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During its recent annual convention, the Wisconsin Farmers Union recognized several individuals for their efforts on behalf of family farmers and rural communities.

This year three Friend of Family Farmer Awards were presented. The first two were presented to Jerry Fiene and Kim Kaukl of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.

WIRSA is a statewide organization that represents administrators, community leaders, board of education members, teachers and interested citizens.

Since its formation in 2009, membership has grown steadily, and the organization has worked to improve rural schools.

During his tenure as WIRSA executive director, Jerry Fiene consulted extensively with the State Assembly Rural Schools Task Force, and their combined efforts resulted in a number of recommendations for strengthening rural schools that have been enacted into law.

When funding for rural schools was threatened, Fiene helped to mobilize rural school districts and other groups to maintain the funding.

Fiene has worked on behalf of rural schools for 46 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and Cooperative Educational Service Agency administrator.

Following Feine's retirement in 2015, Kim Kaukl succeeded him as head of WIRSA. Having worked 34 years in public education, Kaukl "has a passion for rural schools and a desire to continue to advocate for their interests," said WFU President Darin Von Ruden. "WFU looks forward to continuing to collaborate with WIRSA to advocate for our rural schools."

The third recipient of the Family Farmer Award was State Senator Dave Hansen, (D-Green Bay), who currently serves as assistant minority leader and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy, Consumer Protection and Government Reform.

He has authored bills to help deal with student loan debt, combat fraud in state loan programs and empower the Department of Natural Resources to better protect groundwater in areas of the state with karst topography.

"WFU is honoring Sen. Hansen for giving voice to the fundamental democratic principles that are top priorities for our members," said Von Ruden.

WFU Builders Awards recognize couples, and individuals, who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to building the Farmers Union organization through county involvement, leadership development and member recruitment.

The 2016 Builders Awards were presented to Barb and Gerald Jaeger of Lomira; Marvin and Ruth Kruse, Reedsburg, and Kriss Marion of Blanchardville.

Leadership Awards are presented to active local, county and district organizations who have made significant contributions to the grassroots success of the Wisconsin Farmers Union and National Farmers Union.

This year's Leadership awards were presented to the Marathon, South Central and Wood-Portage-Waupaca chapters. The three chapters also were recognized for the efforts at the National Farmers Union Convention.

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