NORMAN— American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative set legislative policy for the upcoming year at the 116th Annual AFR/OFU Convention Feb. 12-13. With a partially virtual format, this year’s policy changes were primarily focused on 2021 Special Orders of Business. Each year, these “special orders of business” address recent, current or future issues of significant importance to rural Oklahoma and agriculture at large.

Adopted AFR/OFU policy is truly grassroots—proposed policy begins as resolutions at the local and county level. Because of this approach, the organization’s policy document represents members’ interests from across Oklahoma. While the organization focused on special orders of the business this year, these policy statements were still a result of resolutions brought from local and county organizations from across the state.

“The AFR/OFU policy process is a model of grassroots legislative efforts in action,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Because many of our policies originate from resolutions crafted in our local and county organizations, AFR/OFU members know their voices are heard at the state and national level.”

This year’s additions to AFR/OFU Special Orders include:

Broadband: “We support greater access to high-speed broadband internet in rural Oklahoma. We support a consistent and transparent per-pole attachment fee to promote adequate broadband service to rural Oklahoma.”

For far too long, rural Oklahomans have known the challenges associated with lack of access to reliable high-speed internet, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated those challenges. With public schools across the state teaching virtually, rural students are increasingly put at risk of falling behind their urban counterparts. The same is true for rural businesses as they compete for market share in the digital age. The 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee supports a multi-level and transparent approach to illuminating rural areas with broadband internet service.

Minimum Negotiated Trade: “We support the exploration of minimum negotiated cash trade as it relates to the fed cattle industry. We encourage thorough research on the implications of a national or regional mandatory minimum to the concept of true price discovery in the marketplace.”

Over the last two decades, the number of cattle sold on a negotiated cash basis (i.e. through an auction barn) has diminished significantly. The percentage of cattle sold through negotiated cash sale is now so small, some industry experts warn the beef cattle industry lacks a market baseline. In light of this, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee strongly encourages urgent and sincere research on the potential for requiring large meatpackers to purchase a minimum percentage of their cattle inventory through the cash market.

Ag Sales Tax Exemption: “We support the state agriculture sales tax exemption and oppose regulations that increase or cause undue burden on agricultural producers during the ag tax exemption application process.”

Due to the many significant barriers to building a successful farming or ranching operation, including additional hurdles for young or beginning producers, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee feels strongly that adding tax expenses or even a difficult application process to obtain tax exemption was an unnecessary burden for Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers.

In addition to these new special orders, several special orders from last year were retained. The 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee felt these retained orders were not only still relevant, but of extreme importance.

Packers and Stockyards Act: “We demand the enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act in regard to the anti-trust issues surrounding the packing segment of the beef industry in the United States.”

Four major packing firms control more than 80 percent of all beef slaughtered in the United States. Because they have such an overwhelming market share, these corporations are poised to influence and potentially manipulate U.S. beef prices. This issue has been at the forefront of beef industry discussion since August 2019 and was on full display during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. In an effort to limit the potential for antitrust behavior in what is most certainly a year’s long battle, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee demands proper enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Truth in Labeling Standards: “We oppose the use of food product labeling that misleads consumers, including the use of ‘Product of USA’ labeling. We demand the USDA enforce truth in labeling.”

Cattle or beef that is imported into the U.S. and undergoes further processing or handling at a USDA-inspected facility can be labeled “Product of the United States.” Because this practice can mislead consumers, and be detrimental to U.S. beef markets, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee opposes the practice and demands increased truth in labeling. The Committee concedes this issue will continue to be a concern for the foreseeable future.

Electronic Animal Identification: “We support a producer’s voluntary application of technology, age verification and trace back methods which can enhance producer profits. We support current non-electronic animal identification methods. We oppose any mandatory electronic animal identification requirements, whether mandated by state or federal authorities.”

Citing strong concerns over market manipulation, producer autonomy and data security, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee has chosen to continue a strong stance again mandatory electronic animal identification. This special order is also include in permanent organization policy.

Right to Repair: “We support farmers and ranchers having the right to repair their own equipment and cause to be repaired through third-party non-manufacturers. We further support access to service manuals, product guides, on-board diagnostics and other information to identify and repair machinery, parts and software.”

