Each fall, AFR/OFU Cooperative holds its Annual AFR Speech Contest at five district locations across the state, in the month of November.

All students in grades 4th – 12th are eligible to compete in their respective categories to enhance their public speaking skills. The contests are open to AFR members and non-members.

“Public speaking is one of the most valuable skills youth can gain for their future professional careers,” Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative President, said. “We are honored to host the 75th Annual AFR Speech Contests, which have a long-standing tradition of fostering Oklahoma youth’s expertise in public speaking.”

The top three participants placing in their respective speaking category and age division at each district contest will receive an award. The first and second place winners in each category will advance to the State Speech Contest, which will be held on Saturday, December 7, at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

This year, changes have been made in regard to time requirements and speaking categories. The time requirements for the Intermediate and Senior Divisions have been changed to correlate with the Oklahoma FFA public speaking guideline (6-8 minutes). Novice and Junior Divisions time requirements will remain the same as previous years.

The Science and Natural Resources speaking category has been separated into two separate categories. Junior Division speakers can speak in either the AFR/OFU or the Science category only. Listed below are the contest dates and locations for the 2019 AFR Speech Contests.

Central – Thursday, November 7th at Tecumseh High School, Tecumseh

Northeast – Tuesday, November 12th at Lone Star School, Sapulpa

Southeast – Thursday, November 14th at Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton

Southwest – Monday, November 18th at Cache High School, Cache

Northwest – Thursday, November 21st at Autry Tech Center, Enid

All speakers must pre-register at least one week in advance of their district contest. For more information about the 2019 AFR Speech Contests, please visit our website www.afrcoop.org or contact Vanessa Wiebe at Vanessa.wiebe@afrmic.com or 405-218-5561.

Thirteen farmers and ranchers from across the country took part in educational programs Sept. 9-11 in Washington, D.C., during the annual National Farmers Union (NFU) Fly-In. These programs promote leadership skills and technical training for the next generation of young agricultural professionals.

Kyle Minyard, AFR/OFU Cooperative member, and resident of Lebanon, Okla., was chosen to serve in the 2019-2020 class of NFU Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI).

BFI was established in 2011 in response to the changing demographic challenges facing the agricultural industry. The rising age of farmers and ranchers, and the scarcity of young and beginning farmers coming back to farm, were hurdles NFU wanted to try to amend with the implementation of the BFI program.

“This is a very good opportunity for me to be exposed to a varied of diverse organizations and farm operations,” Minyard said. “And to also meet with high-level policymakers that can help me make decisions on the direction we need to take with our farm operation.”

Through sessions hosted in Washington, D.C., California and Georgia, the program’s hands-on trainings address the many challenges beginning farmers and ranchers may face in their careers, as well as equip each leader with up-to-date technical and professional skills.

NFU’s expectations for each institute graduate is to become an inspiration to similar young entrepreneurs in their surrounding areas, and potentially become a candidate for their local or county board.

“This is an elite program, and we are excited Kyle was selected to serve in this year’s class,” Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative President, said. “This program will help Kyle be a strong attribute for our organization, and also give him useful skills and tools to further his farming operation.”

Thirty-four FFA and Professional Agricultural Students (PAS) met in Washington, D.C. to have an interactive discussion about agricultural policy, and ways each young individual can be an entrepreneur in the agricultural industry.

Peyton Burns, from Kingfisher, Okla., and a former AFR Youth Advisory Council member, represented Oklahoma at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Raising Voices Summit. The Summit was held in association with NFU Fly-In, Sept. 9-11, an event farmers and ranchers meet with administration officials and members of Congress to discuss legislative matters affecting the country.

The Summit kicked off with a welcome from NFU President, Roger Johnson, who discussed the logistics of NFU Fly-In, and gave a background of NFU’s rich history.

Students then had the opportunity to listen to keynote speaker, Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Wheat Growers Association, about his experience in youth agricultural programs like 4-H and FFA, and how these programs prepared him for the position he is in today.

