EL RENO—In partnership with National Farmers Union (NFU) and American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative, the newly-formed Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests hosted its first issues forum to discuss the consolidation of packing plants in the beef industry at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla., Nov. 10.

The event highlighted a major issue effecting the economic health of one of rural Oklahoma’s largest economic drivers—the beef industry.

“For years, the beef industry has wrestled with the issues of packer concentration, price discover and fair markets,” said Rural and Small-Town Table’s chairman, Clay Pope. “Now, with the pandemic shining a light on the vulnerability of the industry to processing bottlenecks, we felt it was important to further educate Oklahomans on this critical issue.”

Speakers at the event were NFU President Rob Larew, AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh, and beef market analyst Corbitt Wall. Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey also addressed the group on rural issues.

All forum presentations were recorded and can be viewed at (https://youtube.com/channel/UCHsBXmtjL10iAAXgXLAAUpA). For more information on the Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests, contact Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 or claypope@pldi.net.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) hosted National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew on a tour of Oklahoma Nov. 10-12. The tour showcased Oklahoma agriculture through a variety of farms, ranches and agribusinesses and provided AFR/OFU leadership and Larew an opportunity to visit one-on-one with the state’s agricultural producers.

“We are thrilled to be able to host NFU President Rob Larew this week in the great state of Oklahoma,” said AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh. “A showcase of Oklahoma agriculture is really a showcase of the best America has to offer. We’re proud of everything our state has to offer the industry.”

The Oklahoma agriculture tour was a chance to introduce Oklahoma to the national organization president, but also an opportunity for Larew to interface with local farmers and ranchers as NFU ramps up for a new legislative session under a new administration.

“Farmers Union is really proud of our grassroots, producer-driven policy,” said Larew. “Being out here, talking directly to farmers, and finding out exactly how policy concerns are translated on their operation really helps tell the story.

“It helps us more effectively push for issues when we know them really well. I can talk to members of Congress, but when I can tie an issue back to a real farm example it’s just all the more valuable in selling that message. For me, this has been an invaluable experience.”

While in Southwest Oklahoma, the tour focused on seed, cotton and peanut production with visits to Apache Seed & Supply, Farmers Cooperative Mill and Elevator, and Lasley Family Farm.

Apache Seed & Supply is a diversified crop operation near Apache that produces forage and cover crop seed, as well as commodity and contract grains. The no-till operation uses no irrigation and relies on capturing and retaining rainfall to provide moisture for crops. While touring the facility, owner Alan Mindeman, Larew and Blubaugh discussed issues surrounding seed production in southwest Oklahoma, such as potential regulatory concerns and the increasing need to control feral hog populations. They also talked about the seed operation’s noticeable increase in demand, as well as the demand shift to cover crop mixes as regenerative agriculture grows in popularity.

The Farmers Cooperative Mill and Elevator is a cotton gin built in 2017 near Carnegie. The modern facility handles double the capacity of older gins and has proven to be an incredible asset to area cotton producers. The appearance of a new gin of any size is rare; the last one built in Oklahoma was more than 20 years ago. Barry Squires, president of the gin’s board, led tour attendees through the plant, covering changes over time and improvements in efficiency when compared to older cotton mills.

Lasley Family Farm, a fourth generation peanut operation near Eakly, markets value-added products to consumers. The Lasley operation is fully integrated; it grows, shells, roasts and packages the peanuts that go into the farm’s sweet treats and peanut snacks. The family farm operation also raises peanut seed for Oklahoma Foundation Seed Stocks (OFSS). Tour attendees were saw the Lasley kitchen in full operation as employees prepared candy for consumers. Owner Dale Lasley also taught them about different generations of peanut harvesting equipment, including a discussion on the shift from solar drying to heat drying peanuts.

While in Southwest Oklahoma, tour attendees also visited the Fort Cobb Locker Plant, a small-scale state-inspected meat processing facility. While in Fort Cobb, the group met with area producers. Larew spoke to the farmers and ranchers about the continuing need for friends of agriculture in government. He voiced concern over in-fighting in the agriculture community and addressed the ever-present industry consolidation question. In addition, he covered more specific issues such as pesticide application and direct marketing opportunities and concerns.

The southwest portion of the Oklahoma agriculture tour ended with the Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests “Consolidation in the Beef Industry” issues forum at Redlands Community College in El Reno. Speakers at the event were Larew, Blubaugh and beef market analyst Corbitt Wall. Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey also addressed the group.

