PERSPECTIVE OKLAHOMA FARM BUREAU
May 3, 2013
OFB members lobby Congress in Washington, D.C. Congressional Action Tour participants pose for a photo on the roof of American Farm Bureau’s office, with the U.S. Capitol behind them. The tour kicked off with briefings at the AFBF office, including a welcome from AFBF President Bob Stallman. OFB YF&R Chairman Mason Bolay visits with congressional staff members during a reception held in the House Agriculture Committee room. The reception was an opportunity to spread the word about agriculture and Farm Bureau to staff members representing many members of Congress.
The new farm bill, immigration reform, estate taxes and federal budget cuts were key issues discussed during the annual OFB Congressional Action Tour, a five-day lobbying effort in the nation’s capitol, April 14-18. “It’s extremely important to discuss these issues not only with our own congressional delegation but other officials as well,” said Mike Spradling, OFB president. “Even though we are in frequent contact with our delegation, they need our support as they work on these issues in Washington, D.C.” A new farm bill proposal from the American Farm Bureau focusing on a strong crop insurance program was recently sent to Capitol Hill. Spradling said an effective crop insurance program is needed when agricultural crises arise, such as the recent drought that severely damaged crops in the southern High Plains. “The recent history of natural disasters has proven an effective crop insurance program is (See Lobby, page 3)
OFB Leadership Team hosts annual Capitol luncheon State lawmakers received a “taste of the country” April 23 during the annual Oklahoma Farm Bureau Farm City Festival at the Capitol. The event was sponsored by the OFB Leadership Team, consisting of rural women leaders from throughout the state. The rural leaders used the Capitol’s first floor rotunda area to set out a spread of freshly prepared food, much of it home baked. There were trays of fresh vegetables, ham, turkey and beef, deviled eggs, fruit, cookies and brownies. “This is a way to say thanks to our legislators for working hard on rural issues,” said Kitty Beavers, chairperson of the OFB Leadership Team. Beavers said the event also provides a unique opportunity to lobby the legislators. “We host the event at the Capitol so our leaders can spend time visiting with the lawmakers,” Beavers said. More than 600 plates of food were pre-
pared for legislators and their staff members. “This is a great event and we always look forward to it,” said Rep. John Enns. “This connects farmers and ranchers with legislators in a good, positive way.” That connection was not lost on Oklahoma’s Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “All of these people are eating and therefore they are connected to agriculture!” Reese said. The rural Farm Bureau women leaders have been hosting the Farm City Festival for more than 30 years.
LEFT – Sen. Ron Justice thanks Caddo County Leadership Team member Linda Taggart for the delicious lunch.
RIGHT – Rep. John Enns and Major County Leadership Team member Clara Wichert visit during the Farm City Festival.
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OFB Calendar Oklahoma Legislature Adjourns May 31 • Oklahoma City Contact: John Collison, (405) 523-2539 OFB Safety Camp June 11-13 • Stroud Contact: Justin Greggo, (405) 523-2391 Oklahoma Youth Leading Agriculture Conference June 24-27 • Oklahoma City Contact: Holly Carroll, (405) 301-6610
By John Collison, OFB Vice President of Public Policy and Media Relations As we enter the home stretch of the Oklahoma legislative session, we have many different issues to discuss from Oklahoma and Washington, D.C. A few of us have just returned from Washington, D.C., where the main topic of discussion centered around a farm bill. We also talked about immigration reform and the gun bill legislation that was going down in flames as we stood in the halls of Congress. While the gun legislation didn’t take long to kill, the passing of the farm bill and meaningful immigration reform will take a bit longer. We are still not sure what the actual farm bill is going to look like, but we are getting glimpses from the House and the Senate. With any bill of this size, there are bound to be winners and losers. It will be our job to make sure the interests of the state are taken care of when it all plays out. We also hear rumors of an immigration reform bill, but the details are still elusive. We
Oklahoma Farm Bureau Online Monitor the latest Farm Bureau and agricultural news and information online at okfarmbureau.org. Currently online: • Agricultural News – Oklahoma Farm Bureau features a new agriculturerelated story every day on its site. Read about both AFBF and state Farm Bureau news by visiting the homepage. • Legislative Update – The Oklahoma State Legislature is in full swing. See the OFB homepage for a link to the public policy division’s latest legislative update and bill tracking site.
will have to wait to see what the “Gang of Eight” comes up with. I do know one thing; this is a major problem we can’t just keep kicking down the road in hopes of it fixing itself. Migrant labor in this state is a massive part John Collison of our work force, and we need to make sure we have a relatively easy way to obtain their services when needed. If we take the politics out of this issue, it really becomes an easy solution. Moving on and looking at the state Capitol, things at this point - not only from the Farm Bureau point of view but also for the state - look pretty good. I’m sure as I’m putting these words to paper I will jinx it, but right now it looks like we will be adjourning a few weeks early. That is due to the hard work and diligence of all members to get bills taken care of in a timely matter. The leadership on both sides of the aisle has done an excellent job moving the people’s business forward. We have worked hard this year and have done very well for agriculture and with our member’s issues. We are still waiting on one signature from the Governor on a bill, but other than that, we passed most of our main issues. I will be following up with a session conclusion letter in another Perspective shortly, but for now let me say Farm Bureau had a great year at the Capitol. I know there are a few bills that have been laid over until next session or a few bills that we need to make sure never see the light of day, but I am proud of the role your Oklahoma Farm Bureau plays at both of our Capitols. It is because of you and the role you play in Farm Bureau that this success is able to take place. I look forward to coming to you in a few weeks with an Oklahoma Capitol wrap up, as well as getting together with many of you this summer as we come up with new priorities for next year.
