At the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Leadership Conference, Associate Farm Editor, Reagan Calk, had the chance to visit with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, Blayne Arthur about serving producers in the state, her new appointment with NASDA, Oklahoma Youth Expo and more.
As Arthur has attended several meetings across the state, she described the overall outlook from producers she has talked with to be hopefully optimistic.
“A little bit of a tone of optimism as some places have gotten moisture, but certainly a lot of places are looking for more moisture and kind of deciding what their planting decisions and management decisions are going to be for this year, so we are hopeful that we get some good rain and kind of go into a good spring and summertime,” Arthur said.
With the legislative session rolling out, Arthur also talked about some of those big-ticket items she has been tackling.
“There are certainly lots of bills that kicked around at the legislature,” Arthur said. “I think this year there are over 3,000 bills filed. Thankfully, not all of those have anything to do with agriculture. We are really focused on certainly anything that is specific to the agency, to the Department of Ag, Food and Forestry.”
The Department of Agriculture as an agency, Arthur said, is requesting opportunities to adjust salaries as they work to strategically recruit and retain talent through the agency.
“(We are) Also watching all kinds of bills that have anything to do from food safety issues to how pesticides are utilized, and then certainly a bill specific to the Emergency Drought Commission, which we spent a lot of time on last year, kind of adjusting what that member board looks like, and potentially, hopefully, directing some funds there,” Arthur said.
Recently appointed into the role of Vice President with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), Arthur talked about her duties within the organization.
“NASDA is our national group for all of our ag commissioners, secretaries and directors from across the United States, so I currently serve as Vice President and then will be serving as President in September,” Arthur said. “So that really gives us an opportunity to showcase Oklahoma and ag producers and ultimately really kind of elevate and multiply our voice as an ag producing state at the national level and even have some international opportunities there as well.”
Regarding the Oklahoma Youth Expo coming up, Arthur said the event is special to her. FFA and 4-H students from all 77 counties in Oklahoma, Arthur said, have been working hard on their projects ranging from the livestock show side to the ag mechanics show.
“Students have a variety of ways to participate, and really my favorite part about that event is there are so manty scholarship opportunities for those students,” Arthur said. “There is a premium sale and students are able to make that, but so many scholarship opportunities and I feel like we are really growing that next generation of leaders. Those are kids that are working hard, they are learning how to be responsible, they are learning how to win, but they are also learning how to lose. I think it is one of the very best things we do here in Oklahoma.”
As Ag Day at the Capitol is coming up on April 11, Arthur talked about the details of this event.
“We always look forward to Ag Day,” Arthur said. “We think it is the best day at the Capitol. We will have, on the second floor of the rotunda, we will have a lot of our commodity booths and Made in Oklahoma companies who are set up.”
This year, Arthur said, the forestry division of the Department of Agriculture will be highlighted, and the wild land fire response that division provides across the state of Oklahoma will be talked about.
“Our Ag in the Classroom staff will be putting together their awards ceremony for all of the Ag in the Classroom winners,” Arthur said. “We will also recognize our Ag Hall of Fame winner. It is a very busy day with some great activities and ultimately our goal is to create awareness of the ag industry and why it is so important here in the state.”