Following Goule’s speech, students participated in a policy panel, which focused on agricultural legislative issues. The panel consisted of Riley Pagett, representative for USDA; Matt Perdue, representative for NFU; Mike Stranz, representative for the House Agriculture Committee; and Mary Nowak, representative for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

To wrap up the event, students were rallied by NFU Sr. Vice President, Rob Larew, who spoke about the impact each student can make in the following days at NFU Fly-In.

“We are excited Peyton was able to join us in Washington for NFU Fly-In and this renowned leadership event,” Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative President, said. “Events like the Raising Voices Summit are great experiences for our youth to understand current legislative matters affecting our members and the country.”

Livestock shows are a staple of Oklahoma. The bond between animals and students, especially children, is an illuminating experience. Grand champion smiles were especially radiating from the Chisholm Trail Expo Center in Enid, Okla. during the second annual Gold Star Classic-AFR Special Needs Livestock Show.

On Sept. 12, twenty-five special needs students from the surrounding area, and 75 FFA and 4-H volunteers from across Oklahoma, came together for friendship, purple banners and Gold Star memories. Each Gold Star participant was paired with two youth volunteers who helped guide the students throughout the day.

“It filled me with great pride,” Sue Hileman, Burns Flat-Dill City School, Special Olympics coach, said. “Just to see all the caring that is out there, and those students with special needs being spotlighted is pretty awesome.”

The Gold Star Classic allows Oklahoma students with special needs the opportunity to interact with livestock animals in a petting farm environment before the livestock show. This year’s Petting Farm featured a horse, a calf, a baby goat, a baby sheep, and a pig.

For the livestock show portion, Gold Star participants exhibited a lamb or goat, along with their show buddies, in the show ring. This year’s Gold Star Classic judge, Marty Jones, interacted with each Gold Star participant and asked candid questions to help the audience learn more about each participant’s unique personality. Each Gold Star participant was awarded a gold medallion, a banner and a stuffed animal to remember this special day, as well as photos expressing their golden smiles.

“This is truly one of the best youth events in my opinion,” Vanessa Wiebe, AFR/OFU Cooperative Youth Coordinator, said. “The radiant smiles saw throughout the day from the Gold Star participants and our youth volunteers is just one reason why this event is such a moving experience.”

Wiebe said this event allows Oklahoma youth to showcase their passion for livestock and helps grow the act of service and leadership.

After a year of down market fluctuations and extreme weather events, Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative President, led a team of delegates to Washington, D.C. on a three-day lobbying mission to meet with administration officials and members of Congress.

The Oklahomans participated in the annual National Farmers Union (NFU) Fly-In, Sept 9-11, which focused on strengthening the farm safety net, current trade wars and addressing market consolidations.

Recently, a combination of low commodity prices and trade wars have illustrated the making of another 1980 farm crisis. A combination, Blubaugh said, his team of delegates advocated strongly for additional markets and Market Facilitation Program payments to aid farmers and ranchers alike.

“It appears from Capitol Hill, farmers and ranchers are in for a long-haul on resolving trade issues with China,” Blubaugh said. “However, positive movement is happening with the Japan trade, and the new U.S. Mexico, Canada trade agreement will need some adjustments if the House is to move the measure forward.”

With a mountain of grain destroying commodity prices, Blubaugh, and the Oklahomans, promoted a short-term conservation retirement plan which could help with supply but also rebuild soil health by using a combination of cover crops with limited livestock rotational grazing.

Apart from the ongoing trade war discussion, the team discussed the beef processing market consolidation, which has posed great concern and risk to cattle prices.

“The consolidation of the meatpacking industry has drastically changed the retail food dollar share,” Blubaugh said. “We made sure each representative understood how these low prices have affected our hardworking cattlemen and women, and how unfair the farmers’ share is compared to what everyone else in the food industry is receiving.”

Blubaugh called attention to the recent price margins between meatpackers and ranchers, and complimented Agriculture Secretary Purdue for his investigation activities surrounding the recent Tyson plant fire in Kansas.

“There is something obviously wrong with the post-fire events,” Blubaugh said. “Several members of Congress we met with acknowledged the huge price disparity as well, which clearly does not follow the usual supply and demand model.”

The team of delegates also advocated for additional conservation funding. These efforts come after the devastating effects of the recent flooding experienced across Oklahoma where watersheds had great damage, and prevention methods are needed for future flood damage.

