Darin Von Ruden was named president on July 20. He previously held the position for 12 years. When the current president, Rick Adamski, stepped down to lead WFU’s government relations department, Von Ruden returned.
As president, Von Ruden said his goal is to represent the union’s 2,200 members across the state, with members in all 72 Wisconsin counties. A predominant number of the members are located on the western side of the state, and the lobbying group has its headquarters in Chippewa Falls.
“I want to make sure we continue to work on stability of the organization, and all voices are heard,” Von Ruden said in an Aug. 3 interview.
Because of a wet spring, farmers across the state were roughly three weeks behind in their planting season.
“Hopefully we have a later first frost,” Von Ruden said. “It’s a great concern to farmers. If we have an early frost, that will impact prices you see at grocery stores.”
While input costs are higher this year, farmers are optimistic about the prices they are expecting to see for their commodities, he said.
“Members are now predicting a better cash outcome at the end of the year than in seven-eight years,” Von Ruden said. “We’re going to see a good financial year. It’s partly because of Ukraine wheat (not being available). It’s going to open up some markets for (U.S.) farmers in the rest of the world.”
Von Ruden, a Westby dairy farmer, remains deeply concerned about the loss of dairy farms in Wisconsin, and working on their behalf remains one of his top goals as president. In 1990, there were about 44,000 dairy farmers in the state, but that dropped to 15,000 10 years ago and 9,800 five years ago. Today, it has dwindled to 6,900 dairy farms.
“We’re losing farmers every day, and it’s getting scary,” he said. “It’s been a real struggle.”
Von Ruden also hears from farmers about their top concerns, such as security of the nation’s food supply.
“Our farmers also talk about how COVID impacted the supply chain,” he said. “I never thought in my lifetime, we’d see empty shelves for food products.”
He added: “The structure of agriculture is not conducive to a safe and adequate food supply.”
Von Ruden said another duty in his role as president is to provide ideas on federal farm bill.
“We’re certainly hearing about water issues, and handling PFAs,” he said.