AFR/OFU Hosts National Farmers Union President Rob Larew on Third Leg of Statewide Tour & His Takeaways from the TourSun, 15 Nov 2020 07:20:53 CST
American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) Cooperative hosted National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew on a tour of Northeast Oklahoma on 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. Farm Director Ron Hays spoke with Larew after the tour wrapped up about some of his biggest impressions. "I had a phenomenal week in Oklahoma. For someone like myself who knew a little bit about Oklahoma agriculture, but not a lot of detail, AFR's tour of the state really showed off the diversity. Not only in the geography, the challenges, and the style of agriculture Oklahoma has but also the diversity of crops in Oklahoma agriculture. It's just an incredibly rich and diverse state from Western Oklahoma up into north and northwest. There's plenty more of the state that I want to see, but I had a really great tour all across the state."
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 and potential collaboration areas, including agribusiness development, conservation, and K-12 education. Larew said one of his biggest takeaways was the overwhelming concentration and control that the packers have within the beef industry, "For ranchers out there, they know well what challenges they have in the marketplace, the lack of transparency, and the effect that that has on the price that they receive. It's pretty staggering."
Larew said he thinks a positive thing is that it seems to be getting more renewed attention not only by ranchers but also by consumers. Larew said he admires the fact that ranchers are taking this issue pretty seriously, "AFR is one of the leaders here where they are working with the state to develop programs as you know to make it easier for consumers to get Oklahoma beef. There are just too few capacities for that to grow hugely, but ranchers are stepping up there too." Larew feels like that will give ranchers more options and consumers more options as well.
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 administration change. They also summarized the week's discussions with Oklahoma producers. They 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.
Larew went onto say that there is a lot of administration transition work going on now. He will be taking a lot of the messages that he heard throughout his tour of Oklahoma to the new administration to make sure those issues are listened to, "It's about making sure they understand what the real issues are out there. Not only with farmers and ranchers, but because they are also members of the rural community, there are a lot of challenges out there, and we need to make sure that Washington fully understands those."
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.
Click or tap below to hear the complete conversation with NFU's Rob Larew.
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