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Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union and former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, delivers a keynote speech at the Farm and Ranch Economic Summit in Bismarck on Jan. 30, 2018. (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service)

ND native Roger Johnson leaving National Farmers Union presidency

WASHINGTON — North Dakota native Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, is stepping down from the position.

Johnson says he told his board last week that he is not planning on running in the election that will be March 1-3 in Savannah, Ga., at the group's annual meeting.

Johnson, 66, a native of Turtle Lake, N.D., has served since March 2009 and is the 14th national president. The group has about 200,000 members. The organization has been around since 1902. The National Farmers Union is in 33 states, with North Dakota the second largest in membership, with about 50,000 members. Oklahoma is the largest state with about the same number of members.

Johnson will attend the North Dakota Farmers Union state convention Dec. 13-14 at the Bismarck Event Center.

He has grandchildren in Colorado and Oregon and he and his wife, Anita, will continue to live at Arlington, Va., initially and haven’t yet decided where they’ll live in retirement.

Looking back on 11 years in the post, Johnson said he remembers an initial logistical challenge in the organization, after the financial markets crashed in 2008. Unbeknownst to Johnson, the board had closed the national office, which was in Denver, and Johnson had to replace nearly the entire staff at a new office in Washington, D.C.

Somehow the detail of telling Johnson about the office closing was “overlooked,” he says, with a chuckle. “It never occurred to me to ask.”

Johnson accepted the job when he was in the middle of a term as North Dakota agriculture commissioner. Johnson had farmed and was an agricultural economics graduate from North Dakota State University. He had served from 1996 to 2009 as state agriculture commissioner.

At the National Farmers Union, he replaced Tom Bius, who went to be chief executive officer of Growth Energy.