The 2023 AFR Convention is scheduled for Feb. 17-19 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman– Hotel & Conference Center, 2501 Conference
Dr., Norman, Okla. The convention is held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Farmers & Ranchers Mutual Insurance
Company and the Oklahoma State Union of the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Inc. The cooperative officer and board of director seats for both corporations up for election for the 118th AFR Annual Convention were: Cooperative Officer Secretary, District 1 Northwest
Independent Director, District 3 Northeast Agent Director and District 4 Southeast Independent Director. The Secretary incumbent was unopposed and therefore re-elected. This position is held by Paul Jackson, Ringling. Filing for Northwest Independent Director District 1 are Larry DeWitt, Cherokee; Roger Edenborough, Goodwell; and Jordan Shearer, Laverne. Filing for Northeast Agent Director District 3 are William Lane, Jay, and John Ogden, Oktaha. Filing for Southeast Independent Director 4 are Loyd Steward, Shawnee, and Mike Goodwin, Roberta. County and local policy resolutions received by the office of State Secretary Paul Jackson are now being considered by the 2023 AFR Cooperative Policy Committee. The Committee will complete proposals onsite on Friday morning of the convention. This year bylaw proposals will be considered in the mutual business session only. A description of those proposed changes can be found on page 18 . A full description of each bylaw to be considered can be found on the AFR Convention webpage at www.afrmic.com/convention.Both dues-alone and policyholder members are eligible to attend the convention as delegates, but dues-alone members will only be allowed to vote on matters of the cooperative; policyholders are eligible to vote on both cooperative and insurance matters. Different-colored badges will distinguish between the two categories. Delegates to the National Farmers Union (NFU)
Convention in San Francisco, Calif., March 5-7, 2023, will be elected at the state convention on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 18. NFU delegate candidates must provide a biographical paragraph reflecting AFR activities to be given to the state delegates during the NFU delegate
election. Delegate cards and biographical information must be received by the AFR Cooperative State Secretary no later than noon, Saturday, Feb. 18. NFU bylaws changes require delegates to be currently or formerly “actively engaged in farming” definition as defined by USDA and further described by NFU. A signed representation of eligibility is required. The names of deceased AFR policyholders/OFU members who have passed away since
our last convention will be remembered in the printed Memorial Roll and during a special video presentation at the Sunday morning worship and memorial service Feb. 19.

OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) will host its 118th annual state convention at the Embassy Suites & Conference Center – Norman Feb. 17-19. This year’s convention theme is “Honor Tradition, Embrace Change.”

This year’s three-day event features speakers like National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne, National Farmers Union Counsel Dave Velde, Oklahoma USDA-FSA State Executive Director Steve Kouplen, and Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Oklahoma City Branch Associate Economist and Manager of Regional Affairs Megan Williams. Convention attendees will learn about timely legislative issues, such as inflation in agriculture, industry economic trends and much more.

Convention attendees will also hear from state winners of the annual AFR Speech Contest and will honor those cooperative members who have passed in the last calendar year. In addition to special guests, the convention features the annual business meeting of Oklahoma Farmers Union and AFR Mutual Insurance Company, as well as discussion and adoption of AFR/OFU legislative policy.

“Our annual state convention is a great time of year,” said AFR Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “It is a time to fellowship with other AFR members and direct the future of our organization.”

AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.

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AFR Cooperative Local #928 and Local #305 each donated a tower garden as part of the AFR Cooperative Tower Garden Grant Program. The program is a cost match program for the installation of aeroponic tower garden units in public school classrooms.

The AFR locals donated the towers to Positive Tomorrow and Pivot Inc., both located in Oklahoma City. Positive Tomorrows is a nonprofit dedicated to clearing a path to success for children facing the challenges of homelessness. Pivot Inc. is a nonprofit that provides a secure and safe place to live for those in need, the underprivileged, and those struggling with mental illness.

AFR Cooperative Tower Garden Grant Program is a way AFR county and local organizations to bring agriculture into classrooms. Tower gardens encourage agricultural education by using an advanced form of hydroponics and aeroponics. The tower gardens do not require soil, weeding or digging. They also remove most of the physical labor of traditional gardening. Instead of getting nutrients from the sun and soil, plants in a tower garden use a light system and nutrient rich water. Students interact with agriculture by planting and caring for tower garden plants as they grow.

AFR Local #928 and AFR Local #305 are the most recent AFR organizations to participate in the program.  AFR local #928 is connected to Neher Insurance Agency in Oklahoma City.  AFR Local #305 is connected to Thompson’s Insurance Agency in Chandler.