While in Northern Oklahoma, the tour focused on purebred and commercial beef production and no-till agriculture with visits to Blubaugh Angus Ranch and Shelton Family Farm.

Blubaugh Angus Ranch is a sixth-generation farming operation near Tonkawa that specializes in purebred Angus breeding stock and direct-to-consumer Angus beef. The Blubaugh family also produces wheat, alfalfa, milo and soybeans. During the visit, Blubaugh and Larew discussed challenges and opportunities in the purebred cattle sector, cattle industry concentration concerns, and future conservation opportunities for Oklahoma’s producers.

Shelton Family Farm near Vinita is home to Sara’s Grassfed Beef. AFR/OFU Board Member Jim Shelton and his wife Sara own the operation, which provides direct-to-consumer quality grassfed beef products while limiting environmentally-negative inputs. The Sheltons also raise commercial crossbred cows and crossbred stocker cattle. During the visit, the group toured various pasture locations and discussed grass-fed beef production and pasture and resource management.

While in Tonkawa, the tour group met with area producers over lunch. Larew spoke to local farmers and ranchers about the continuing need to work together, especially in light of the bipartisan nature of agriculture issues. He also talked about the next Farm Bill and how Americans want solutions now more than ever. He reminded producers of their ability to influence legislation and pushed them to never miss an opportunity to voice which policies are working or not working for their farm or ranch.

Larew also talked at length about the current farm stress issue and emphasized his belief that America’s farmers and ranchers are resilient and can rise to meet current challenges. He assured producers that Farmers Union would be there to help wherever possible, saying “When times are difficult and challenging, that’s when Farmers Union is at its best.”

While in Vinita, Larew and Blubaugh addressed local farmers and ranchers. The leaders highlighted the lack of rural representation in Congress. The message was consistent and clear from both men—agriculture must find allies, even if those allies are urban lawmakers. Also, the industry’s issues are significant enough that bipartisanship is a must. As Larew put it, “In agriculture, we can’t afford to not work across the aisle.”

While in Northeast Oklahoma, the tour focused on large-scale produce production and small-scale beef processing with visits to J-M Farms and Quapaw Cattle Company.

J-M Farms is a family-owned mushroom producer near Miami that provides 25 million pounds of fresh mushrooms to the Midwest and Southwest. At the facility, the tour group learned about the composting process and how the farm maximizes its yield with careful management. They also discussed how Covid-19 shifted demand and caused labor, time and packaging issues.

Quapaw Cattle Company’s new meat processing facility near Miami provides a place for Quapaw Cattle Company and other local cattle producers to process their beef for direct sale to consumers. The facility is known for its transparency and is an excellent example of how small-scale meat processing can thrive, provide jobs for area residents and contribute to the surrounding economy. As expected, discussion at the facility centered on the current need for additional processing capacity and the direction of the industry as a whole.

The Oklahoma agriculture tour wrapped up in Oklahoma City with a dinner celebrating a successful week. Larew and Blubaugh summarized the week’s discussions with Oklahoma producers and pointed out that the number one issue over the last few days has been concentration, both in beef processing specifically and agriculture as a whole. They also spoke on the current lack of rural representation in Congress and the upcoming change in administration.

In addition to the agricultural tour stops during the week, attendees also visited historic sites such as Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City and the Pawhuska area, which is a relatively new intersection of agriculture and American popular culture. AFR/OFU leadership and Larew also met with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., and Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner in Tahlequah and with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur in Oklahoma City.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industy and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative hosted National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew on a tour of Northeast Oklahoma Nov. 12. The tour showcased the area’s agriculture and provided an opportunity for AFR/OFU leadership and Larew to visit one-on-one with area producers.

The AFR/OFU-NFU group began Thursday’s tour at J-M Farms, a mushroom producer in Miami. J-M Farms is a family-owned operation that provides 25 million pounds of fresh mushrooms to the Midwest and Southwest. At the facility, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group learned about the composting process and how the farm maximizes its yield with careful management.

While in Miami, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group also visited the Quapaw Cattle Company’s meat processing facility. The new facility provides a place for Quapaw Cattle Company and other local cattle producers to process their beef for direct sale to consumers. The facility is known for its transparency and is an excellent example of how small-scale meat processing can thrive, provide jobs for area residents and contribute to the surrounding economy.

