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Published November 29, 2011, 03:29 PM

Changing of the (top) guard

The North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Farm Bureau have new leaders

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

North Dakota’s two largest farm advocacy organizations have new presidents.

Eugene “Woody” Barth is the new president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, replacing the retiring Robert Carlson.

Doyle Johannes now is president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, succeeding the retiring Eric Aasmundstad.

Both Barth and Johannes were elected at their respective organization’s recent annual meeting.

Ballot measure is a priority

Johannes is an Underwood, N.D., farmer who served as his organization’s vice president for the past three years.

He tells Agweek that he will continue initiatives begun by the organization, particularly its effort to amend the state constitution through the “Feeding Families … Today. Tomorrow. Forever” measure.

The measure reads, “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”

The North Dakota Farm Bureau is seeking to acquire 26,904 signatures before August 2012 to place the measure on the ballot.

Chris Brossart, a Wolford, N.D., farmer, was elected to a two-year term as vice president of the organization.

Working on the farm bill

Barth, who farms and ranches near Flasher, N.D., had been vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union since 2008.

He tells Agweek his priority as the organization’s president is working on the next U.S. farm bill. Much of his time will be spent overseeing the businesses, including restaurants and an insurance company, with which the North Dakota Farmers Union is involved.

Barth says he and his family will continue to live on the farm and that he’ll spend time in the North Dakota Farmers Union office in Jamestown, N.D., as needed. He will commute about 120 miles each way, with about 100 miles of the trip on the Interstate, he notes.

Bob Kuylen, a South Heart, N.D., farmer was elected vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

Carlson spent nearly 15 years as president of the North Dakota Farmers Union. He announced earlier this year that he is stepping down when his term expires.

In September, he was elected president of the World Farmers Organization, which promotes the interests of farmers internationally.

Aasmundstad, a Devils Lake, N.D., farmer, served as president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau for 12 years.

He announced on Nov. 15, a few days before his organization’s annual meeting, that he wouldn’t seek reelection.

Aasmundstad said the rising waters of Devils Lake have swallowed up most of his farmland. Losing so much farmland prevents his from farming full time and he thinks the organization should be led by a full-time famer, he said.

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