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Monday, April 30, 2018
|AFR Lobbyist Steve Thompson Says Oklahoma Starting to See Some Sunshine, Politically Speaking
With just a week or less to go before state lawmakers close the books on the 2018 legislative session and return home to shift focus on the upcoming election season, Steve Thompson of American Farmers & Ranchers says there are just a few issues he is still keeping an eye on. Two he thinks are positive for AFR members, and one maybe not so much.
Falling under the positive category is a bill that will legalize hemp cultivation in Oklahoma for industrial use on a pilot basis. This will allow farmers that are contracted through universities to produce hemp that can be used as an alternative forage for livestock. As a weed, it can flourish even in dry, drought like conditions like we've seen this year making it an attractive option in times of hardship like we're currently experiencing in farm country. It is also another product that can help potentially stimulate growth in the state's farm economy as well - which Thompson says we can use every bit of help we can in that arena. The other bill he is monitoring is an increase in fines for trespassing on farmland from $500 to $750 per occurrence. Thompson says this will be just another measure to help deter people from illegally crossing onto private land and strengthens landowners' rights. The issue that has caused some concern for Thompson, though, is one that he says the public will begin to hear more about in the coming months - which will eventually create a state question asking to expand the uses of school building funds.
"It would be a dangerous precedent on how ad valorem taxes could be used," he remarked. "We're looking at that real close."
From a national perspective, Thompson says AFR is is following the work of Congress on the the next Farm Bill, which includes the draft recently passed out of committee by the House Ag Committee on a party-line vote. While the bill came out of committee with few amendments made to Chairman Mike Conaway's draft proposal, Thompson says this bill will likely evolve drastically over the next several months into the fall as the process to finalize the bill progresses. However, he says AFR will continue to push for member's priority areas which call for increased funding to Title 1 programs and to conservation.
"This is the first step in a very long process. We're pleased to see the bill get out of committee, but there will be lots and lots of changes to this proposal," he said. "We're watching that closely and will be in and out of DC to try to work on balancing all the priorities to help producers and consumers."
He emphasizes that AFR is not lock step with the National Farmers Union which has been very critical of the House Ag Committee passed proposal.
Click or tap here
to jump over to our original webstory to read more or to listen to my complete conversation with Thompson.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau - a grassroots organization that has for its Mission Statement- Improving the Lives of Rural Oklahomans." Farm Bureau, as the state's largest general farm organization, is active at the State Capitol fighting for the best interests of its members and working with other groups to make certain that the interests of rural Oklahoma are protected.
Click here for their website to learn more about the organization and how it can benefit you to be a part of Farm Bureau.
|Dems Expected to Draw Hard Line on Farm Bill Proposal as Markup Advances to the House Floor
Last week, the members of the House Agriculture Committee gathered to markup the 2018 Farm Bill proposal of Chairman Michael Conaway. Allison Cooke of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's DC office was there and recently shared her experience of that day's events with me. According to Cooke, the session was relatively short for the task at hand, commencing at 10 a.m. that morning and adjourning at around 4:00 that afternoon. Cooke says the number of amendments to the proposed bill were rather limited, with only two or three actually voted on. The bill itself passed out of committee on a party-line vote with committee Democrats all voting against the final measure in protest of Conaway's plan for the Nutrition title."We are certainly paying attention," Cooke said. "As it moves forward to the House Floor - possibly sometime in May - that's when you will probably see more amendments particularly from Democrats. We will remain vigilant, because the bill can certainly change when it gets to the House Floor."The Chairman's proposal includes several provisions that Cooke confirms NCBA is pleased with, namely the authorization of $150 million to fund a Foot & Mouth Disease vaccine bank, heavily advocated for by NCBA and its partners in the livestock industry. While this is only a fraction of what it will take to fully fund the bank, Cooke says the livestock industry will have to fight for additional dollars elsewhere that can be earmarked later in the appropriations process. Cooke is also happy to see the consolidation of programs under both the Conservation and Trade titles that takes some of the best parts of various programs and combines them for more efficient and effective use. Some other regional issues are addressed in the draft proposal as well such as the eradication of cattle fever ticks in Texas and the authorization of financial support to help exterminate feral swine throughout the South."So, happy to see that research dollars are also being funneled down not just to those issue areas that are of concern in the animal health arena, but also to research at our land grant universities that help us continue to produce the best product that we can."Listen to Cooke and I discuss some of the provisions included in Chairman Conaway's Farm Bill proposal relevant to cattle producers and her expectations on how this bill will progress, on Friday's Beef Buzz - click here.
|Farmers in OK, TX and KS Turning to Cotton Amid Drought, Grain Prices According to CoBank Report
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts a large increase in cotton production in Texas, the biggest cotton-producing state in the U.S. Cotton industry observers are noticing cotton production shifting northward into Oklahoma and Kansas.