From Miami, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group traveled to Tahlequah where AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh and Larew met with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., and Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. The leaders talked about plans for a meat processing facility in Tahlequah, as well as potential areas for collaboration, including agribusiness development, conservation and K-12 education.

The AFR/OFU-NFU tour group wrapped up the day back in Oklahoma City with a dinner to celebrate a successful week. Larew and Blubaugh both addressed the group, highlighting the current lack of rural representation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and the upcoming change in administration. They also summarized the week’s discussions with Oklahoma producers and pointed out that the number one issue over the last few days has been concentration, both in beef processing specifically and agriculture as a whole.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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MIAMI, OKLA.—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative hosted National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew on a tour of Northern Oklahoma Nov. 11. The tour showcased the area’s agriculture and provided an opportunity for AFR/OFU leadership and Larew to visit one-on-one with area producers.

The AFR/OFU-NFU began Wednesday’s tour at Blubaugh Angus Ranch near Tonkawa. In addition to crops, the family operation produces purebred Angus cattle and direct markets beef. During the visit, AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh and Larew discussed challenges and opportunities in the purebred cattle sector. They also covered the cattle industry concentration concerns, as well as future conservation opportunities for Oklahoma’s producers.

While in Tonkawa, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group met with area producers over lunch. During the gathering, Larew spoke to attending farmers and ranchers about the continuing need to work together and highlighted the bipartisan nature of agriculture issues. He also talked about potential legislative appointments and the next Farm Bill with one specific request to producers that they voice what’s working or not working on their operations. Essentially, voicing praises and concerns can help guide the direction of future legislation.

Larew also talked at length about the current farm stress issue and emphasized his belief that America’s farmers and ranchers are resilient and can rise to meet current challenges. He assured producers that Farmers Union would be there to help wherever possible, saying “When times are difficult and challenging, that’s when Farmers Union is at its best.”

Following the luncheon, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group visited Pawhuska to see how the recent tourism influx from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile has benefited the small town. Following a quick tour of Pawhuska, the group headed east to Vinita.

The final agriculture stop of the Northern Oklahoma tour was the Shelton Family Farm in Vinita, home of Sara’s Grassfed Beef. AFR/OFU Board Member Jim Shelton and his wife Sara own the operation, which focuses on limiting environmentally-negative inputs and providing direct-to-consumer quality grassfed beef products.

The AFR/OFU-NFU tour group wrapped up the night with a dinner with area producers. Larew and Blubaugh both addressed the group, highlighting the current lack of rural representation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The message was clear from both leaders—agriculture must find allies, even if those allies are urban lawmakers, and the industry’s issues are significant enough that bipartisanship is a must. As Larew put it, “In agriculture, we can’t afford to not work across the aisle.”

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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EL RENO—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative hosted National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew on a tour of Southwest Oklahoma Nov. 10. The tour showcased the area’s agriculture and provided an opportunity for AFR/OFU leadership and Larew to visit one-on-one with area producers.

Following a brief visit to Oklahoma National Stockyards and breakfast at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour headed to Southwest Oklahoma for the remainder of the day.

First up was Apache Seed & Supply, a diversified crop operation that produces forage and cover crop seed, as well as commodity and contract grains. The no-till operation uses no irrigation and relies on capturing and retaining rainfall to provide moisture for crops. While touring the facility, owner Alan Mindeman, Larew and AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh discussed issues surrounding seed production in southwest Oklahoma, such as potential regulatory concerns and the increasing need to control feral hog populations. They also talked about the seed operation’s noticeable increase in demand, as well as the demand shift toward cover crop mixes.

The AFR/OFU-NFU tour group next visited the Fort Cobb Locker Plant, a mom-and-pop state inspected meat processing facility. While in Fort Cobb, the group met with area producers over lunch. During the gathering, Larew spoke to attending farmers and ranchers about the continuing need in government for friends of agriculture. He voiced concern over in-fighting in the agriculture community and addressed the ever-present industry consolidation question. He also covered more specific issues such as pesticide application and direct marketing opportunities and concerns.

Following the luncheon, the AFR/OFU-NFU tour group visited the Farmers Cooperative Mill and Elevator near Carnegie. President of the mill’s board Barry Squires led the group on a detailed tour, covering important aspects of a modern cotton mill and changes over time in milling.

The next tour stop was Lasley Family Farm, a peanut operation that direct markets value-added peanut products to consumers. The Lasley operation is fully integrated, growing and processing the peanuts that go into the farm’s sweet treats and peanut snacks.

