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Area farmers to focus on global challenges

The Wisconsin Farmers Union will host its 77th annual state convention on Feb. 2-3 at the Ramada Inn and Convention Center in Eau Claire.

The convention will officially open at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.

In addition to WFU delegates debating and voting upon the organization's 2008 official policy and bylaws, the event features many special guests, including:

• Gerry Campbell, University of Wisconsin Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics;

• Rich Hackner, Focus on Energy;

• Dick Cates, UW Beginning Farmer Program;

• Kathleen Vinehout, Wisconsin State senator;

• Nino Amato, WFU Government Relations and Policy Development;

• Liz Friedlander, National Farmers Union director of communications;

• Claudia Svarstad, Alliance to End Hunger;

• Shirley Abrahamson, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice;

• and Tom Buis, National Farmers Union president.

Wisconsin Congressman Steve Kagen (D-Wis., 8th), Wisconsin's lone member of the House Agriculture Committee, has also been invited to address the convention.

"We're really looking forward to this year's convention," said WFU President Sue Beitlich. "There is so much opportunity for family farmers to create local solutions for our world's food, fiber, energy and environmental needs. Our lineup of speakers and panelists will shed light on what we can do to be as effective as possible in meeting those challenges."

Workshops on the local foods movement, nutrient management, the Darfur refugee situation and the connection between bee health and agriculture will also be presented.

Workshop presenters include Aaron Ellringer, Just Local Foods Co-op of Eau Claire; Andrew Dane, UW-Extension agent; Ronnie Williams, DATCP; Harriet Lavin, Kenosha Darfur Project; and Ron and Christine Wilson, Polk-Burnett Beekeepers Association.

Pastor Rick Hoyme of Central Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls will conduct the Sunday morning ecumenical service for convention attendees.

During the Saturday evening banquet, which will be emceed by Mike Austin, an agriculture reporter from Green Bay, WFU awards will be presented, followed by the Torchbearer Ceremony and convention auction.

Following the banquet, musical entertainment will be provided by area family folk musicians Danville. Local artist Steve Bateman will be on hand to create caricatures of convention guests.

As WFU moves forward into a new year, this convention will provide motivation and direction for the organization in 2008, as it continues to advocate for agricultural producers and consumers alike as the reasoned voice for family farmers in Wisconsin and the state's most progressive farm organization.

More information on the convention may be found on the WFU Web site at: or by calling 800-272-5531.