American Farmers and Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union Set Policy for 2020Sun, 16 Feb 2020 14:26:43 CST
American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU) set legislative policy for the upcoming year at the 115th Annual AFR/OFU Convention Feb. 14. Policy topics ranged from production agriculture and rural Oklahoma to topics addressing urban areas and the U.S. as a whole. Key issues included mandatory electronic identification of livestock and antitrust issues in the beef industry, as well as consumer-related issue like truth in
labeling for food products. Additional significant directives included international trade issues and farm stress management.
Each year, organization policy includes “special orders of business” that address recent, current or future issues of significant importance to rural Oklahoma and agriculture at large. This year’s additions to AFR/OFU Special Orders include:
Electronic Animal Identification: “We support a producer’s voluntary application of technology, age verification and trace back methods which can enhance producer profits. We support current non-electronic animal identification methods. We oppose any mandatory electronic animal identification requirements, whether mandated by state or federal authorities.”
Citing strong concerns over market manipulation, producer autonomy and data security, the 2020 AFR/OFU Policy Committee took a strong stance again mandatory electronic animal identification. Unlike other special orders, there was a strong enough sentiment against mandatory electronic animal identification to also include this passage in permanent organization policy.
Extension Education: “We support full-time extension educators in every county in Oklahoma.”
Due to the reduced number of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service agents in each county and the financial constraints squeezing their resources, the 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders supports and encourages a focus on maintaining full-time extension educators in every county in Oklahoma.
Packers and Stockyards Act: “We demand the enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act in regard to the anti-trust issues surrounding the packing segment of the beef industry in the United States.”
Four major packing firms control more than 80 percent of all beef slaughtered in the United States. With such a controlling interested in the marketplace, these groups are poised to influence and potentially manipulate U.S. beef prices.
This issue was at the forefront of beef industry discussion during the last half of 2019 and will continue to be a major issue through 2020. In light of this, the 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders demands proper enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Truth in Labeling Standards: “We oppose the use of food product labeling that misleads consumers, including the use of ‘Product of USA’ labeling. We demand the USDA enforce truth in labeling.”
Cattle or beef that is imported into the U.S. and undergoes further processing or handling at a USDA-inspected facility can be labeled “Product of the United States.” Because this practice can mislead consumers, and be detrimental to U.S. beef markets, the 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders opposes the practice and demands increased truth in labeling.
Trade Mitigation Payments: “Trade mitigation payments shall not be made to multi-national corporations or foreign entities.”
Spurred by a recent $90 million Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment to Brazilian-owned JBS, the 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders directs lawmakers to oppose trade mitigation programs that allow payment to foreign-owned companies.
In addition to these specific directives, 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders also includes support for the “U.S. Cattle Suit,” which accuses the four largest U.S. beef packers of violating federal antitrust law by conspiring to drive down prices.
In a related issue, the 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders voiced support for the Farm Stress Management program spearheaded by National Farmers Union and other national agriculture groups. The program is designed to help agriculture producers cope with the financial and emotional stress that currently accompanies much of production agriculture.
Finally, the significance of the 2020 Census was also highlighted. The 2020 AFR/OFU Special Orders encouraged all AFR/OFU members to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census. Those living in rural areas were especially encouraged to participate.
Adopted AFR/OFU policy is truly grassroots—proposed policy begins as resolutions at the local and county level. Because of this approach, the organization’s policy document represents members’ interests from across Oklahoma.
“The AFR/OFU policy process is a model of grassroots legislative efforts in action,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Because many of our policies originate from resolutions crafted in our local and county organizations; AFR/OFU members know their voices are heard at the state and national level.”
Each year, AFR/OFU selects policy committee members from across the state. The appointed individuals are an accomplished and diverse group representing the broadest spectrum possible of the general AFR membership. This year’s committee members include Brent Brewer, Hunter; Adam Brockriede, Frederick; Jim Buck, Cherokee; Terrell Coffey, Hinton; Becky Delozier, Adair; Bradley Hamilton, McAlester; Lee Horton, Lone Wolf; Roy Justice, Mannsville; Pam Livingston, Seiling; Michael Long, Wapanucka; Doug Ogden, Oktaha; Ryan Plemmons, Battiest; Jordan Shearer, Laverne; Branden Spears, Ponca City; Rodney Unruh, Elk City; and Mike Weaver, Fort Cobb. Randy Abbott, Pryor, chaired the committee.
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