AFR Cooperative now has an even larger presence at the Oklahoma Capitol. On Nov. 18, 2022, the Oklahoma State Capitol Art Collection unveiled “Cottonwood Band,” a painted depiction of the first band to play at the then new state capitol building in 1917. As with many other historic moments in Oklahoma history, Oklahoma Farmers Union was key to this appearance—all the players were OFU members. They were in Oklahoma City for nothing less than the OFU State Convention.

About the Artwork

Throughout more than a century of service, the Oklahoma Capitol has hosted countless events and musical performances. According to the 1917 article, published in The Oklahoma Times, the first music to have filled the corridors and rotundas of the newly completed Capitol came from The Cottonwood Band of the Farmer’s Union, a brass band that hailed from the western Oklahoma town of Weatherford. Harold Wright, a descendant of the band members, served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2017-2021. In commissioning the painting that depicts the day The Cottonwood Band performed at the Capitol, Representative Wright provided artist Robert Marsee with old family photographs to use as reference material. Primarily comprised of members of the Wright and Witzel families, the band was headed by Harry Wright (pictured in the back row, far left, with the trumpet) who lead rehearsals for the band every Monday in the Cottonwood rural schoolhouse. Family patriarch P.W. Wright, Chet Wright and G.G. Witzel—Harry Wright’s father-in-law are depicted in the painting among various in-laws.

About the Artist

Robert “Bobby” Marsee is an award-winning painter and artist from Weatherford, Oklahoma, who specializes in creating portraits in oil. Marsee studied under renowned artists Hollis Howard and Angus “Kent” Lamar at the University if Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He has been a featured artist at festivals and events throughout the state and has created works for prominent clients such as former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Bon Jovi. Maree operates a fine art and framing shop out of his studio in Weatherford where he also teaches several weekly oil painting classes.

The tale of the Cottonwood Band is a fascinating walk through OFU history. Attend this year’s AFR State Convention to learn more about the painting and the band that played for a brand new building 106 years ago.

IDABEL—The American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) Foundation has donated $5,000 to Denison Elementary School to cover the cost of the school’s insurance deductible. Denison Elementary took a direct hit during the recent Idabel tornado. The school lost the roof off its main building and sustained significant water damage.

Representatives of the AFR Foundation presented a check for the donation to Denison School Superintendent Stacey Ebert Nov. 15.

Also in attendance were AFR Cooperative Vice President and AFR Foundation Board Member Ryan Plemmons, Broken Bow, AFR Cooperative and AFR Foundation Board Member Mike Goodwin, Roberta, and AFR Insurance Agent Jim Campbell, Idabel.

“A loss like this can be very disruptive to students and teachers alike,” said Goodwin. “We’re proud the AFR Foundation could play a small part in helping Denison Elementary rebuild and get back to providing its students with a great education.”

AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.

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STILLWATER—American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) wrapped up its annual fall speech contest series Saturday Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater.

This marks the 77th year of the statewide contest. The event has gone through many changes over the years but has always maintained its central agricultural theme. Varying by grade level, this year’s speech categories are AFR/OFU, Agricultural Policy, Agribusiness, Natural Resources, and Agri-Science.

Nearly 500 students will compete in AFR district speech contests this fall, resulting in more than 160 finalists advancing to the state contest. At the state level, the top three competitors in each category receive cash awards.

AFR/OFU

Novice: 1st Kyan Herrman, Agra; 2nd Claire Stafford, Altus; 3rd Brigham Bunt, Ringwood

Junior: 1st Fletcher Inman, Mulhall-Orlando; 2nd Jalyn Lundry, Haworth; 3rd Kourtney Campbell, Jet

Intermediate: 1st Hadley Ott, Lomega; 2nd Kaden James, Wellston; 3rd Zane Sander, Silo

Senior: 1st Cooper Kline, North Rock Creek; 2nd Claycey Rowland, Silo; 3rd Kolton Hunt, Wellston

Agriscience

Junior: 1st Cason Ebert, Haworth, 2nd Lincoln Stafford, Altus; 3rd Jade McPeak, Checotah

Intermediate: 1st Bonham Eslick, Elgin; 2nd: Darla Fesmire, Oklahoma Union; 3rd Rylee Tobin, Guthrie

Senior: 1st Maci Flowers, Tecumseh; 2nd Annabella Aitken, Guthrie; 3rd Gianna Nichols, Edmond

Agribusiness

Intermediate: 1st Taryn McCaa, Elmore City-Pernell; 2nd Jacob Mannen, Fletcher; 3rd Josie Murray, Wellston

Senior: 1st William Meinert, Granite; 2nd Trey Myers, Perkins-Tryon; 3rd Pedro Valles, Dover

