Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), will be speaking at the Washington D.C. Food Tank Summit, “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders,” which will be held in partnership with George Washington University, World Resources Institute, the National Farmers Union, Future Farmers of America, and the National Young Farmers Coalition on February 28, 2018.
Johnson is a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota with a degree in agricultural economics from Dakota State University. He was elected as the Commissioner of North Dakota Agriculture in 1996, served as President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) from 2007-2008, and was elected as president of NFU in 2009 during the Union’s 107th Anniversary Convention.
Food Tank spoke with Rodger about his involvement in U.S. agriculture and the importance of food system transparency.
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 where I learned to love the agrarian way of life. My background coupled with the desire to help others is what led me to where I am today.
FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?
RJ: Every single thing we do at NFU is geared towards making sure family farmers can earn an honest living, support their local communities, protect the environment, and produce for our nation and beyond.
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 including consumers, but also very importantly, family farmers and ranchers who have seen national average net farm income drop 50 percent over the past four years. Farm bill programs and payments should be targeted at average, and below average, sized operations.
FT: What innovations in food and agriculture are you most excited about?
RJ: Everything that helps consumers find out more about how their food was produced. Our food system is appropriately becoming more transparent.
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 is the best opportunity for young or aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs to get a foothold in America’s agricultural future?
RJ: Be flexible and cast a wide net in your search for land. You are your relationships and community connections. Be courteous and creative. Also, be prepared to work difficult ground when you get started, or to fit your farm ambitions on any ground you can when you first start out.
FT: How can we best stimulate young people’s curiosity about food and agriculture and encourage their participation in building healthier food systems?
RJ: Everyone loves food– it sells itself! When we get to a point where everyone involved in the food system is sharing more information and always being transparent, we’ll be able to have frank and open conversations with consumers and hopefully pique their curiosity about where (and who) their food comes from.
Tickets for the 2018 D.C. Food Tank Summit are selling out quickly! Join us in Washington D.C. on February 28th as we discuss cultivating the next generation of food leaders. Apply to attend HERE.