The final stop of the Southwest Oklahoma tour was Redlands Community College in El Reno for the Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests’ Consolidation in the Beef Industry. Speakers at the event were Larew, Blubaugh and beef market analyst Corbitt Wall.  Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey also addressed the group.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—In partnership with National Farmers Union (NFU) and American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative, the newly-formed Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests will host its first issues forum to discuss the consolidation of packing plants in the beef industry Nov. 10, 5-8 p.m., at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla.

The event will highlight a major issue effecting the economic health of one of rural Oklahoma’s largest economic drivers—the beef industry.

“For years, the beef industry has wrestled with the issues of packer concentration, price discover and fair markets,” said Rural and Small-Town Table’s chairman, Clay Pope. “Now, with the pandemic shining a light on the vulnerability of the industry to processing bottlenecks, we feel that it’s important to further educate Oklahomans on this critical issue.”

Scheduled speakers at the event are NFU President Rob Larew, AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh, and beef market analyst Corbitt Wall. Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters will also address the group on rural issues. All presentations will be made during the in-person, limited capacity event and streamed through live video to alleviate COVID-19 concerns.

“With pandemic restrictions on the number of folks who can attend the event in person, we will be livestreaming this event on the internet,” Pope said. “We can only have 40 people in attendance at the school, so we are allowing seating on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by Nov. 1 by contacting Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 or claygpope@gmail.com. There is no charge to attend the forum. Registration will begin at 6 p.m. at the Redlands Community College Conference Center, 1300 S. Country Club Rd., El Reno, Okla.

The live stream can be accessed through the Oklahoma Rural Small Town Table of Common Interest YouTube channel at https://youtube.com/channel/UCHsBXmtjL10iAAXgXLAAUpA. The meeting will also be recorded and made available for future viewing.

For more information on the beef industry concentration issues forum or the Oklahoma Rural and Small-Town Table of Common Interests, contact Clay Pope at 405-699-2087 or claypope@pldi.net.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma State Department of Health, in partnership with Gov. Kevin Stitt and federal, state and private industry leadership, recently announced the creation of the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence (OPCIE). OPCIE is intended to be the state’s frontline of defense against future biosecurity-threatening diseases. The facility will be located in Stillwater, leveraging Oklahoma’s rural and urban assets to benefit public health.

OPCIE’s creation is being announced as part of the Oklahoma Public Health Lab’s move to Stillwater. The new lab will include a human diagnostic/public health laboratory, a genetic biorepository, and a multi-disciplinary basic science lab for human, animal, plant and food-related bioterrorism research.

AFR/OFU Cooperative supports the relocation of the state’s public health laboratory to Stillwater, as well as the creation of OPCIE. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of state-of-the-art centers like OPCIE to both urban and rural populations and national security as a whole.

“Covid-19 threatened the health of our state and our nation, and also served as a warning about the vulnerability of our food system,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “The last few months have shown that quick, accurate testing for both human and animal disease is a vital part of our nation’s security. OPCIE is a necessary and welcomed investment in the future of our state and national food supply chain. It will play an important role in keeping food on the table for millions of Americans.

“Oklahoma State University is a hub of agricultural research and animal and human health innovation, making Stillwater a logical place for the Public Health Lab. OPCIE will make collaboration between OSU and the state lab second nature. This collaboration is crucial for farmers, ranchers and rural communities across the state.”

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—If 2020 were a normal year, the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative would be planning its annual AFR Youth Speech Contest. Agriculture students statewide would be preparing their speeches in hopes of high judges’ marks and first place trophies. But, this is not a normal year.

This year, concerns of Covid-19 exposure, coupled with potential venue closures, caused the contest to be canceled for the first time in 75 years. In its place, AFR/OFU has created a new professional development opportunity for students statewide.

The “Mastering the Art of Public Speaking” (MAPS) video series fulfills the AFR Youth Speech Contest mission to encourage young Oklahomans to hone their public speaking ability through speeches about agriculture, natural resources, policy and science.

“Public speaking is an indispensable skill students use throughout their lives,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “We’re very proud of the AFR Speech Contest and what it’s done to foster professionalism and confidence in Oklahoma’s youth. It was an extremely difficult decision to cancel this year’s competition, and we knew we had to do something in its place. So, we decided to designate 2020 as the ‘Year to Teach.’”

