ST. PAUL - Two Minnesotans were among American farm leaders who met Wednesday with Pope Francis in Italy.

Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson and the National Farmers Union chief counsel, Minnesotan David Velde, were part of discussions about the role family farmers play in food security. They talked about the fact that most food produced in the United States comes from family farmers, the Minnesota Farmers Union reported. A recent report from the Census Bureau found that 97 percent of U.S. farms are family operated and owned.

Five state Farmers Union presidents, including Peterson, were in the meeting.

Velde said that the discussions that took place in Rome transcended national borders and religious beliefs.

“All religions are concerned about stewardship and the environment,” Velde said. “This is a belief that can help unite a very divided world.”

Monsignor Peter Wells, assistant secretary of state for the Vatican, expressed concerns about the worldwide loss of family farmers, food security and environmental stewardship.

“I’m pleased to hear the Vatican State Department’s belief that stewardship is ecumenical worldwide,” Peterson said.

The Farmers Union delegation also spent time with the largest farm organization in Italy, the International Catholic Rural Association and the secretary general of the World Farmers Organization.