CoBank issued a report looking at the reasons for cotton increasing into new areas. The report says the reasons behind the expansion include unprofitable prices for grain crops, declining water availability, round bale harvesters, better genetic varieties of cotton, and increased optimism about a cotton program re-entering the 2018 Farm Bill.
A CoBank senior analyst says the projections of increased cotton planting are sending signals to the cotton industry that it will need more ginning capacity and storage capacity. Ben Laine of CoBank says, "We're already seeing some cooperative gins in Kansas expanding capacity, with some doubling their previous year's capacity, and others in three more states increasing their capacity by as much as 30 percent."
While the cooperatives are expanding, the bigger question is how sustainable cotton will be in some of these new areas. Laine says, "If cotton is included in a rotation, the underlying infrastructure investments and the long-term economics compared to other crops show cotton is sustainable in these typically grain-dominated areas."
Get the full story by clicking here to jump over to our website.
|Marla Saeger of Tahlequah, Okla. Recognized as a Significant Woman in Agriculture by ODAFF
Last week, Marla Saeger of Tahlequah, Okla. was named by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry a Significant Woman in Agriculture whose passion and love of gardening began at an early age, inspired by her father. For eight years now, Saeger, who is a property manager, bookkeeper and accountant by trade, has served as the president of the Tahlequah Farmers Market Board.
"The Tahlequah Farmers Market is my happy place," Saeger says. "My absolute favorite thing is the relationships built throughout the years. We love our vendors and customers, we are like a family, and we would not be the market we are without them."
In an effort to encourage her community's engagement in the market, Saeger led the market board in introducing live music to the market every week with harps, bagpipes, soloists, a celtic band, and even an 8-string quartet. The hospitality booth now features free infused water, iced tea, ONIE calendars and literature, recipes, and reusable shopping bags and market t-shirts for sale. Additionally, the market features a food specialist and nutrition expert who prepares samples for every market. Saeger began keeping numbers for the market in 2014 to track the growth of sales. From 2014 to 2017, their sales increased from $46,000 to $125,000 - making the Tahlequah Farmers Market the third most viable market in the state.
She has also been instrumental in the market's unique farm-to-school program that targets third-grade students specifically. They take a mini farmers market to the school, one class of third graders comes to the market at a time, they receive a bag full of literature and 12 "veggie bucks" to go shopping at the market.
Aside from her work with her local market, Saeger has had an impact statewide within the agriculture community as founder of Double Up Oklahoma, a statewide healthy food incentive program modeled from the Fair Food Network's program that doubles the value of SNAP spent at participating farmers markets. She is still active in the program and participates in the statewide conference call each month.
Learn more about Saeger and her inspiring work that has earned her the recognition of being a Significant Woman in Agriculture, by clicking here
to read her complete profile.
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|Rabobank Forecasts Corn Prices Could Exceed $4 a Bushel in 2018 Based on Planting Intentions
According to a new report by Rabobank, there is now over a 50 percent probability that CBOT prices will remain near to or exceed $4 per bushel through December, and 2018/19 corn has a 24 percent chance of sustaining greater than $4.70 per bushel. This is due to a shifting balance of pressures in the market where projected corn acres and current global corn stocks are declining while demand remains firm.
Corn growers are advised to stay alert for marketing opportunities at key events, such as planting progress, pollination and yield estimates. Should any weather events or conditions occur that could impact yield, markets are expected to substantially react.
Beef and swine producers are advised to take advantage of good opportunities to lock in prices, since the risk has gone up for feed prices to become higher.
Click here to learn more about this report and how producers should prepare to take advantage of the situation unfolding.
|Introducing Garrett Kline of the Chandler FFA Chapter, Your 2018 FFA Central Area Star Farmer
We finished our coverage of the 2018 Area Star Finalists this past week with your Central Area Star Farmer, Garrett Kline of the Chandler FFA Chapter. Kline got started in the sheep business in the 7th grade with just 8 ewes. Today, he runs a flock of 42 club lamb producing ewes and three rams. Kline recently shared with us his secrets to being successful in the club lamb business.
"In my personal opinion, you've got to study the genetics and how they match up per the ream and ewe," he said. "If the genetics don't match up, then your ewes aren't going to feed out to their full potential. I think that's the biggest thing - to be able to judge the sheep and be able to pick what you need in the show lamb industry."
