FARGO, N.D. — Dennis Haugen, president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, resigned his leadership on the board on Aug. 4, 2020, and then his board membership on Aug. 6, after a vulgar exchange with a Facebook friend was reposted to the organization’s Facebook page.
Dan Wogsland, executive director of the NDGGA, which represents wheat and barley farmers in policy areas, called Haugen’s post “inexcusable.” The NDGGA has education contracts from the North Dakota Wheat Commission and the North Dakota Barley Council.
The executive committee of NDGGA called a special meeting by Zoom. At the end of the meeting, called for the purpose of discussing the issue, Haugen resigned. There was no written apology.
Tom Bernhardt of Linton, N.D., will be the new chairman. Ed Kessel, Dickinson, is second vice president and Ryan Ellis, Williston, is secretary-treasurer.
There are 12 directors, elected by region. Haugen initially was going to remain as a board member but days later resigned that post as well. Wogsland said on Aug. 5 that Haugen wasn’t formally asked to resign and there was no formal statement from Haugen, other than orally expressing he would devote more time to his farm and other businesses, including cover crop seed sales, at Jackhammer Radish, as well as General Grain, a seed cleaning and salvage business.
On Aug. 6, the NDGA issued a statement that they had accepted Haugen's "resignation from the organization," immediately leaving both his roles as president and board member.
"Over the years, Dennis has been a steadfast advocate for North Dakota agriculture, and we hope his present actions will not overshadow his past achievements," the group said, in a news statement. "However, the NDGGA cannot condone aggressive or potentially-biased comments made online or otherwise."
The organization is non-partisan and promotes policies based on "positive impact not party interests."
In an interview with Agweek, Haugen, before he resigned as a board member, said he "was out of line on my personal time. I did my apologies, and we thought it was best for me to step aside as president.”
Haugen said the NDGGA does a lot of good work, and he doesn’t want it to come to harm.
Haugen then said the board was of the opinion he still had “value.” Recently, he was appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Rural America Advisory Board, and he hoped to continue in that role.
Haugen, 59, from Karnak, N.D., in Griggs County, has been on the board for three years, including one year as vice president. Wogsland said the organization has not had training for board members on social media etiquette.
“Obviously, we’re going to do some training now,” he said. “We haven’t had an issue up to this point.”
Haugen’s comment was initially posted Friday, July 31, in an exchange with a person identified on Facebook as “Jaime Anthrope.”
“This is what someone thought was okay to say to me in response to my post about having anxiety problems. Completely unprovoked,” Anthrope wrote, adding, “Thanks Dennis, you’re a real f------ peach.”
In his response to Anthrope, Haugen said, “Your parents should be b---- slapped for raising a PO-. … Jesus what a f------ crybaby liberal … I was a fan of yours when you were fighting the anti science battles. But that party is over .. obviously .. pretty thankful my kids are college grads, working for a living and perusing the American dream …. Unfriend me, or stay tuned for success stories.. Cheers … “ followed by a series of U.S. flags.
Another Facebook commenter, “Nick Salk” reposted the item to the NDGGA Facebook page, saying, “Hey, does your organization know how your president talks to people publicly?” Salk has a website called “No Ideas Media,” which is also pro-science. Haugen said he and Salk have had contentious conversations.
“This guy was fishing for a reason to get after me," Haugen said of Salk.
Haugen noted he’d been Facebook friends with the person with the alias “Jaime Anthrope” — which is labeled with a drawing of woman — but has never met the person and doesn’t in fact know whether they are male or female. He said he and Anthrope have had “a lot of constructive conversations over the years” and Anthrope had even talked about visiting the farm.
He said they had been communicating for about five years, often over their agreements on the value of “pro-science” topics on agriculture in connection with genetically modified organisms and other topics.
“Science is such a big deal in agriculture,” he said.
Anthrope seemed to be on the side of farmers and technology.
Asked whether he had apologized to Anthrope, Haugen said he couldn’t because he had been “blocked.” He said he hadn’t had other problems on Facebook.
“I watch myself, because I’m on the Grain Growers board, and you’ve gotta be with Democrats and Republicans, have to watch myself commenting on politics and the likes of that,” he said. “We need both because that’s how the government works.”