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.
Southern Plains Climate Hub

OKLAHOMA CITY—Five Oklahoma agriculture groups have formed a task force to develop solutions to the issues facing farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses from the exponential growth of the medical marijuana industry across Oklahoma.

The Medical Marijuana Impacts on Oklahoma Production Agriculture Task Force—comprised of American Farmers & Ranchers Cooperative (AFR), Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council and Oklahoma Farm Bureau—was created to focus on crafting state and federal solutions to the increasing impacts of medical marijuana on production agriculture across Oklahoma.

The task force will review the variety of challenges confronting Oklahoma agriculture and work together to provide policy recommendations to state and federal leaders.

The statewide organizations plan to engage the task force with key stakeholders including other state agriculture organizations, public and private utility providers, members of the Oklahoma Legislature and congressional delegation, and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Statements from the organizations are listed below.

“Many farmers and ranchers have expressed a growing number of issues in their community stemming from the medical marijuana industry. These challenging issues include inflated land values, overwhelming stress to rural water and electric infrastructure, interruptions to critical fertilizer and pesticide applications, and many more.” – Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president

“This new task force is designed to foster an opportunity for open dialogue between the leaders of our industry. We will review these ballooning issues and develop recommendations for our state and federal leaders.” – Adam Wood, Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers Association board chairman

“The Medical Marijuana Impacts on Oklahoma Production Agriculture Task Force represents thousands of agricultural producers across the state. As we respond to the mounting problems the medical marijuana industry is presenting to Oklahoma production agriculture, task force members recognize the immediate need to find solutions. We know the issues are not hypothetical; they’re affecting farmers and ranchers today.” – Scott Blubaugh, AFR Cooperative president

“We look forward to working together to discover and encourage implementation of appropriate solutions. Some common-sense approaches will help manage the disruption impacting Oklahoma farmers, ranchers, cooperatives, and agribusiness.” – Audrey Hofferber, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council board chair

“Many of our farm and ranch members have shared a variety of challenges that are facing their farms, ranches and communities due to the rapid increase in medical marijuana production in Oklahoma. Farm Bureau is pleased to continue working side by side with our fellow ag organizations to collaboratively find solutions that benefit farmers, ranchers and all Oklahomans.” – Rodd Moesel, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president

“The challenges for Oklahoma’s agriculture producers that have come with the introduction of the medical marijuana industry in our state are numerous. We hear from producers from all areas of Oklahoma that are dealing with the variety of impacts medical marijuana grow facilities are having on their livelihoods and day to day operations. As we continue the discussion to identify answers to these challenges, I appreciate the insight I anticipate this Task Force will provide and the momentum toward solutions it brings.” – Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OKLAHOMA CITY—The American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative has filled its AFR/OFU Membership Involvement and Event Coordinator position with a new team member—Kay County native Ellen Roth.

Through the AFR/OFU Membership Involvement and Event Coordinator position, Ellen Roth is returning to her agriculture roots. Roth was raised in Kay County as a fourth-generation member of an Oklahoma farm family and is a graduate of Ponca City High School. She is a recent graduate of Oklahoma City University (OCU), where she earned degrees in finance, economics and Spanish.

During her time at OCU, Roth was active in the OCU Student Civic Engagement Committee, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Dance Marathon and Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. Through this involvement, she brings fresh knowledge of membership engagement and event management.

For more information on AFR/OFU Cooperative’s membership and event efforts, contact AFR/OFU Press Secretary Laici Neumann at 405-218-5593 or laici.neumann@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—If 2020 were a normal year, the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative would be planning its annual AFR Youth Speech Contest. Agriculture students statewide would be preparing their speeches in hopes of high judges’ marks and first place trophies. But, this is not a normal year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The top-placing FFA teams were:

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

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

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

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

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

The top-placing 4-H teams were:

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

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

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

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

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

High individuals in the FFA division were:

1st Place: Bridgett Arnhart, Eufaula FFA

2nd Place: Dax Delozier, Adair FFA

3rd Place: Maysen Garrett, Crescent FFA

4th Place: Sarah Belden, Nowata FFA

5th Place: Cooper Kline, North Rock Creek FFA

High individuals in the 4-H division were:

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

2nd Place: Calan Teague, Hulbert 4-H

3rd Place: Kylee Bell, Crescent 4-H

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

5th Place: Isaiah Sallee, Porum 4-H

High individuals in the adult division were:

1st Place: Jason Couch

2nd Place: Christy Snider

3rd Place: Alan Jennings

4th Place: Cody Dawson

5th Place: Devin Delozier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OKLAHOMA CITY—American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) delegates experienced a successful first day of the 2020 National Farmers Union (NFU) Fall Legislative Fly-In Sept. 14. Participants lobbied virtually on behalf of the AFR/OFU membership.

Representative Trent Kelly Congressional Meeting

AFR/OFU delegates met one-on-one with member of the House Ag Committee Rep. Trent Kelly’s (R-Miss.) legislative team via videoconference. During the call, they highlighted the challenges our nation’s farmers, ranchers and rural citizens face as they attempt to wade through and recover from Covid-19.

On the farming front, AFR/OFU delegates hit hard on Covid-19 funding issues. These included underwhelming or nonexistent CFAP (Coronavirus Food Assistance Program) payments and the great need for Small Business Administration (SBA) loan requirements to be loosened for agricultural producers who had experienced negative returns in recent years. Concerns were also voiced over a need to strengthen the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) system to ensure local FSA offices are truly local to the majority of agricultural producers.

In addition to funding issues, AFR/OFU delegates emphasized the food system problems brought to light by the pandemic. Heavy-hitters included the incredible consolidation of meat packers and the U.S. food system in general over the last few decades and the need for further investigation of the meat packing sector in regard to potential antitrust behaviors. Delegates also discussed positive solutions to recent disruptions of the meat supply chain. One solution discussed in depth was Frank Lucas’ (R-OK) RAMP-UP Act, which aims to increase state- and USDA-inspected slaughter capacity nationwide through grants for small and mid-sized processing facilities.

Finally, hardships rural citizens are dealing with nationwide that have been exacerbated by the pandemic were talked about at length. Specifically, points of discussion were the loss of rural hospitals, the vulnerability and availability of rural healthcare, the importance of the U.S. Postal Service to rural America, and the lack of and desperate need for increased broadband access from coast to coast.

USDA Leadership Briefing

In addition to the congressional meeting with Rep. Kelly’s legislative team, the Oklahoma delegation attended a briefing from USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand. In the briefing, Brand emphasized that many Rural Development employees live in the communities they serve and face the same issues the department fights to improve. She stated that, despite pandemic shutdowns and remote working environments, the Rural Development team has continued to work and serve.

Brand discussed one Rural Development priority at length—rural broadband access. Brand was clear in her comments—USDA knows the importance of broadband access and considers it a top priority. From Smart Ag and telemedicine to remote work and virtual learning, Brand outlined the reasons for increased broadband access and left the issue with a motto of sorts for the efforts. She said, “When rural America thrives, all America thrives.”

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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