June 17, 2015

Andrew Jerome, NFU, 202.314.3106
Jonathan Liedl, Catholic Rural Life, 651.895.4439

The event, which will be held in Milan from June 27-28, is part of a larger project on how faith traditions can inform solutions to modern agricultural challenges.

MILAN, Italy—What does Pope Francis have to do with farming? Several U.S. agricultural leaders will help answer that question—and rub shoulders with high-ranking Vatican officials and the heads of global farming organizations—at an international event in late June.

Doug Peterson, the president of Farmers Union Enterprises and the Minnesota Farmers Union, is a featured speaker at the Faith, Agriculture, Food and the Environment symposium, which will take place in Milan, Italy, from June 27-28. The conference will focus on Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical and how it relates to contemporary challenges in agriculture and food production.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to examine the crossroads of faith, food production and the environment and to look for better ways to ensure nutrition for the world’s people while managing our environmental footprint,” said Peterson.

The symposium events will be held at Civil Society Pavilion Cascina Triulza at EXPO 2015, which is taking place in Milan this summer. Peterson will speak at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 27.

He will be joined at the event by the presidents of three other states’ farmers unions (Darin Von Ruden [Wisconsin], Mark Watne [North Dakota], Alan Merrill [Montana]), as well as Jim Ennis, the executive director of Catholic Rural Life.

“This symposium comes on the heels of the publication of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, and will be one of the first opportunities for farm leaders, theologians and academic experts from around the world to gather and discuss how to apply the key themes of the letter to agriculture,” said Ennis.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key architect of the pope’s encyclical, will begin the event by providing a faith-based perspective—rooted in Francis’ teaching—on the moral dimensions of farming. The Ghanaian cardinal is scheduled to speak at 9:30 a.m. on June 27.

A number of international agricultural groups will also play prominent roles, including the World Farmers Organisation, the International Catholic Rural Association, Coldiretti (Italy), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

A full list of speakers and participants, as well as a schedule of events, is available at

About the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader project

The Milan symposium is part of a broader initiative called The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, which aims to provide leaders in the farming and food industries with practical, faith-based principles that can be applied to their daily work.

The June event was preceded by a national symposium, which was held in November 2014 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Outcomes from the St. Paul symposium can be viewed at The results of both symposiums will be used to develop a set of resources for the initiative.

The project is co-sponsored by several organizations from the faith, academic and agricultural sectors. They include Farmers Union Enterprises (which consists of Minnesota Farmers Union, Wisconsin Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, Montana Farmers Union and South Dakota Farmers Union), The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Catholic Rural Life, the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, the International Catholic Rural Association and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

About Catholic Rural Life

Catholic Rural Life is a 91 year-old non-profit dedicated to applying the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church to the American countryside. CRL is a leading voice articulating the moral dimensions of agriculture and food production, from the farm to the kitchen table. The organization is based in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is headed by executive director Jim Ennis. Learn more at

Members of the media are invited to cover the Milan symposium. For those unable to attend, but interested in following the proceedings, transcripts, press releases, and multimedia from the symposium will be available at


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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