PHOENIX—It’s no secret that the last few years have been a roller coaster ride for cattle ranchers. The Coronavirus pandemic and other disruptive events have wreaked havoc on live cattle markets and left ranchers feeling out of control of their own industry, even as consumers clamor for more American beef.

When the gap between live cattle prices and retail beef prices widened to historic levels in 2019, ranchers across the U.S. cried foul. When it happened again in spring of 2020, they piled even more pressure on lawmakers and industry organizations to address meatpacker concentration issues and what appears to many to be a broken market system.

Legislation has been proposed and industry organizations have come up with various solutions, but it has been difficult for all groups to align behind a unified plan. In an effort to find common ground, member leaders of American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, and the United States Cattlemen’s Association met May 10 in Phoenix, Ariz. The organizations convened at the request of Livestock Marketing Association.

The Phoenix meeting was a historic event and likely the first of its kind. In an effort to hear directly from ranchers on the front lines of the issue, the meeting was organized in secret and attendance was limited. Each organization sent four representatives, all of which were members or elected officials. No legislative staff or organization employees were allowed to attend.

American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh was chosen to attend the Phoenix meeting as a representative of National Farmers Union (NFU). He was the only Oklahoman included in the event.

“I’m honored to have been included in such a discussion and to be part of the reforms that will ensure independent cattle producers and cattle feeders have a place in their own industry,” said Blubaugh.

Of the meeting itself, Blubaugh was afraid it would be unwelcoming or even hostile, but he was surprised by the atmosphere in the room.

“Lack of competition in the beef industry has led to an outcry over cattle market issues that is now at a fever pitch,” said Blubaugh. “Tensions have been running high lately and I didn’t know what to expect. But, I was pleased by how open we all were. We had a frank, respectful discussion and I was surprised by how much we were able to accomplish.

“The meeting brought all sides of the cattle business together to work toward solutions and that’s what we did. It was clear to me that everyone there has a heart for this industry and the knowledge to back it up. We all know what’s on the line.”

According to a joint press statement released May 17, the unprecedented meeting in Phoenix brought together the diverse set of industry organizations to “discuss challenges involved in the marketing of finished cattle with the ultimate goal of bringing about a more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.” The press statement also claims that “attending organization representatives were pleased to have reached consensus on many issues and are committed to the ultimate goal of achieving a fair and transparent finished cattle marketing system.”

Blubaugh agrees that the groups did find a lot of common ground and even reached consensus on a few points.

“Last week’s historic cattle industry meeting happened because of the dire situation many ranchers have found themselves in,” said Blubaugh. “Our nation’s ranchers have become increasingly more desperate for a fair and transparent marketplace and I believe everyone in the room understood that.”

“Six major players, with differences of opinions and different policies, came together and formally recognized that our producers are in trouble and, in large part, the market system is to blame. Despite our differences, we identified problems and solutions we agree on and have agreed to move forward with what we can. On those items of consensus, we’ll all be marching in the same direction. That’s huge.”

Key takeaways from the joint press statement include topics of discussion, including but not limited to:

  • Packer concentration,
  • Price transparency and discovery,
  • Packer oversight,
  • Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement,
  • Level of captive supply, and
  • Packer capacity.

 

According to the statement, Phoenix meeting attendees agreed to take the following action items to their respective organizations for consideration:

  • Expedite the renewal of USDA’s Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR), including formula base prices subject to the same reporting requirements as negotiated cash and the creation of a contract library.
  • Demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) issue a public investigation status report and as warranted, conduct joint DOJ and USDA oversight of packer activity moving forward.
  • Encourage investment in, and development of, new independent, local, and regional packers.

For the complete joint statement, visit https://lmaweb.com/press-releases/.

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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PHOENIX—National Farmers Union (NFU) recently joined five other national organizations representing cattle producers to agree to work jointly on urgent issues in the cattle marketplace. The organizations convened at the request of Livestock Marketing Association in Phoenix, Ariz., May 10.

This unprecedented meeting brought together diverse producer organizations to identify issues and discuss potential solutions. According to a joint press statement released May 17, attending organization representatives were pleased to have reached consensus on many issues and are committed to the ultimate goal of achieving a fair and transparent finished cattle marketing system.

