As NFU Legislative Fly-In Wraps Up, AFR President Scott Blubaugh brings back some Take-aways he would like to see in OklahomaThu, 15 Sep 2022 12:34:29 CDT
The 2022 NFU Fall Legislative Fly-In wrapped up this week in Washington, DC. Throughout the week, the AFR Oklahoma delegation joined Farmers Union attendees from across the nation at the USDA Jefferson Auditorium. The NFU Legislative Fly-In group of 250 people is the largest to gather in Jefferson Auditorium since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack took top billing at the USDA Administration briefing. His remarks focused on the revitalization and building of local and regional food systems in the United States and the development and implementation of climate-smart practices.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Intern Cheyenne Leach had the opportunity to travel with the AFR delegation and caught up with AFR President Scott Blubaugh after the Fly-in to get his take on the events, "We were able to go to the White House and meet with The president and his people. We were able to deal with the USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and most of his deputy lieutenants. Then we were able to go to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice and meet with their attorneys and then, of course, our congressman. So we had a very, very busy schedule, but I was optimistic and very positive."
Blubaugh said some of his biggest takeaways was the importance of getting a farm bill done and the fairness for farmers' campaign, which includes several pieces of key legislation, "One of them is the Transparency Act in the beef cattle market and have a contract library and being able to have better price reporting rules, better USDA rules on the Stockers and packers Act, as well as the right to repair our own equipment. That is becoming a bigger and bigger thing."
Blubaugh said he's concerned with consolidation issues producers face in Agriculture, "It's really a national food security issue when the government allows Brazilian and Chinese companies to come in and buy up our food processing systems. And that's what's happened now. Chinese or Brazilian firms now own over 50% of our beef processing. And it is a National security issue."
Blubaugh worries that this type of food system, while very efficient, is not very resilient, "We've seen this time and time again with the pandemic. The Holcomb Kansas fires, we even saw cyber attacks on some of the plants and shutting them down. So any disruption at all for whatever reason doesn't matter. One of those major beef processing plants goes offline for any reason. You're going to lose about 5% of the nation's capacity to supply beef to the country. So it's, it's extremely concerning for the entire industry."
When they arrive back in Oklahoma, Blubaugh said he would like to continue to see the administration work on the anti-competitive laws and reign in bad practices, "With anti-competitive behavior, you know, you've got basically four big packers that are very similar to a monopoly. There are a lot of rules. Our laws are based on fairness and equality. As independent farmers and ranchers, we want to be treated fair. And so the title of our presentation is fairness to farmers. And we're trying to promote and bring it to the public's attention."
Blubaugh says he sees higher prices in the grocery store. Still, on the farmer/rancher level, we haven't seen any price increases, and in many cases, we have seen actual decreases, and he says consolidation is to blame, "There's just no there's no competitive market to out there. It's just one deal. And if that doesn't work, then there's nothing. So it hurts consumers and makes them pay more for food; it hurts our farmers and ranchers; they're not being paid what they should be for their hard work. And it probably hurts the rural communities harder than anyone because the wealth our land creates is sucked out of many rural communities. And that wealth is sent overseas to these foreign coffers, Corporate coffers, and they retain that money there and not in Oklahoma. Not in rural America."
Blubaugh says they will continue to work on getting some legislation passed this session of Congress. Still, with only six weeks left in the session, they will have to move quickly, "We're working hard to get some of these transparency issues, cattle market issues, some of the labeling issues that we face in the beef market in that product of the USA labels are very deceptive to the consumer."
The fact that foreign beef is allowed to be repackaged in the United States and then sold as a product of the USA is a problem, says Blubaugh, "We're importing beef product from lots of different countries, so if we're going to allow that practice to go on, we need to at least let the consumer know where their food comes from."
Blubaugh said that everything is very partisan in Washington right now. Still, he says the issues he is speaking about have broad bipartisan support, "I feel like everyone sees the benefit of passing legislation to help the consumer, help the farmer and ranchers, and help our rural community."
To hear Cheyenne and Scott Blubaugh's complete conversation click or tap below
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