Last fall, nearly 500 students, grades 4-12, competed in district AFR Speech Contests across Oklahoma in hopes of making it to the state competition. The 2020 AFR Speech Contest is just one of many extracurricular events that have been canceled this year due to the pandemic. As AFR/OFU watched more and more professional development opportunities either cancel or postpone, it became clear something had to be created to replace this year’s canceled speech contest.

“These students are involved in FFA and 4-H because they want to better themselves and be prepared for college or the work force,” said AFR/OFU Interim Youth Coordinator Jim Pilkington. “They’re ready and willing to learn, but the opportunities for professional development have been slim in the last few months.”

In response to the gap in opportunity, AFR/OFU commissioned the MAPS public speaking tutorials to help students hone their skills and prepare for future contests. The videos were created by two nationally-recognized public speakers—Rhett Laubach and Kelly Barnes—who are well-versed in the type of speeches needed to excel in FFA and 4-H contests.

The 12-part video serious covers all facets of a successful speech, including choosing a topic, conducting research, outlining, writing, voice quality, facial expressions, body movements and how to answer questions following a presentation. There’s even a segment on proper speech judging techniques and how to provide constructive criticism.

“While event cancelations have been disheartening, they’ve provided an opportunity for us to redirect resources into projects that are going to stand the test of time and be beneficial to students for years to come,” said Blubaugh.

The videos were created with two purposes in mind. First, they’re designed to be used as a guide for students who have never prepared or given a speech. Some students do not have access to speech advisors who can properly train them for contests. The videos are intended to help students prepare a speech even without outside assistance.

Second, the videos are intended to be a new tool to help students hone existing public speaking skills. The tutorials can be worked through like a checklist with students comparing their current work against that of the public speakers in the videos.

“We’ve seen this need for a long time,” said Blubaugh. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer both underserved students and up-and-coming public speaking champions a tool that will help them work through the many aspects of public speaking.

“This tool is something we intend to maintain and update regularly. It will help build public speaking skills in Oklahoma youth for years to come.”

The AFR Speech Contest is just one of many AFR Youth Program traditions. The organization also hosts a youth leadership summit, statewide scholarships, livestock judging and grading competitions, and many other development opportunities. For more information on the AFR Youth Program, visit the AFR/OFU Cooperative website at www.afrcoop.org.

The MAPS video series will be provided statewide to all 4-H, FFA, and homeschool groups and nationally to National Farmers Union (NFU) and state Farmers Union groups across the country. Individual students will also have access to the tutorials through the AFR/OFU Cooperative. For more information about the MAPS video series, including how individuals can access the recordings, contact AFR/OFU Interim Youth Coordinator Jim Pilkington at (918)830-0017 or jim.pilkington@afrmic.com.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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BRISTOW—FFA and 4-H youth from across Oklahoma demonstrated their knowledge of the commercial cattle industry, Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Oklahoma State Commercial Cattle Grading Contest in Bristow. AFR/OFU Cooperative sponsored the inaugural event, which boasted approximately 400 individual participants in more than 100 teams.

To excel in the contest, participants employed their knowledge of high-quality cattle traits to choose breeding and market animals that would prove profitable in real-life production situations. The contestants ranked animals by structural soundness of replacement heifers, profitability of cull cows, market steer yield potential, and more. Ultimately, contestants were rewarded for their recognition of high-quality cattle—just as a producer would profit from similar selection within their own herd.

“The ability to identify the best animals within the herd or in the auction ring is of utmost importance to a successful cattle operation. Developing this skill early in life ensures contestants’ success as future cattle producers,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “We are proud to sponsor a competition that translates to real-life situations and encourages Oklahoma’s youth to pursue careers in production agriculture.”

The contest offered competition opportunity for individuals in three age brackets—4-H, FFA and adult—and three- or four-person 4-H or FFA teams. Awards were presented to the top five individual or team in each bracket.

