|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
DENVER, Colo. — Indiana native Tom Buis was elected and sworn in as president of the National Farmers Union at the organization’s 104th convention.
Buis farmed with his brother in Eminence, Ind., until he went to Washington, D.C. in 1987. He still owns an Indiana farm.
Buis has been an advocate for family farms and rural America on Capitol Hill for two nearly decades. Most recently he served as NFU’s vice president of government relations.
As NFU president, Buis said he first wants to continue educating consumers about “what a great job American agriculture does and what a key component it is in our nation’s health and security.”
He also wants to continue with the promotion and development of farmer-owned cooperatives.
“The third component of the farmers union is legislation or advocacy,” Buis said. “That’s a very strong component for farmers union, has been over the last 104 years, and I hope to continue that.
“What we have to be able to do as a farm organization is getting our policy makers to make that connection to what’s really happening out there - not what they perceive is happening.”
Farmers union must encourage policy makers to focus on giving farmers the tools to make a decent price from the marketplace.
“I’ve never met a farmer that would prefer to get their income from the government,” Buis said. “They want to get it from the marketplace, but it needs to be a fair market price and we should be striving to do that.”
The theme of the convention was Fuels from the Farm - Our Nation’s Future. Buis said that theme has many positive aspects because not only does it create demand for the raw commodities but it also helps national security.
“It helps us solve a problem that’s been lurking out here in America for a number of years at least three decades and that’s a growing dependence on imported oil from the most unstable regions in the world,” he said.
“We have the capability and technology and efficiencies to be able to produce that fuel right there in the Midwest as opposed to importing it from the Middle East,” Buis said.
Trade is another big issue with NFU. Brazil and Argentina, America’s biggest competitors in the production of commodities, have significant advantages in how they treat their workers, how they protect the environment, and in their ability to manipulate currency to make their products cheaper in the international marketplace, he said.
“That’s like saying to our farmers you have to compete with two hands tied behind your back,” Buis added.
Unless this country negotiates those factors in trade agreements, those agreements are not going to be good for U.S. agriculture.
“We’ll see a growing dependence upon imported foods and products, and that’s wrong because our ability to provide high quality food and fiber since the beginning of this country is what’s made it strong and it’s a national security issue, a quality issue and an economic issue and we think that has to be addressed,” he said.
Buis and his wife, Peggy, have two college-age sons, and the couple lives in Maryland.
This farm news was published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.