He attributes much of his practical knowledge on the farm and in the barn with the curriculum he has been taught in the ag classroom and through his involvement in the FFA.
"FFA has really helped me just through the agriculture classes, learning the science of how everything works," he said. "I've been able to put that to use in my flock."
You can read more or hear our entire conversation by clicking here or click here to review all the 2018 Star Finalists we've featured these last few weeks on our website's Blue-Green Gazette. Good luck to each of the candidates who will be competing this week at the State FFA Convention for the State Star Award in each of their respective disciplines.
Our salute of the 2018 Area Stars of the Oklahoma FFA was brought to you this year by our friends at American Farmers & Ranchers and AFR Insurance, proud to support Oklahoma's youth.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE 2018 OKLAHOMA FFA CONVENTION- Opening General Session Happens Tomorrow Morning at the Cox Center in OKC- hope to see you there!
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|Election to be Held May 7th to Fill Vacant District III Board Seat on the Oklahoma Wheat Commission
The Oklahoma Wheat Commission will hold an election to fill the District III board seat opening on Monday, May 7, 2018, 1 p.m. at the Kingfisher County Fairgrounds, Exhibit Building; 300 S. 13th Street, Kingfisher, Oklahoma. District III consists of Beckham, Blaine, Canadian, Custer, Dewey, Kingfisher, Roger Mills and Washita counties.
This election will directly follow a vacancy meeting, that will be coordinated in conjunction with the OSU Wheat Field Day, which begins that Monday morning at 11:00 a.m.
All wheat producers within District III boundaries who are actively engaged in wheat production, have marketed wheat, and have paid a check-off fee and left that fee with the Commission for the current year are eligible to vote.
Candidates wishing to run in the election must be at least 25 years old, a resident of Oklahoma, engaged in growing wheat in the state for at least five years and must derive a substantial portion of his/her income from growing wheat.
For more information on this election and its process, click over to our website.
|Late Breaking on Friday- Pork Industry Stung With Verdict Against Murphy Brown in North Carolina
A federal jury reached a verdict worth $50 million in the first of 26 lawsuits against North Carolina pork producer Murphy Brown. According to the Raleigh, NC based NewsObserver.Com, "A North Carolina jury awarded $50 million to neighbors of a 15,000-hog farm in Eastern North Carolina in a case being closely watched across the country by environmentalists and the hog farm industry.
"The verdict, revealed late Thursday after a jury deliberated less than two days, is the first to come in a series of federal lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer.
"In this case decided in a federal courtroom in Raleigh, 10 neighbors contended that industrial-scale hog operations have known for decades that the open-air sewage pits on their properties were the source of noxious, sickening and overwhelming odors. The stench was so thick, the neighbors argued, that it was impossible to get it out of their clothes."
for their complete story after the verdict.
Smithfield says the environmentalists who have promoted these lawsuits have shopped this court case- moving from a state level court to the federal venue and got more favorable treatment there. In a strongly worded release after the verdict- "We are extremely disappointed by the verdict. We believe the outcome would have been different if the court had allowed the jury to (1) visit the plaintiffs' properties and the Kinlaw farm and (2) hear additional vital evidence, especially the results of our expert's odor-monitoring tests, as explained in detail below.
"In addition, media reports of a $50 million verdict are inaccurate and misleading. Punitive damages are limited to the greater of $250,000, or three times the amount of compensatory damages, which in this case were $75,000 per person. This means that each plaintiff should be awarded $325,000, for a total judgment for all 10 plaintiffs of $3,250,000. (this is because of a state law recently enacted to limit punitive damages in cases like this)
"These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on all animal agriculture (not only hogs, but poultry, cattle, etc.), rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms. Farmers are apparently not safe from attack even if they fully comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations. The lawsuits are a serious threat to a major industry, to North Carolina's entire economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of North Carolinians."
The release goes on to say "From the beginning, the lawsuits have been nothing more than a money grab by a big litigation machine. Plaintiffs' original lawyers promised potential plaintiffs a big payday. Those lawyers were condemned by a North Carolina state court for unethical practices. Plaintiffs' counsel at trial relied heavily on anti-agriculture, anti-corporate rhetoric rather than the real facts in the case. These practices are abuses of our legal system, and we will continue to fight them."
Click here for the complete release from Smithfield- which details what they say the Federal Court refused to allow into the courtroom as evidence.
The major environmental group that has organized a lot of the litigation against the pork industry is Farm Sanctuary. They have produced multiple videos to help position their message against pork production- here is one of them that has received a lot of views-
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