The top-placing FFA teams were:

1st Place: Stillwater FFA (Abigail Burton, Lilly Cooper, Brandt Gazaway, Preslee Watley)

2nd Place: Oklahoma Union FFA (Ashlyn Hough, Hannah Long, Charli Moore, Kyla Taylor)

3rd Place: Wyandotte FFA (Jaret Burney, Taylor Fent, Kallie Morisset, Taylor Post)

4th Place: Stillwater FFA (Sarah Hatfield, Austin Hooten, Riley Luginbill, Payton Piparato)

5th Place: Henryetta FFA (James Martin, Austin Palmer, Ethan Palmer)

The top-placing 4-H teams were:

1st Place: Oklahoma Union 4-H (Addison Dick, Bradon Kuehn, Daniel Moody, Bodee West)

2nd Place: Crescent 4-H (Kylee Bell, Ridge Garrett, Leighton McNair)

3rd Place: Hulbert 4-H (Landon Chester, Nathan Rowoan, Calan Teague, Dusty Tedd)

4th Place: Porum 4-H (Freedom Barnes, Waylon Dishman, Cooper Franklin, Isaiah Sallee)

5th Place: Porter 4-H (Addie Criner, Cash Criner, Karlie Guinn, Rylie Rush)

High individuals in the FFA division were:

1st Place: Bridgett Arnhart, Eufaula FFA

2nd Place: Dax Delozier, Adair FFA

3rd Place: Maysen Garrett, Crescent FFA

4th Place: Sarah Belden, Nowata FFA

5th Place: Cooper Kline, North Rock Creek FFA

High individuals in the 4-H division were:

1st Place: Bodee West, Oklahoma Union 4-H

2nd Place: Calan Teague, Hulbert 4-H

3rd Place: Kylee Bell, Crescent 4-H

4th Place: Addison Dick, Oklahoma Union 4-H

5th Place: Isaiah Sallee, Porum 4-H

High individuals in the adult division were:

1st Place: Jason Couch

2nd Place: Christy Snider

3rd Place: Alan Jennings

4th Place: Cody Dawson

5th Place: Devin Delozier

For more information on the Oklahoma State Commercial Cattle Grading Contest or other AFR Youth Program sponsorships, contact AFR/OFU Interim Youth Coordinator Jim Pilkington at 918-830-0017 or jim.pilkington@afrmic.com.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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OKLAHOMA CITY—President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an additional $14 billion in Covid-19 relief for agriculture producers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) Sept. 18, 2020. During the pandemic, U.S. agriculture has lost billions to plummeting or volatile markets, sudden drops in demand, and supply chain weaknesses. CFAP is intended to support agriculture producers as they continue to face market disruptions and associated costs caused by Covid-19.

“Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers have been through the ringer,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “2020 has been a disastrous year, and it’s just the most recent in several years of market volatility that agricultural producers have suffered through.”

“Oklahoma producers, and their counterparts across the country, are continuing to face financial hardship. CFAP 2 will not erase the uncertainty or worry plaguing our farmers and ranchers, but it’s a step in the direction and we’re grateful for the assistance. Hopefully, this will put more producers back on sure footing so that those farming today will still be farming tomorrow.”

The first round of CFAP focused on market losses from January 15 to April 15 of this year; CFAP 2 will target losses from April 16 to August 31. Because of the target dates, winter wheat was overlooked in the first round. All classes of wheat are included in the second round, an inclusion that will no doubt help farmers in Oklahoma and throughout the Wheat Belt.

“Our state’s hardworking wheat growers were overlooked for direct payments earlier this year,” said Blubaugh. “I’m very pleased to see they’re included in this round of CFAP and will receive some relief. It’s good news, just as next year’s crop is going in the ground.”

Some Oklahoma cattle ranchers were also overlooked in the first round of CFAP payments. USDA was heavily criticized for an April 15 demarcation used to determine payments for livestock. Producers received 85 percent of actual price loss from Jan. 1 to April 15, but only 30 percent of expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters.

Oklahoma cattle producers were hit hard by this dividing date. As live cattle prices plummeted in March and early April, ranchers scrambled to find ways to keep the stock they had intended to market during that time. Ranchers who managed to hold onto their animals felt punished by the much lower direct payment amount.

In an effort to correct the disparity between pre- and post-April 15 payments, the CFAP 2 payment rate for beef cattle is $55 per head. Payments are based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a single date between April 16 and Aug. 31.

“Following a disappointing first round of payments for most cattle producers, CFAP 2 payments still fall short of much needed relief,” said Blubaugh. “We would much rather get our paycheck through the marketplace, but 2020 simply did not allow for that. We’re grateful for the second round of the program. But, I fear without further assistance, we may still lose some Oklahoma ranchers.”

The CFAP 2 payment limit is $250,000 total per individual or entity for all commodities combined. Corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits. Producers can apply for CFAP 2 through their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office Sept. 21 through Dec. 11, 2020.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

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