The increasing difficulty of repairing late model farm equipment is a growing concern to farmers and ranchers statewide. The inability to conduct on-farm repairs adds unnecessary production costs and labor hours to what is already a stressful season for producers. As one of the most discussed topics in this year’s policy sessions, this special order is also include in permanent organization policy.

This year, two previous special orders were updated to include more specific language:

Education: “We support the Oklahoma State Legislature continuing to address the crisis in public education funding. No public school should be funded at a lower per student rate than any charter school.”

Healthcare: “We believe Oklahoma should make increased access to healthcare in rural areas a priority and work to preserve rural hospitals. We recommend reopening any structurally-viable rural hospitals that are currently closed.”

Citing concern over the health of Oklahoma’s rural institutions and the impact declining schools and hospitals can have on a rural community, the 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee has outlined the organization’s commitment to these institutions as they face increasing challenges to operating. Additionally, the Committee voices an urgent interest in reopening rural hospitals that are structurally viable.

The 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee also doubled down on its support for the Farm Stress Management program spearheaded by National Farmers Union and other national agriculture groups. The program is designed to help agriculture producers cope with the financial and emotional stress that currently accompanies much of production agriculture.

The 2021 AFR/OFU Policy Committee also included several new commendations in this year’s policy book:

“We commend the American people, especially first responders, frontline healthcare workers, and medical researchers, who played a part in combatting the first global pandemic in more than 100 years.”

“We commend our AFR/OFU Farm Stress Management team members—Brent Brewer, Terrell Coffey and Rick Shelby—who act as “farm stress first responders” for fellow producers throughout Oklahoma.”

“We commend former Chairman of the House Ag Committee Colin Peterson (Minn.) for his years of exemplary service to the agriculture community and ag policy at large.”

Each year, AFR/OFU selects policy committee members from across the state. The appointed individuals are an accomplished and diverse group representing the broadest spectrum possible of the general AFR membership. This year’s committee members include Bob Adrian, Tahlequah; Kara Barger, Pawnee; Tim Bates, Mutual; Joel Carpenter, Erick; Andy Cunningham, Rosston; Ed Fite, Tahlequah; Ashley Hawkins, Antlers; Hope Hutchings, Hendrix; Jerry McPeak, Warner; David Misener, Elk City; George Roberts, Holdenville; Dillon Travis, Maramec; Ron Vick, Okemah; Gary Vinson, Allen; Tom Way, Lawton; and Jennifer York, Durham. Jordan Shearer, Laverne, chaired the committee.

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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NORMAN—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) hosted the organization’s 116th annual state convention at the Embassy Suites & Conference Center – Norman Feb. 12-13. The event was virtual, with the exception of in-person adoption of AFR/OFU legislative policy and officer elections.

“This year’s event is unlike any previous convention,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “While we can’t bring everyone together this year, we’re glad to find a format that allows us to take care of necessary business and elect organization leadership.”

This year, member delegates voted on two contested seats on the AFR/OFU Board of Directors—Northwest District 1 Agent Director and Southwest District 2 Independent Director. Additionally, the seats AFR/OFU Southeast District 4 Agent Director and OFU Vice President were filled by candidates who ran unopposed.

In the race for Northwest District 1 Agent Director Director, incumbent Kyndell Nichols, Ringwood, was defeated by challenger John Porter, Edmond. Porter is the former OFU Vice President.

Porter is a third-generation AFR Insurance agent with more than 35 years with AFR/OFU. He served as AFR/OFU Cooperative Vice President from 2010 to 2021, opting not to run for re-election this year. He attended the University of Central Oklahoma, was a member of the Oklahoma National Guard, has been inducted into the Oklahoma Softball Hall of Fame as a player, and is a retired Oklahoma High School basketball and football referee.

The Southwest District 2 Independent Director seat did not have an incumbent—AFR/OFU Director Joe Ed Kinder retired this year and chose not to seek an additional term. In that race, Johnny Mann, Stratford, and Ethan Treadwell, Frederick, were defeated by Brett Morris, Ninnekah.

A former dairyman, Morris now runs a diversified farming and cattle operation and the Washita Fertilizer Company. He has been active with AFR/OFU since the early 1990s and currently serves as the organization’s representative on the Oklahoma Beef Council. In 2017, he was elected chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board; he has been involved with the Beef Checkoff since 2007.