Natural Resources

Intermediate: 1st Lillie Reed, Turner; 2nd Coy Davidson, Elgin; 3rd Meredith Pye, Mtn. View Gotebo

Senior: 1st Zell Freeman, Hobart; 2nd Kayla Poling, Silo; 3rd Alec Anderson, Ringwood

Ag Policy

Intermediate: 1st Abby Brooks, Navajo; 2nd Isabella Whitlock, Silo; 3rd Heath Lacebach, Mooreland

Senior: 1st Chloe Kelsey, Tecumseh; 2nd Abi Shofler, Ketchum; 3rd Alexa Schaufele, Hobart

“Public speaking is one of the most valuable skills young people can gain for their future careers,” said AFR Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “We are honored to host the 77th Annual AFR Speech Contest, which has a long-standing tradition of fostering professionalism and confidence in Oklahoma’s youth.”

The AFR Annual 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 this contest or other AFR Youth Program projects, contact AFR Youth Development Coordinator Tailor Atkinson at (405)218-5566 or tailor.atkinson@afrmic.com.

AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.

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WEATHERFORD—In a historic announcement, three of Oklahoma’s largest agriculture organizations—American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR), Oklahoma Farm Bureau Federation (OKFB), and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA)—have collectively endorsed Sen. Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher) for Oklahoma Senate District 26. The announcement was made Aug. 1, 2022, at Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford, Okla.
The collective endorsement is a rare move for the organizations. The political action committees for AFR, OKFB and OCA each endorse candidates sparingly. When endorsements are made, they are typically individual to each organization.
All three agriculture organizations emphasized Jech’s devotion to District 26 and rural Oklahoma at large in their endorsements.
“Darcy has proven himself a true champion for not only agriculture, but also our rural schools, our rural businesses, and our rural communities,” said AFR Cooperative President and AFR PAC Committee Chairman Scott Blubaugh. “He’s a man of integrity and honesty.
“Most importantly, Darcy listens. He hears both sides of an issue before making a decision. This is incredibly important to truly represent a district. Darcy’s constituents can be assured that he is listening and that the people of District 26 are heard.”
OCA Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey echoed AFR’s praise for Jech’s willingness to hear all sides of an issue.
“Darcy Jech is the definition of a statesman,” said Kelsey. “He’s level-headed; he has integrity; he’s calm. He listens to both sides on issues, and he’s a better senator because of that.
“Darcy does good work, solid work that is beneficial. We need him in this role. He doesn’t do things for press releases or just for show. If his name’s on it, it’s sound. We need him at the Oklahoma Senate.”
Former Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate and Chairman of the OKFB PAC Mike Schultz agreed with OCA’s characterization of Jech.
“Darcy’s a great stateman and a great member of the Oklahoma Senate,” said Schultz. “I was fortunate enough to get to serve with him for four years. I saw him at work. Darcy does a tremendous job.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to endorse Darcy Jech. He really needs to go back to represent western Oklahoma and rural Oklahoma in the Oklahoma Senate.”
Jech was first elected to serve Oklahoma Senate District 26 in November 2014 and he has served as the Senate Rural Caucus for six years. He currently represents all of Beckham, Blaine, Caddo and Roger Mills counties and portions of Custer and Kingfisher counties.
District 26 was redrawn ahead of the 2022 election. The redrawn district up for election this year now includes all of Blaine, Caddo and Custer counties and portions of Canadian and Kingfisher counties.
Jech’s endorsement by the agriculture organizations was made ahead of the 2022 Oklahoma Runoff Primary Election set for Aug. 23, 2022. Jech faces a runoff election against Brady Butler of Weatherford.
AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.
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OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) Cooperative has announced its 2022-2023 AFR Youth Advisory Council. This year’s council members were chosen by popular vote during the organization’s 2022 Senior Leadership Summit, which was held July 27-30.
Members of the 2022-2023 AFR Youth Advisory Council are Kolton Hunt, Wellston; Callen Cox, Crescent; Kelby Ott, Lomega; Morley Griffith, Dale; and Halee Pullen, Stratford.
The AFR Youth Advisory Council is an opportunity for high school seniors who are active in the AFR Youth Program to further their leadership and program management skills. Council members assist in planning many AFR Youth Program events, facilitate general AFR events and act as mentors for younger Oklahoma youth. Council members also participate in agriculture-based service projects throughout the year.
“The AFR Cooperative is proud to invest in the future of Oklahoma through our state’s youth,” said AFR President Scott Blubaugh. “The AFR Youth Council is a unique opportunity to recognize and encourage some of our exceptional program participants.”
To become an AFR Youth Advisory Council member, the student or an immediate family member must be an AFR Insurance policyholder and have attended a Senior Leadership Summit prior to the year applying.
The AFR Youth Advisory Council is just one of many AFR Youth Program traditions. The organization also hosts a youth leadership summit, statewide scholarships, speech contests, livestock judging and grading competitions, and many other development opportunities. For more information, visit the AFR Cooperative website at www.afrcoop.org.
For more information about the 2022-2023 Youth Advisory Council, contact AFR Youth Coordinator Tailor Atkinson at 405-218-5566.
AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.
