Carlson retiring as NDFU presidentAfter 15 years as president of North Dakota Farmers Union, Robert Carlson announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this fall. His decision marks the end of an era marked by growth for the organization with more than 40,000 members across the state.
After 15 years as president of North Dakota Farmers Union, Robert Carlson announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this fall. His decision marks the end of an era marked by growth for the organization with more than 40,000 members across the state.
“It’s time for a change. I’ve been president for almost 15 years and that’s long enough,” Carlson said. “We have an outstanding staff, exciting new business ventures, a strong membership base and a prosperous farm economy. It will be a good time for someone new to step in.”
Carlson will finish out his term until the end of the NDFU annual convention scheduled for Nov. 18-19 in Bismarck. His successor will be elected at the statewide meeting.
“We will continue our ongoing projects and activities,” he said. “We will push forward on our initiatives and make sure we advocate for our membership. I want to make sure we continue to work for the 2012 farm bill to contain good safety nets and protection for North Dakota producers.”
During his tenure at NDFU, Carlson has been a leader for strong agricultural policy and innovative projects. Elected in January 1997, Carlson took on the presidency in one of the worst years to hit North Dakota.
“The weather of 1997 was so harsh,” Carlson said. “Cattle were freezing and drowning, the valley was flooded and the west had severe drought. On top of that, prices collapsed. We made lots of trips to Washington, D.C., to fight for emergency funding. Everyone said it wouldn’t get done but with our advocacy, we succeeded.”
Improving crop insurance and the need for the SURE program have been top priorities for NDFU. Their efforts have resulted in more than $1 billion in government payments to North Dakota producers to help cover losses due to adverse weather and poor market prices. Carlson added, “Getting the safety nets in place for rural producers and providing federal funding for disaster relief programs have made a real difference to our sstate. There are a lot of people in business today that wouldn’t be in the position they’re in without the work from NDFU.”
Carlson also led the charge in developing new business ventures. He noted increased visibility on the national level through two restaurants owned by NDFU that are located in Washington, D.C., with a third under construction in Potomac, Md. The menus feature food grown on family farms.
“I haven’t been afraid of change,” Carlson said. “I’ve wanted to lead change instead of react. I’m proud of our work with members and with cooperatives across North Dakota. There has been tremendous growth in our state and at Farmers Union, we’ll keep working hard to maintain it. We have a lasting legacy at Farmers Union and I’m glad I’ve been a part of it.”