Roger Johnson, 14th President of the National Farmers Union, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit, Let’s Build a Better Food Policy, which will be hosted in partnership with George Washington University and the World Resources Institute on February 2, 2017.
Roger Johnson is a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota. Prior to his election as the 14th president of the National Farmer’s Union in 2009, Mr. Johnson served as the North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner and as President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Mr. Johnson about his work to improve the livelihoods of family farmers and ranchers across rural America and the importance of implementing fairer agricultural policies and educational opportunities.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Roger Johnson (RJ): I’m a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota, so I learned to love the agrarian way of life. That, coupled with the desire to do my part to help others, is what led me to where I am today.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
RJ: The opportunity to lead this organization, one that I’ve been involved in my entire life, and one that represents and educates our nation’s family farmers and ranchers, is an honor. The opportunity to better the livelihoods of those living on the farm and in rural communities across the country continues to motivate me to stay involved with agriculture policy and education.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
RJ: My parents, Leonard and Marie, inspired me as a kid. Both were very hardworking, honest, and forward-looking; and, they instilled in me a desire to make a positive difference in whatever I do.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
RJ: Consumer demand. Ultimately, all markets over time will adjust to consumer demand signals. Of course, public policies designed to encourage and facilitate transparent information are also very important.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
RJ: Michelle Obama is a food hero of mine. She has consistently acted, advocated, and lived a life focused on healthy eating and exercise. She is precisely the kind of role model our children (and adults) need.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
RJ: A farm bill that focuses on those most in need—that includes consumers, but also, very importantly, family farmers and ranchers. Farm bill programs and payments should be targeted to average and below average-sized operations.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
RJ: Bike to work!
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
RJ: Remember the family farmers, ranchers, and residents of rural America that elected you, and do something to fix the poor economic conditions, waves of consolidation, and the changing climate that threaten their economic well-being and way of life.