Blubaugh said eastern and north-central Oklahoma has a long road ahead for recovery from the recent floods, but he feels confident members of Congress understood the value of watersheds and the need to invest in protecting their longevity.

Apart from trade wars, market consolidation and conservation efforts, the Oklahoma group met with Oklahoma native, Dr. Burke Healey, an Associate Deputy Administrator of Veterinary Services for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to discuss the new animal identification and disease traceability laws, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

A few Oklahoma agricultural producers that attended were also insurance agents who pressed for continued state regulation and resisting federal regulation for insurance companies. The group additionally advocated for the reauthorization of legislation to deal with federal government cost-sharing for federal flood insurance programs.

AFRMIC is a member of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) and presented the Public Policy Award to U.S. Senator, James Inhofe for his continued support to mutual insurance companies like AFRMIC.

“Our time in Washington was very monumental,” Blubaugh said. “We are continually working for our members to have a voice in Washington on issues affecting their daily lives.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued an investigation into the possible cattle and beef market collusion following the recent Tyson Foods slaughterhouse fire in Holcomb, Kansas.

Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative President, said he applauds Secretary Perdue for stepping up and taking immediate action on behalf of both ranchers and consumers.

“Thank you Secretary Perdue for your quick response to the possible unfair market manipulations,” Blubaugh said.

Blubaugh said he is pleased the Secretary of Agriculture is using his authority within the Packers and Stockyards Act.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson ordered an investigation into the entire food system after public outcry from American farmers and the suspicion of market manipulation from the five largest meatpackers during that time. As a result, the investigation confirmed the five packers were indeed manipulating the market and defrauding consumers and farmers, and the P&S Act was made into a law in 1921.

Today, 102 years after President Wilson called for the investigation, Blubaugh said four companies now control 84 percent of the beef market, making an unfair fight for cattle producers and consumers.

Blubaugh said he calls on President Trump to order a similar investigation into America’s food system and protect the American consumer from artificial high prices and protect farmers and ranchers from unfair low market prices.

“Ultimately, we need President Trump to be our hero and protect the consumers, farmers and ranchers in the Heartland of America,” Blubaugh said.

In addition to the P&S Act, AFR/OFU Cooperative supports measures such as the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act, which limits agribusiness mergers, including meat packers, from further establishing an unfair marketplace.

After the Tyson fire, the combination of increased beef prices and lower live cattle prices improved profit margins for beef packers above $300 per head of cattle slaughtered, according to a press release by Drovers.

“These price margins are very discouraging for hardworking cattle ranchers,” Blubaugh said. “There are tough times right now in all of agriculture with the worldwide trade wars, and then to add perceived market collusion in the mix, it is more than ranchers can financially bare.”

Blubaugh said the AFR/OFU Cooperative will continue to fight for Oklahoma cattlemen and women against unfair markets.

The AFR Leadership Summit allows students the opportunity to focus on their leadership and personal development skills through team building exercises and personal reflection. Each year, five students are chosen to serve on the Youth Advisory Council to help lead and facilitate youth programs for the upcoming year.

This year’s AFR Leadership Summit ended with the selection of the new 2019-2020 Youth Advisory Council. The following five students were chosen Friday, July 26 at the Heartland Conference Center in Oklahoma City: Cooper Shebester, Alex, OK; Jentry Squires, Kingfisher, OK; Tate Ott, Lomega, OK; Reagan Detrick, Ringwood, OK; and Keegan Carrera, Shawnee, OK.

“This is a great opportunity for five vigorous students to develop and enrich their leadership skills and apply those skills at various youth activities throughout the following year,” said Vanessa Wiebe, AFR/OFU Youth Coordinator. “These students are the face of our youth program and the future of our organization.”

The Council consists of high school juniors and seniors representing AFR youth from across the state. Council members participate in service projects throughout the year and assist in planning many AFR Youth Program activities. Each Council member will attend multiple events and will act as mentors for younger Oklahoma youth.

“This is a highly competitive and well-renowned program,” Wiebe said. “These students invest a lot of time into our organization and we want them to have the best possible experience.

