A delegation of Farmers Union leaders represented National Farmers Union at the first convention of the World Farmers Organization Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, North Dakota Farmers Union President Robert Carlson was selected to lead the international group. He says the purpose of the WFO is to bring farmers and cooperatives together to exchange ideas and find solutions to global food security issues - and stresses the importance of international ag organizations.
"So much of what we do in agriculture is global in nature," Carlson said. "We're dealing with climate change, we're dealing world trade issues, environmental issue, phytosanitary issues, international legal issues. There are all kinds of things that affect us and that we need to approach from a policy position as farmers on a global level."
Carlson notes farmers around the world deal with a number of the same challenges, including market concentration, food safety and trade, and share several of the same goals.
"While we differ in culture, we differ in geography, we differ in the kind of crops and livestock that we raise, we all have some common things," Carlson said. "We all want our farms to succeed, we all want to be profitable, and we all care about the future of our families. So I'm hoping we can work together to advance food security for consumers and advance the position of farmers globally."
Carlson admits it's no easy task to get a group of farmers from one country on the same page, let alone farmers from around the world. But while it may be difficult, he says it's certainly not impossible.
"Once you get people talking and give them some time to explain their views and have some back and forth discussion it's surprising how at the end of the day farm groups from different countries can understand the positions that each is taking," Carlson said. "While that may not yield agreement it often yields some compromise. On other issues we will find that we can agree and when we do agree we have a much stronger position than when we are individually saying these things back in our home countries."
According to Carlson, the World Farmers Organization will lobby on behalf of the world's farmers where international governmental meetings take place.