Nebraska Farmers Union Celebrates 100 Years as Ag Pioneer


From small organic farms, to large modern corn and livestock operations, Nebraska Farmers Union says there's a place for both.

"If you're family farmer in food production, whether you're big or you're small, whether you're conventional or organic or niche market, our tent is big enough to welcome you in," said John Hansen, president of the organization.

Nebraska Farmers Union celebrates 100 years at their annual convention, in Grand Island. They've been part of many major developments.

Hansen said, "We have helped pioneer the modern ethanol industry, the modern wind industry, we've helped over half the counties get planning and zoning in place."

Gov. Dave Heineman called Hansen a friend. And even if they don't see eye to eye on the issues, he said he appreciates that he always knows where Hansen stands. He commended Farmers Union on its anniversary.

Heineman said, "When an organization's been around 100 years, you have to marvel they've survived, continue to move forward."

The American farmer is getting older, but Farmers Union says its ranks are growing younger, because of those embracing alternative crops and organics.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, "The fastest growing share of our membership around the country is in this segment of ag."

You can spot them by their facial hair, urbanites who've joined the state's second oldest farm organization. That includes those like Albert Varas of Omaha, part of the urban farming movement.

Varas, a Farmers Union member said, "I wanted to better understand where my food was coming from, the condition of the proteins were raised in, and if my food was sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, all those different kinds of things."

Hansen, the longtime Farmers Union president says they don't want to pit one commodity against another, or organic against conventional.

"We think the challenge of all that diversity is also a strength. And that is, we get to have the kinds of conversations, so we can sit down and hear each other," he said.

Farmers Union has been vocal in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States.

John Hansen says members don't always agree, but says decisions are made at the grassroots level.

NeFU claims many accomplishments over the past century, including organizing over 440 cooperatives, establishing Nebraska's unique 100% public power system, authority for community colleges, putting the strongest anti-corporate farming restrictions in the country in the state Constitution, and pioneering the development of ethanol and wind energy.