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OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) has received a 2021 Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Regents Business Partnership Excellence Award. The award is designed to highlight successful partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses. AFR was nominated by Connors State College (CSC) in recognition of their longstanding partnership.
AFR’s relationship with Connors State College is longstanding. CSC’s namesake, John P. Connor, served as the first vice president of Oklahoma Farmers Union, now known as AFR. In the more than 110 years since CSC’s founding, AFR has provided the institution with resources that have contributed to valuable and positive experiences for CSC students. AFR has sponsored livestock contests, provided funding for student programs and filled volunteer positions within CSC.
“We are both humbled and honored by this recognition,” said AFR Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Throughout our history, AFR Cooperative has encouraged the youth of Oklahoma to pursue higher education. Connors State is a place where students can gather not only knowledge, but also life experiences that will carry them into successful futures. Connors graduates achieve great things, improve and build rural communities and shape the future of our state. We are proud to play a part in their success.”
In early 2021, AFR gifted $10,000 to the CSC Development Foundation. The endowment will fund a tuition scholarship award for the CSC Top Agricultural Student each year. The scholarship is named in honor of the first president of the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture and CSC’s namesake, J.P. Connors.
“AFR has been a longtime supporter of our students at Connors,” said CSC President Ron Ramming about the scholarship endowment. “We are proud of our students and grateful AFR saw our students the same way we do—bright and full of potential to make a difference in the world.”
For more information about RBPEA and this year’s partnerships, visit www.okhighered.org/RBPEA. For more information about AFR Cooperative, visit www.afrcoop.org.
AFR Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR 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 principles.
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LOYAL, OKLA.—It seems you can’t pick up a farm publication or listen to the agriculture news without reading or hearing something about soil health and regenerative agriculture. More and more, farmers and ranchers are undertaking practices such as improved pasture management, no-till crop production and planting cover crops in an effort to improve the health of their soil, better prepare for droughts and floods and help reduce input costs. They are experimenting with different plant species mixtures in their covers, working in some cases to incorporate more livestock to graze cover crops and looking at new marketing opportunities like carbon credits. But with all this energy and focus, one thing often gets over looked by even many of the long-term early adopters of these soil health practices—they never think about the importance of reporting any of their cover crop acres to the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA).
That needs to change.
If you follow the ag news, you probably know by now that earlier this summer USDA announced a new crop insurance premium assistance program for farmers who planted fall cover crops and were in the process of insuring their spring planted program crops (cash crops), called the Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP). This program was an effort to help those producers who undertook the sustained, long-term investment required to plant cover crops during the challenging economic times created by the COVID-19 pandemic with a one-time crop insurance premium support of $5 per acre. The trick was that those cover crop acres that qualified for this program were those that producers reported to FSA using the Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) at the local USDA service center.
Many summer crop producers who wanted to take advantage of this initiative were put in a bind trying to meet an accelerated deadline of turning in previously unreported cover crop acres to FSA. While the deadline for the initial rollout of this program has passed, there has been some discussion on extending it this fall for crops such as winter wheat. Whether or not this happens, the only way a farmer who plants cover crops can take advantage of this or any other potential new program to reward soil health practices is to make sure they have all their information turned in to FSA. That’s why it is so important that, if you do use soil health practices on your land, you make sure to take the additional step of enrolling your cover crop acres using form FSA-578. You need to contact your local USDA service center to make an appointment as soon as you get your covers planted this summer. You can find a list of local and state FSA offices here: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=us&agency=fsa
Please keep in mind, the deadline for the initial rollout of the Pandemic Cover Crop Program has already passed. That horse is out of the barn. And if you grow winter wheat, rye or other fall planted crops that you follow with summer covers, you weren’t eligible for this first roll out. That said, I would STRONGLY encourage producers who are planning to plant summer covers to report their cover crop acreage to FSA once these covers are in the ground. If this program continues into the fall to cover winter cash crop acres, producers will want to be sure that all of their reporting requirements are covered.
The talk of rewarding and incentivizing soil health and regenerative agriculture practices continues to float around USDA headquarters and the halls of Congress. The last thing you want to do is get caught flat-footed by not having your information turned in to USDA.

–Clay Pope, Loyal, Okla.
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