March 5, 2018

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The strength, diversity and success of modern family farm agriculture is the result of hardworking men and women across the industry, and three individuals have gone above and beyond to ensure that success and the well-being of family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

National Farmers Union (NFU) presented Matt Birgen, Sue Carlson and Janet Nelson with the Meritorious Service Award at the organization’s 116th Anniversary Convention. Birgen, Carlson and Nelson were selected for their outstanding leadership and service to family agriculture and to Farmers Union over the course of their lifetimes.

“As advocates for family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, it is important to our mission as an organization that we recognize those who work to aid progress in rural America and in family agriculture,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Matt, Sue and Janet dedicated their careers and lives to bettering life for family farmers, ranchers, their communities, and to farmers across the world. I am proud to recognize their contributions with our organization’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award.”

Birgen, Carlson and Nelson join past recipients of the Meritorious Service Award, including former Members of Congress and a former United States President, who have made particularly noteworthy contributions to family agriculture, humanity, and Farmers Union at the state and national levels.

A list of past recipients can be found here.


About the Recipients

Matt Birgen – Meritorious Service Award to Farmers Union and to American Agriculture

Matt Birgen made a notable impact on Farmers Union and the agriculture industry as a whole. He has served on his Clay County Farmers Union board for more than 50 years, he has also served on multiple other boards since coming back from the Korean War and starting his own operation in 1955. He cares about our environment, the success and collaboration of local communities and agricultural organizations. Education and leadership are also priorities to Matt, teaching our future generations how to stay involved in agriculture and care about the wellbeing of our farmers and ranchers. He represents our farmers and ranchers because he is one himself. Matt is someone who strives to help others and makes sure they are being equally represented. He has shown tremendous leadership in the agricultural industry on a statewide and national level. He is an advocate, a producer, a hard worker, and above all he stands for all things that embody our agricultural industry.

Sue Carlson – Meritorious Service Award to Agriculture and to World Agriculture

Sue Carlson is a passionate family farm advocate and has championed Farmers Union policies for most of her life. She provided strong leadership at every level – from serving as a youth leader in her local, to president of Wisconsin Farmers Union, to sitting on the NFU Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and in developing the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO). Most recently, she played a key role in development of the Women’s Committee of the WFO. Sue worked tirelessly to grow WFO’s efforts to expand participation by women farmers and recognize the vital role that women farmers provide in our world’s agricultural and rural economies. Her work raised the general visibility of WFO, helped build understanding of its mission, and established enduring partnerships between organizations and governments around the essential role of women in agriculture around the world.

Janet Nelson – Meritorious Service Award to Farmers Union and to American Agriculture

Janet Nelson has been married to Julian Nelson for over 58 years, operating a 360-acre dairy farm in Barron County, Wisconsin, originally started by Julian’s grandparents. They have milked 56 cows in years past, but have cut down to a manageable amount for granddaughters, Brittany and Bailee George to help Julian with. Janet has been a member of Farmers Union since 1961 and in the 1970’s, a Barron County Farmers Union officer asked her to attend her first fly-in. Ever since, she has played a significant role in Farmers Union and American agriculture. Janet served on the NFU Policy Committee, bringing what she learned back to Wisconsin and taking on the role as WFU Policy Committee chair. Her greatest accomplishment has been the quilts she has created and donated for the NFU Convention Foundation fundraiser over the past 40 years. The thousands of dollars obtained from the auctioned quilts has helped Farmers Union spread the values and beliefs of the organization to countless numbers of people throughout the nation.


Stay Connected
Follow along with NFU’s 116th Anniversary Convention using the hashtag #NFU2018, and follow NFU on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also download the NFU Convention app here.

About NFU
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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