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Frederickson says he won't seek another term as NFU president

An early morning, up-close encounter with the back end of a grain truck a month ago on state Highway 7 near Cosmos helped convince Dave Frederickson it was time to slow down.

Frederickson, president of the National Farmers Union, announced last week that he would not be seeking another term as head of the farm advocacy organization during the 2006 convention in March.

In a press release, Frederickson said his decision to step down was because he and his wife, Kay, wanted a "more settled existence."

Frederickson, 62, who farmed near Murdock for 25 years and served as state senator for the area, currently lives in Roseville. In 2002, during the National Farmers Union centennial celebration, he was elected to the top post. He is the organization's 12th president.

His love of farming and the desire to help farmers by establishing good agricultural policy and education launched him into a frenetic career that comes with the job of being president of the National Farmers Union.

It's a bit ironic, perhaps, that dozing off at the wheel and ramming into the rear end of a farm truck brought that hurried pace to help farmers to a sudden stop.

After getting out of the Litchfield hospital, Frederickson said he "got a little weak-kneed" when he saw the "crunched up metal" that used to be his pickup.

"It gives you reason to pause," he said, during an interview. Frederickson said he decided that it was time to give up the 4 a.m. trips to the airport, rushing off from one state to another and being away from home for days at a time.

"It's a wonderful job," he said. "I've been blessed to be able to do it for the last four years."

Although Frederickson represented all states where Farmers Union chapters were located, he carried a little extra weight for Minnesota farmers when he went to Washington, D.C., said Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. "Dave's heart was always with Minnesota farmers and the Farmers Union," said Peterson.

Not having a Minnesotan in the top job will "diminish" the message from Minnesota farmers, said Peterson.

Peterson praised Frederickson for bringing four new states into the organization and building new alliances with cranberry farmers in Michigan and fisherman in Rhode Island. He said Frederickson gave "a lot of personal commitment" to the job and has invested an incredible amount of hours and hard work to "be there for everybody."

Frederickson grew up on his family's farm near Murdock, taught children with learning disabilities in Mora and then returned to the farm in 1974. He said he's always had "one foot in the furrow" and the other in public policy.

Like most farmers, he was active in his community, serving on the school board, church council and farm co-op. One day, he said, he got "cranked up" about what was going on in state politics and "when the dust and the smoke had cleared," he'd won a seat in the Minnesota Senate by 34 votes.

After serving two terms on the Senate, he accepted the job of president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, a position he held for 11½ years before running for the national position.

There will be plenty of work to do for the person who takes Frederickson's job. Trade policy and debate on the upcoming farm bill, he said, are two major issues, he said.

He predicts that farming "is going to be a struggle" until there's a balance between the cost of producing food and the price farmers receive. He said farmers need to remain "vigilant" to affect national and international trade policies.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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