Farmers Union: Pope thinks highly of family farmers
FARGO, N.D. -- Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says a visit with Pope Francis on March 25 was a reminder that the Vatican thinks "family farms are the best tools for food security, and men and women are the center of God'...
FARGO, N.D. -- Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says a visit with Pope Francis on March 25 was a reminder that the Vatican thinks "family farms are the best tools for food security, and men and women are the center of God's creation and are the custodians of the environment."
Watne says the message runs counter to the fact that North Dakota just passed a law loosening the state anti-corporate farming law in an attempt to attract swine and dairy farms. Watne plans to be back in North Dakota by Thursday night, and plans to be in Bismarck, N.D., at a 2 p.m. event at the North Dakota State Capitol Building. The "Rally for Family Farmers" will protest the passage and signing of SB 2351, which would make new exceptions to the state anti-corporate farming law.
The North Dakota Farmers Union has discussed the possibility of referring the law at its earliest opportunity. The bishop of the Bismarck Diocese is scheduled to speak at the event, as well as Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president, and a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, who has urged the NDFU to refer the law.
The audience with the pope included state Farmers Union presidents Doug Peterson, Minnesota; Doug Sombke, South Dakota; Alan Merrill, Montana; and Darin Von Ruden, Wis. The group was in Rome in advance of an international meeting this summer called 'Faith, Food and the Environment -- The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader."
The state presidents were accompanied by representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Catholic Rural Association, the World Farmers Organization, Coldiretti (the leading organization of farmers in European), Catholic Rural Life and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
Peterson says he was "pleased to hear the Vatican State Department's belief that stewardship is ecumenical worldwide."
Sombke says the topics included land use and conservation, but also fresh water. He says it was an "incredible opportunity" for his organization and colleagues to work with the Vatican to "network with others in Europe for the future of family farming." He says there is a widely held myth that U.S. agriculture is completely dominated by large, multinational corporations.
"Many see American farmers as corporate-controlled and nothing else."
Merrill says he is pleased to learn that the Farmers Union's "emphasis on our spiritual, moral and physical responsibilities to the land and the production of food," are the "same ideas (that) are held high around the world."
Faith, Food & the Environment started in 2014 with a review of key reports, research studies and statements focused on the challenges of providing "sustainable food for a growing world population," according to its website.
"A crucial challenge was how to conserve and maintain natural resources in order to sustain food production indefinitely," the website says. "Another was how to do so in a fair and socially just way for farmers and food producers worldwide."
The University of St. Thomas hosted a three-day symposium in St. Paul in November. The next stage is an international symposium to be held in Milan, Italy, in late June during EXPO 2015. "
"By the end of 2015 the project organizers expect to develop a series of resources that speak morally and meaningfully on agricultural practices, world food issues and environmental concerns in the hope of inspiring a new generation of agricultural producers and leaders," the website says.