Landon Jestis, Bokchito, ran unopposed for the Southeast District 4 Agent Director seat. Jestis owns Jestis Insurance Agency in Durant and earned a degree from East Central University in Ada. He has a long career in the insurance industry, including stints as an independent adjuster, a property claims adjuster, and now as an agency owner.

Ryan Plemmons, Broken Bow, ran unopposed for the OFU Vice President seat. Plemmons is originally from Battiest and earned a degree from Oklahoma State University. He currently owns the Plemmons Insurance Agency in Broken Bow. He has been deeply involved in AFR/OFU Cooperative activities for several years, including chairing the AFR/OFU Policy Committee, initiating the AFR/OFU Livestock Judging Contest, lobbying at the State Capitol and on legislative fly-ins to Washington, D.C., and facilitating many other youth and legislative activities.

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) will host its 116th annual state convention at the Embassy Suites & Conference Center – Norman Feb. 12-13. This year’s convention is virtual, with in-personal attendance reserved for voting only.

“This year’s event is unlike any previous convention,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “While we can’t bring everyone together this year, we’re glad to find a format that allows us to still take care of necessary business.”

In addition to an Oklahoma Farmers Union and AFR Mutual Insurance Company business update, this year’s convention with include adoption of AFR/OFU legislative policy via ballot. The organization will also hold elections for the AFR/OFU Northwest District 1 Agent and AFR/OFU Southwest District 2 Independent. The seats of OFU Vice President and AFR/OFU Southeast District 4 Agent are also open, but those candidates are running unopposed.

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—Kicking off 2021 with a bang, American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative is excited to announce a new opportunity for Oklahoma’s ranchers—the Oklahoma Certified Beef Association (OCBA).

Through OCBA, the state’s cattle producers can verify their quality beef products as “Oklahoma certified.” To earn the distinction, ranchers must prove their animals are bred, born, raised and processed within Oklahoma state borders through an affidavit-based, third-party verification system. Once verified, the certified beef products can be marketed to consumers with the official OCBA seal.

Through pandemic-related meat shortages, the demand for local and direct market beef soared in 2020. That demand is expected to maintain in 2021. Due to the demand surge, many Oklahoma ranches either jumped in to direct marketing for the first time or have been looking for ways to expand. The OCBA seal is a great way for both new and established businesses to distinguish Oklahoma certified products from other ranches that may purchase animals from out-of-state.

“OCBA is a great opportunity to connect directly with consumers looking to purchase beef from local ranches,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “As an organization, we’re excited to offer another way for AFR/OFU members and Oklahoma ranchers at large to market high-quality Oklahoma beef.

“The pandemic has once again proven the U.S. meat industry favors only the biggest players. But with opportunities like OCBA, ranchers can take their products directly to consumers. They can ensure a higher profit margin for their ranch, while supporting their local meat processing facility and giving Oklahoma consumers more choice. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

To become a member of OCBA, ranchers must first become members of AFR/OFU Cooperative, either through a dues-alone membership or through their status as an AFR Insurance policyholder. Beyond AFR/OFU membership, there are currently two options for potential OCBA members—standard or lifetime membership. Both membership types are designed to be inexpensive options to help OCBA members gain additional market traction without adding expense to their bottom line.

OCBA members have exclusive access to the OCBA seal for use on packaging. They also benefit from all OCBA marketing campaigns, whether online, in retailers, or at restaurants. OCBA also maintains a database of members that is distributed to retailers and restaurants in their area and AFR/OFU members statewide.

For more information or to join the Oklahoma Certified Beef Association, contact AFR/OFU Cooperative’s OCBA Coordinator Ellen Roth at 405-218-5597 or ellen.roth@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—The Securing All Livestock Equitably (SALE) Act was included in the most recent Covid-19 relief package that passed Congress Dec. 21. The bipartisan legislation, originally sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), addresses dealer payment defaults in the livestock industry.

Quick turnaround between the purchase and resale of cattle by a dealer often leaves the original livestock owners with little recourse if a dealer defaults on a purchase. The cattle have often already been resold. The SALE Act establishes dealer statutory trusts, mimicking existing packer statutory trusts, for the purpose of ensuring that cattle sellers receive payment should a livestock dealer become insolvent.

