs interface with the business component of National Farmers.
Garner: How did these issues come to the forefront for board discussion last July?
Committee Members: It really started naturally, because as a board we have talked through the years about changes in agriculture and how that impacts National Farmers. We all know in the past four decades there has been a substantial change in farming. There are fewer farmers, and our organization’s county, district, and state meetings have dramatically decreased in frequency and attendees.
It was felt that more representation was needed, and out of that grew the idea of giving all members’ voices a vote on major organizational issues. Instead of just a handful of convention attendees voting on major change, we believed mail-in voting was a good way to listen to members who never get to attend our annual meeting. And we thought we could start with bylaw changes.
Garner: What was the board reorganization discussion?
Committee Members: Once we were directed to evaluate and propose a new structure that would improve board effectiveness and elevate representation of our participating producing members, we participated in several conference work calls and in-person meetings.
We immediately determined there would be zero alteration to local and state structure and boards. Our work only focuses on the national board.
Currently, 22 members from 16 states make up the national board. Some states and directors do not meet the qualifications set forth in the bylaws. All of these members currently serve because the board has waived the qualifications or combined states to meet membership minimums.
After studying other organizations of our size and their boards, we determined a nine-member board as the most efficient makeup, while still allowing broad enough representation. Given the history of selecting directors by state, we believe regional representation is very important. We divided the country into four regions, based on geography, membership and marketed production through NFO.
As is the case currently, the president and vice president would lead the proposed board, and would continue to be elected to four-year terms. Employees will only be eligible for three at-large positions. Four regional directors round out the proposed National Farmers nine-member board.
Qualifications for this new board include being a member in good standing for three consecutive years and currently marketing commodities through National Farmers. Employee members must meet the same criteria as regional board members.
Garner: What would the process be to elect the board?
Committee Members: Board member nominations would be able to be made by members or at state conventions.
Those interested would simply submit a resume and petition that is signed by five members in good standing to the National Farmers home office by November 1 each year.
Those nominations will be turned over to a vetting committee established by the board that is made up of the president, vice president and three board members.
Once the vetting committee ensures candidates meet eligibility requirements, they will present the list of qualified nominees to the National Farmers Election and Tally Committee to be placed on a ballot. The ballot, along with resumes, will be mailed to all members at least 60 days prior to the national convention.
The tally results will be announced at the annual convention. The new directors and officers would be installed at the end of the convention.
If any director is unable to serve their entire term, that individual would be replaced in an election at the following convention.
Garner: What are the next steps for the committee?
Committee Members: We will develop a ballot to approve reorganization, which will be mailed to all members. Members must mail those ballots back to the home office within 45 days.
The Election and Tally Committee will tabulate and then announce the board reorganization voting results to members.
If passed, board elections will proceed and results will be announced at the 2024 national convention.