(Lobby, from page 1)
STAMPEDE ‘13 Custer County Leadership Team member Paula Sawatzky uses My American Farm educational games to teach fourth graders about agriculture during STAMPEDE ‘13 at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, April 26. Read more about STAMPEDE ‘13 on the OFB website at www.okfarmbureau.org/news.
Safety seminar deadline is May 31 Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s annual safety camp for teenagers is June 1113, at Tatanka Ranch in Stroud. The purpose of the seminar is to inform youth on the importance of farm and traffic safety through reallife simulations and a series of safety demonstrations. OFB safety coordinator Justin Grego said the camp’s main sessions
will cover texting and driving, ATV safety, DUI prevention, hunting and gun safety, and farm safety. Teenagers ages 14 to 17 years are eligible to attend. The application deadline is May 31. For more information about the safety seminar, contact Justin Grego at (405) 523-2391 or visit your county Farm Bureau office for a registration form.
the only thing that stands between producers having the chance to grow another crop and food production being severely impacted,” Spradling said. “Crop insurance needs to continue to be viable, affordable and flexible to cover a wide variety of crops and growing regions.” The farm group emphasized the importance of passing a new farm bill as farmers face uncertainty going into the spring growing season. “It’s vital we get a new farm bill written this year,” Spradling said. “Continued delays will reduce the farm program’s effectiveness.” The Farm Bureau leaders emphasized they need a new farm bill that provides a strong safety net for farm income using a combination of crop insurance, a revenue assurance program and price protection. During the trip, the farm leaders met with U.S. Sen. Inhofe and U.S. Sen. Coburn, plus all five U.S. House members from Oklahoma, including Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Lucas is directing the new farm bill, and we’re glad he understands how important the farm bill is for Oklahoma agriculture,” Spradling said. In addition, the Oklahoma farm leaders received legislative briefings from key staff at the American Farm Bureau office. The Farm Bureau group has made the Washington, D.C., trip an annual rite of spring, as they take time out from their farm chores to visit the capitol and talk with the nation’s leaders.
Members meet with legislators during Capitol visits BELOW – Rep. Josh Cockroft (left) discusses current legislation and his session experiences with Pottawatomie County Farm Bureau members during a visit to the Capitol, April 24.
ABOVE – Seminole County Farm Bureau members meet with Rep. Tom Newell (front left) during a recent trip to the state Capitol. The county also invited potential Farm Bureau members to join them on their trip, April 16.
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Governor signs bill to help manage feral hog population Legislation signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin will provide landowners with a tool to help manage the feral hog population in Oklahoma, according to the bill’s author. House Bill 1920, by Rep. Dustin Roberts and Sen. Mark Allen, provides a permit for individuals to conduct aerial hunting on private land to shoot feral hogs, coyotes or coyote-dog crossbreeds. The permit holder must either be a commercial big game license holder, a landowner hunting on his own land or a contracted aerial hunter who will be hunting only on the land of the individual he is contracting with.
“The concerns we had with this legislation were about the safety of the public that might be down on the ground and so
we made sure to set limits on where the hunting could take place,” said Roberts, R-Durant. “The feral hog population is a menace in Oklahoma, and I think we need to continue to look at what tools we can provide farmers and ranchers to help contain it. It is a concern I hear constantly about from rural Oklahomans.” “This legislation will help our farmers and ranchers tremendously,” said Allen, R-Spiro. “The feral hog population is a constant concern in rural Oklahoma, and this bill will help save money on equipment repair and time lost for repairing the land.” House Bill 1920 will take effect Nov. 1.
Farmers concerned about government regulations High input costs, too much government regulation and the ever-changing weather patterns were listed as major challenges by visitors to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau booth during the Southern Plains Farm Show, April 18-20, Oklahoma City. Other challenges noted on the informal survey included water, low farm income and lack of a new farm bill. “The government is regulating us to death,” said Bobby Lee of Newcastle. “I am especially concerned about the EPA regulations.” Despite the concern about government regulations, 80 percent of the survey respondents indicated they are optimistic about the future of agriculture. The wet April weather no doubt influenced some participants’ thinking, although farmers tend to be naturally optimistic. Lee
said the rain has rejuvenated his pastures and has him thinking about expanding his cow herd. “I’d like to, if I could find the additional pastureland,” Lee said. Approximately 30 percent of the survey participants said they would be making changes to their farming business this year. Several of the respondents said “It depends on the weather!” This marks the third consecutive year OFB has taken the informal poll at the farm show booth and this year’s results are consistent with past years, as farmers state their optimism, sprinkled with a dose of concern about government regulations.
Cleveland County Farm Bureau board member Bobby Lee completes an agricultural survey at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau booth during the Southern Plains Farm Show. The survey asked farmers and ranchers about challenges, expected operational changes their outlook on the future on agriculture.