“The creation of dealer statutory trusts to ensure cattle sellers receive payment is extremely important to the livestock industry,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “A default event can decimate family-owned cattle operations and related businesses, ripple through the industry and have a long-lasting negative effect on the rural economy. The SALE Act will reduce the harm of these default events. I commend Sen. Inhofe for his leadership on this issue and his dedication to rural Oklahoma and the agriculture industry 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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OKLAHOMA CITY—Thirty youth from across Oklahoma competed in the 2020 American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) Livestock Handling Scholarship Contest held at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City Dec. 11. Sponsored by American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU), the annual competition showcases the skills of young 4-H and FFA members in practical, real-life cattle handling scenarios, such as weighing for accurate dosage, vaccinating and tagging calves in a hydraulic chute. Contestants are judged on skill, accuracy and efficiency as they process the animals.

“While stress-free processing has always been a goal of good cattlemen, proper and efficient handling has become even more important in the modern age of livestock production,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “With an increased need to diversify herds, producers can now expect cattle of all ages and backgrounds to be sent through the chute. It’s vital that young producers understand the needs of each animal.”

The annual contest begins with a written exam that measures students’ knowledge of livestock handling practices. At the state level, the competition emphasizes the application of classroom study to actual agricultural production scenarios. In order to excel, students must take knowledge out of the classroom and apply it in a real world situation.

“The industry needs young producers more than ever,” said Blubaugh. “We hope this contest encourages young producers on their path to becoming full-fledged cattlemen and cattle women. This is a noble profession to pursue. We want them to know we’ll be supporting them every step of the way.”

The overall winners of this year’s AFR Livestock Handling Scholarship Contest are:

1st Place – Adair FFA Chapter: Dax Delozier, Blake Long, Cooper Thompson

2nd Place – Pawnee FFA Chapter: Conner Skidgel, Stetson Leforce, Blake Skidgel

3rd Place – Timberlake FFA Chapter: Joel Pecha, Ethan Jenlink, Jacob Diller

4th Place – Perkins-Tryon FFA Chapter: Teggan Shepard, Kaden Brunker, Nick Rains

5th Place – Amber-Pocassett FFA Chapter: Blake Janssen, Kaden Ferrell, Isaac Bradford

6th Place – Cherokee FFA Chapter: Drake Williams, Brant Failes, Abby Guffy

7th Place – Stigler FFA Chapter: Daryll White, Bailey Hudspeth, Josh Decker

8th Place – Chandler FFA Chapter: Dillon Behrends, Jared Stone, Baylee Bowen

9th Place – Chickasha FFA Chapter: Emma Victery, Joseph Victery, Claire Carver

10th Place – Battiest FFA Chapter: Sydney Tyler, Kyeson Perrin, Kace McDonald

For more information on the AFR Livestock Handling Contest or other AFR/OFU-sponsored youth events, contact interim AFR/OFU 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— An amended version of the “Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants” (RAMP-UP) Act was included in the most recent Covid-19 relief package that passed Congress Dec. 21. The legislation, originally sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and now former Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), addresses the shortfall in federally-inspected meat facilities.

The bipartisan legislation allows for more small-scale processing facilities to engage in interstate shipment of meat products by providing $60 million in grants to small-scale meat and poultry processing facilities to upgrade to federal inspection. Facilities can use grant funds to modernize or expand facilities, upgrade equipment or implement other processes to ensure food safety. The additional funds would ultimately provide more processing capacity nationwide.

“I am thrilled to see this amended version of the RAMP-UP Act pass Congress,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Small-scale ‘mom and pop’ processing facilities are an integral part of Oklahoma’s and the nation’s meat processing industry. This legislation will help break down the barrier to federal inspection and provide small processing facilities access to additional markets and increased revenues.

“The RAMP-UP Act is a straight-forward solution to one piece of the multi-faceted meat processing issue,” said Blubaugh. “We still have a long way to go, but this is an excellent bipartisan place to start. I’m glad to see Rep. Frank Lucas, one of Oklahoma’s own, taking the lead and helping Oklahoma play a significant role in finding solutions for our nation’s beef producers.”

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—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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