Blake Nicholson, Published March 10 2009
Johnson elected president of National Farmers Union
Johnson, 56, defeated Pennsylvania Farmers Union President Larry Breech in Tuesday’s election at the group’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., spokeswoman Liz Friedlander said.
Farmers Union is one of the nation’s largest farm groups, with about 250,000 family memberships. President Tom Buis is stepping down with a year left on his two-year term to become chief executive officer of a new ethanol group.
Johnson said he has a lifelong association with Farmers Union, starting with the organization’s youth program. He was a county Farmers Union president, and first attended a national convention in 1972 in Houston.
“I’ve been around this organization for a long time,” Johnson said. “I believe very strongly in the things Farmers Union believes in: production agriculture; family farmers, ranchers; connecting our farmers to consumers in a very positive fashion.”
Johnson plans to resign as his state’s agriculture commissioner, a post he has held since 1997.
Johnson, who owns a farm in central North Dakota, earlier served as head of the state Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Mediation Service. He also was president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the Midwestern Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Food Export Association of the Midwest. He chaired the Interstate Pest Control Compact, a 36-state alliance.
He is a veteran of Washington lobbying, working on issues such as federal farm legislation and crop insurance reform. He also is an advocate for the legalization of hemp farming and the liberalization of trade with Cuba.
In his state agriculture commissioner job, Johnson also serves with the governor and attorney general on the State Industrial Commission, the board of directors for the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator.
Gov. John Hoeven will name a successor to fill out the remaining two years on Johnson’s term.
Hoeven is expected to pick a fellow Republican. The appointee would be the first Republican in the office in 20 years. Democrat Sarah Vogel served two terms before Johnson. Another Democrat. Republican Kent Jones served from 1981 to 1988.
Ron Rauschenberger, Hoeven’s chief of staff, said the governor has not set a timeline for deciding on Johnson’s successor. He said half a dozen people have expressed interest in the job, including Lance Gaebe, Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff and agriculture policy adviser, and Doug Goehring, who twice was defeated by Johnson.
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