To become a Youth Advisory Council member, a student or immediate family member must be an AFR Insurance policyholder and have attended a Senior Leadership Summit prior to the year applying. Students complete an application at Summit and candidates are required to interview and present a three minute speech during Summit.

To learn more about the Youth Advisory Council visit afrcoop.org/youth-development or follow the Councils’ journey on the AFR Youth Program Facebook page.

The 2019 AFR Agricultural Achievement Contest began with 80 contestants competing for $5,000 in scholarship money. The top 10 were announced Thursday, March 21st prior to the Oklahoma Youth Expo Grand Drive.

The results include: 1st: Jentry Squires, Kingfisher FFA; 2nd: Tanner Stevens, Yukon FFA; 3rd: Chace McCoy, Oklahoma County 4-H; 4th: Wyatt Brown, Tecumseh FFA; 5th: Keegan Carrera, Shawnee FFA; 6th: Whitney Glazier, Lomega FFA; 7th: Morgan Nipp, Wilson FFA; 8th: Allison Galindo, Alva FFA; 9th: Katy Leard, Caney Valley FFA; 10th: Sydney Bean, Newcastle FFA.

The contest was open to 11th and 12th grade 4-H and FFA members exhibiting an animal at OYE. Contestants completed a 100 question multiple choice test and then were required to show their animal in an AFR showmanship contest.

Our showmanship judge was Chris Hall who currently serves as the head livestock judging coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton, Okla.

Test and showmanship scores were combined to determine the top 10 contestants. The top 10 individuals then competed in the final round of the contest consisting of a personal interview with a panel of agricultural industry leaders as judges.

“This is a highly competitive contest,” said Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU President. “The opportunity to be recognized and earn scholarships in this contest is an outstanding accomplishment for these students. We are proud to invest in Oklahoma’s youth.”

-30-

The Oklahoma Farmers Union Board of Directors announced today they will be sending donations to Nebraska farmers and ranchers hit hard by the recent floods and blizzards.

“We know what it is like to suffer from natural disasters,” said Scott Blubaugh, OFU Foundation president.  “Farmers and others have helped us recover from devastating wildfires in recent years and now it’s our turn to help those in need.”

Damage to grain storage bins, livestock killed by rising waters and destroyed barns and residences account for much of the damage as officials estimate losses from the storms will top $1 billion.

“We’re concerned now with taking care of the surviving livestock,” Blubaugh said.  “They are in desperate need of hay and other types of livestock feed.”

“The losses will continue to mount as farmers will be kept out of the fields for many weeks, leading to delayed spring planting,” Blubaugh said.

The Oklahoma farm leader said this is in addition to roads, bridges and the entire rural infrastructure that has been destroyed.

“It’s hard to imagine the total damage and the suffering our Nebraska colleagues are enduring,” Blubaugh said.

Donations can be sent to the Farmers Union Foundation, Inc., C/O Paul Jackson, Attn: Nebraska Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 24000, Oklahoma City, OK 73124

-30-

The President of Oklahoma’s oldest general farm organization wants federal budget writers to reconsider proposals to cut federal spending on agriculture programs.

“At a time of historic low farm income, we must look for ways to support farmers and ranchers, rather than take away valuable programs,” said Scott Blubaugh, AFR president.

The Tonkawa, Okla., farmer said President Trump’s proposed budget calling for reducing USDA spending will create hardships for agriculture producers.

“Low commodity prices combined with export market restrictions have left producers with uncertainty about their futures,” Blubaugh said. “Many farmers, especially younger producers, are struggling to find the resources to continue growing our food and fiber.”

The 2018 farm bill is welcomed but the financial aid will not arrive until next year.

“That will be too late for many farmers,” Blubaugh said. “The farm bill was a much desired tool, passed in a bipartisan effort to help agriculture.  They should be working to build on that success instead of looking for ways to cut farm programs.”

The Oklahoma farmer noted  the farm bill is budget-neutral, projected to cost far less over 10 years than the 2014 farm bill, while improving conservation programs, risk management tools and food security.

“We don’t want to go backwards and reduce programs that we vitally need to continue producing a safe, affordable and abundant food supply,” Blubaugh said.

-30-