O’Connor: Farmers Union Response Mistakes Representative Democracy for Tiny Factions

Once we start the story, we can’t stop until we get to the end….

As reported on WNAX and this blog, the Save Farmers Union Coalition is seeking the removal of South Dakota Farmers Union’s president, vice-president, and secretary/treasurer/executive director and a new board election. Farmers Union says nuts to that and rejects the allegations of mismanagement and election-rigging that have provoked the coalition’s outcry.

Coalition spokesman Mike O’Connor listens to WNAX, reads this blog, and questions the logic of the official Farmers Union response.

SDFU spokesperson Kecia Beranek said that the number of people who actually voted for the anti-leadership resolutions at meetings in Farmers Union Districts 1 and 2 is only 2.7% of the total membership of those two districts. O’Connor replies (in a press release sent this morning) that those who voted for the resolutions are the county officers elected by each District’s membership. The District 1 and 2 county officers thus represent “nearly one third of the total voting membership of South Dakota Farmers Union.” That’s how representative democracy works:

Those District officers represent their constituents at the District level. For Kecia to say that is like saying the seven people on the city council or the county commission can’t vote on ordinances because they aren’t the total population of their jurisdiction.

…If Beranek is telling the truth about the governance of Farmers Union and that 22 delegates voting unanimously at District 2 meeting to oust Doug Sombke doesn’t matter, then how does she explain that only 99 people voted in the statewide convention?… She can’t have it both ways [Mike O’Connor, press release, 2016.04.07].

Beranek told WNAX’s Michelle Rook (audio, timestamp 0:48) that O’Connor didn’t attend the December 2015 Farmers Union election that his coalition now disputes and “hasn’t been to an election in ten years.” O’Connor admits the former but contradicts the latter (which, technically, appears to be a red herring with no bearing on the factuality of the concerns raised in the District 1 and 2 resolutions):

I missed the convention in December, but I’ve been to most of the Farmers Union elections in the last 10 years.

The biggest complaint I hear about South Dakota Farmers Union lately is very poor communications. After listening to the communications specialist, I can understand why nobody can get straight information from the Huron office [O’Connor, 2016.04.07].

With sharp words like that, it may be hard to get everyone—and I mean everyone, all the members and staff of Farmers Union—into a nice, open room where they can all talk things out. But holding that open, inclusive conversation and holding it soon and by the bylaws may be the best way to resolve the conflict and get back to work.


2 Responses to O’Connor: Farmers Union Response Mistakes Representative Democracy for Tiny Factions

  1. David Newquist

    These bitter disputes generally signal the end of an organization. The losing factions quit, and many people think, with justification, that there are no benefits to belonging to a group beset by disharmony and resentment. In South Dakota, the history of fractiousness is marked by defunct and dysfunctional fraternal, veterans, political, religious, and social organizations, and tribal governments.

    Agriculture has a long history of cooperative enterprises failing because of the inability to resolve internal disputes. Those failures have enabled the consolidation of farming into corporate agribusiness and the proliferation o factory farming.

  2. Communication specialist? The open letter on the state organization’s webpage states that the board supports “it’s” members. Go back to second grade, Ms Beranek.