Member leaders of NFU, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, R-CALF USA, and the United States Cattlemen’s Association were included in the historic meeting. American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh served as a representative of NFU. He was the only Oklahoman included in the event.

“Lack of competition in the beef industry has led to an outcry over cattle market issues that is now at a fever pitch as our nation’s ranchers become more desperate for a fair and transparent marketplace,” said Blubaugh. “Last week’s historic cattle industry meeting recognized the dire situation and brought all sides of the cattle business together to work toward solutions.

“Six major players, with differences of opinions and different policies, came together and formally recognized that our system is broken. Despite our differences, we identified problems and solutions we agree on and have agreed to move forward with what we can. I’m honored to be part of such a meeting and to be part of the reforms that will ensure independent cattle producers and cattle feeders have a place in their own industry.”

NFU President Rob Larew also represented the national organization at the meeting and was equally as adamant about the issues facing the cattle industry: “Unfair markets and a lack of competition in the beef industry has been extremely harmful to producers and consumers alike, especially during the last year. Many sectors within agriculture, including beef, are dominated by just a handful of multinational corporations. The time for action is long overdue, and NFU is glad to be a part of this effort to bring strong, swift, and meaningful reform.”

During the meeting, the discussion group talked candidly about a wide range of issues facing the cattle industry. Topics included, but were not limited to:

  • Packer concentration,
  • Price transparency and discovery,
  • Packer oversight,
  • Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement,
  • Level of captive supply, and
  • Packer capacity.

 

The group also agreed to take the following action items to their respective organizations for consideration:

  • Expedite the renewal of USDA’s Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR), including formula base prices subject to the same reporting requirements as negotiated cash and the creation of a contract library.
  • Demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) issue a public investigation status report and as warranted, conduct joint DOJ and USDA oversight of packer activity moving forward.
  • Encourage investment in, and development of, new independent, local, and regional packers.

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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On Monday, May 10, 2021, member leaders of American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, and the United States Cattlemen’s Association met in Phoenix, Arizona.

These groups convened at the request of the Livestock Marketing Association to discuss challenges involved in the marketing of finished cattle with the ultimate goal of bringing about a more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.

The group talked openly and candidly about a wide range of important issues facing our industry today, including but not limited to:

  • Packer concentration,
  • Price transparency and discovery,
  • Packer oversight,
  • Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement,
  • Level of captive supply, and
  • Packer capacity.

The group also agreed to take to their respective organizations for consideration these action items:

  • Expedite the renewal of USDA’s Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR), including formula base prices subject to the same reporting requirements as negotiated cash and the creation of a contract library.
  • Demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) issue a public investigation status report and as warranted, conduct joint DOJ and USDA oversight of packer activity moving forward.
  • Encourage investment in, and development of, new independent, local, and regional packers.

This unprecedented meeting brought together diverse producer organizations to identify issues and discuss potential solutions. These issues and action item lists are not comprehensive, due to time constraints of this meeting. Attending organization representatives were pleased to have reached consensus on many issues and are committed to the ultimate goal of achieving a fair and transparent finished cattle marketing system.

OKLAHOMA CITY—Following a year of unique challenges for the agriculture sector, American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) brought rural issues to the Oklahoma Capitol Building May 5. Nearly 100 AFR/OFU members from across Oklahoma convened to discuss agriculture and rural issues and meet directly with state lawmakers.

“Because last year brought unprecedented circumstances to our legislative landscape, we knew AFR/OFU members would have both new and returning issues they needed to discuss with members of the Oklahoma Legislature,” said AFR/OFU President Scott Blubaugh.

AFR/OFU members lobbied on behalf of all rural Oklahoma, with a particular emphasis on state agriculture tax exemption eligibility, increased funding for additional state meat inspectors and prevention of foreign ownership in the medical marijuana sector. Most importantly, each AFR/OFU member was encouraged to talk with their representative about the issues most important to their farm, their family and their community.

“As an organization, we strive to educate rural Oklahomans on policy issues and encourage them to get involved in the legislative process,” said Blubaugh. “Our legislative program is truly grassroots. We connect AFR/OFU members directly with their representatives and help them fight for the issues that are most important to them.”

The 2021 AFR Day at the Capitol included a legislative panel discussion featuring Chairman of the House Ag Committee Dell Kerbs (R-Shawnee), Sen. Darcy Jech (R-Kingfisher), and Rep. Ty Burns (R-Morrison). Attendees also heard an update on tribal jurisdiction from Ryan Leonard, Special Counsel for Native American Affairs for Gov. Kevin Stitt. AFR/OFU Cooperative Lobbyist Bray Haven also provided tips on effective communication with lawmakers.

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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POTEAU—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) contributed more than $10,000 to the effort to rebuild the Poteau High School Agriculture Building after a February 2021 fire. The building housed many of the Poteau FFA Chapter’s activities.

“This has already been an extremely tough year for Oklahoma students,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “A loss like this can be devastating to an FFA chapter and we’re proud to help students at Poteau High School begin to rebuild what they’ve lost.

The total donation included funds from three AFR/OFU organizations. LeFlore County AFR/OFU donated $5,000 to the rebuilding fund. That amount was matched by the statewide AFR/OFU Foundation. Additionally, AFR/OFU Poteau Local #515 donated an additional $500 to the effort, bringing the final AFR/OFU donation amount to $10,500.

AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh presented a check for the donation to Poteau FFA Advisor Crystal Shipman. In attendance were Poteau High School Assistant Principal Eric Hackler, Poteau High School Principal Joe Ballard, AFR Insurance Agent Mike Andrews (Heavener), AFR Insurance Agent Paul Fields (Panama), AFR Insurance Agent David Alexander (Poteau), Kaye Alexander, and Poteau School District Superintendent Dr. Don Sjoberg.

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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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Like many American farmers and ranchers, Clay Pope, Loyal, has experienced more frequent and severe weather extremes in recent years. But with the support of voluntary, incentive-based government programs, the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) member and sixth-generation rancher has made his family’s operation more resilient to unpredictable precipitation patterns and wild temperature swings.

He detailed this resiliency and the benefit of voluntary conservation programs during the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry hearing titled “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change” held March 11.

During the hearing, four witnesses representing the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance’s (FACA) founding organizations – American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and National Farmers Union – testified on the agriculture, food and forestry sectors’ role in delivering climate solutions. Pope testified as the representative for National Farmers Union.

In accordance with FACA’s guiding principles, hearing testimony stressed that federal climate policy must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities, promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities, and be grounded in scientific evidence. In addition, solutions proposed by Congress and the Biden administration must be strongly bipartisan and accommodate the diverse needs of producers and landowners, regardless of size, geographic region or commodity.

The effects of climate change vary drastically depending on region. For Pope, it has meant “ice storms, changes in rainfall patterns, milder overall winters, record wildfires and, most recently, a historic cold snap that broke all previous records.”

To adapt to these challenges, Pope and his family have shifted to production methods that “minimize soil disturbance, maintain residue cover on the soil, keep something growing on the land as much as possible, and incorporate livestock into the system.”

By building soil health, these practices have not only prepared his farm to bounce back more quickly from flooding, drought, freezes and heat, but it has also cut their input expenditures, increased yields, and reduced soil erosion. “Our investment in soil health has helped us better prepare our farm for climate change in a way that has helped both our productivity and the environment,” Pope told the Committee.

These kinds of adjustments often require a significant amount of time, money, and expertise, which is why Pope didn’t make them alone; he received “technical assistance and financial help from an Environmental Quality Incentive Program contract…NRCS, the local conservation district and…the Conservation Stewardship Program.”

The expansion of existing programs and the development of new ones could help farmers facing similar difficulties. In order to assist other farmers like him, Pope urged the committee to “build on the UDSA’s voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs that allow for produce choice and flexibility.”

On top of expanding these programs, legislators can bolster climate mitigation efforts with market-based solutions like carbon markets and biofuels production. In his testimony, Pope outlined recommendations for how to best implement these mechanisms in a way that “will strengthen producers’ bottom lines and provide major public goods through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner water, and a more stable and abundant food supply.”

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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WASHINGTON, D.C.—A.J. and Aliene Bristow, McAlester, have been recognized for their dedication to rural Oklahoma with the National Farmers Union (NFU) Bruce Miller Membership Award. The award honors Farmers Union members who demonstrate the mission and vision of National farmers Union. The Bristows are longtime American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) members in Pittsburg County.
Award recipients display a passion for family farming and rural America, while promoting the work of Farmers Union. In many cases, they attract additional members, invite guests to get involved with the organization, and build public awareness of Farmers Union. Overall, the award celebrates individuals who are standout leaders, strong advocates and outstanding members.
“A.J. and Aliene Bristow have consistently shown dedication and enthusiasm for Farmers Union,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “For many years, they have given selflessly to both AFR/OFU and rural Southeast Oklahoma. They are very deserving of recognition and a great example to other Farmers Union members and their fellow Oklahomans.”
The Bristows have been active AFR/OFU members since they arrived in Oklahoma. A.J. has served on local and county Farmers Union boards, and has also served as a delegate to the organization’s state and national conventions. He was also the Southeast Oklahoma AFR/OFU Field Representative for many years, serving until his retirement in 2020. Aliene has served as secretary of the Pittsburg County Farmers Union and served as member of her local Farmers Union board for more than 20 years.
The Bristows’ dedication to AFR/OFU has led them beyond their expectations. They have both volunteered at the state level and traveled across state lines to advocate for the family farmer and rancher. A.J. also traveled to Washington, D.C., where he toured the White House and met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Reps. Tom Coburn and Wes Watkins.
The Bristows continue to farm and ranch in Pittsburg County. They have two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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) Cooperative has selected Tailor Fields, Pauls Valley, to lead the AFR Youth Program. As AFR/OFU Youth Coordinator, Fields will plan and lead youth activities, and play an active role in guiding the program as it continues to grow.

“The AFR Youth Program is the premier agricultural youth program in Oklahoma,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Education is one of the founding principles of our organization and I have no doubt Tailor Fields will improve upon our long history of promoting education in rural Oklahoma. She will make an excellent addition to our team.”

Fields was involved in the AFR Youth Program as an Oklahoma youth and is familiar with all aspects of the program. She was raised on a cow-calf operation in Osage County and graduated from Cleveland High School, where she showed cattle and was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA.

Fields was a member of the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Livestock Judging Team and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications. During her time at OSU, Fields worked with Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) and with the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University Communications and Marketing.

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) Foundation Winter Weather Hardship grants are now available through local AFR Insurance agencies.

The AFR/OFU Winter Weather Hardship Grants are intended as emergency relief for Oklahomans facing financial hardship caused by the recent extreme winter weather. Use of awarded funds is restricted to repair of damaged plumbing or heating and air units, high or unexpected electricity, natural gas or propane bills, purchases of additional space heaters or radiators, weatherization items, and other household cold weather expenses. The funds may not be used for any business expense or replacement/repair of any items covered by insurance.

Grants will be awarded on a “first come, first serve” basis. Grant selection is needs based, with preference given to AFR/OFU members. All grant applications must be submitted through a local AFR Insurance agency.

The Winter Weather Hardship Grant program is a joint effort between the AFR/OFU Foundation and Farmers Union Enterprises, which represents Farmers Union members in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin.

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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WARNER—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative has gifted Connors State College (CSC) an endowment scholarship of $10,000. The gift will be used to fund a scholarship award for the CSC Top Agricultural Student each year.

“We are so pleased to announce this addition to our education platform,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Throughout our history, the AFR/OFU Cooperative’s three core principles—‘Education, Legislation and Cooperation’—have remained central to our mission. Today, we continue to work toward a better rural Oklahoma and what better way to contribute to that cause than to contribute to the education of the future leaders of our state and our industry.”

While AFR/OFU Cooperative supports agricultural postsecondary education throughout the state, the organization’s link to Connors State College is special. CSC’s namesake, John P. Connor, served as the first vice president of Oklahoma Farmers Union. The partnership between AFR/OFU and Connor, and by extension CSC, dates back to statehood.

“AFR/OFU has been a longtime supporter of our students at Connors,” said CSC President Ron Ramming. “We are proud of our students and grateful AFR/OFU saw our students the same way we do—bright and full of potential to make a difference in the world.”

Contributing to postsecondary education is just one part of AFR/OFU Cooperative’s dedication to the youth of Oklahoma. 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/OFU Cooperative website at www.afrcoop.org.

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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