Extension services, the agriculture sales tax exemption and feral hogs were issues prioritized by Oklahoma Farm Bureau members as they worked to set the organization’s 2019 policy on Saturday, Nov. 17 during the OKFB annual meeting in Norman, Oklahoma.
All 77 county Farm Bureaus submitted resolutions to the OKFB policy book which were reviewed by a statewide committee and voted on by the delegate body during the annual meeting. The policy sets the direction of the organization for the next year.
“It’s not just the power of our public policy staff, it’s not just the power of our board,” OKFB President Rodd Moesel said of the organization’s grassroots policy. “It’s the power of our members in all 77 counties meeting today and all of our members speaking out on these issues.
“The policy may have started in Grant County, it may have started in Pontotoc County or it may have started in Jackson County, but it ends up here (at the annual meeting) when all 77 counties take action and vote and set the agenda for the next year.”
Farm Bureau members voted to prioritize maintaining at least one cooperative extension office, with a 4-H educator, in each county. The policy also supports a multi-county model for extension specialists. Funding for cooperative extension, which provides cutting-edge research to farmers and ranchers, has dwindled as the state has grappled with budget shortfalls over the past few years.
“The extension service is near and dear to many Farm Bureaus hearts,” Moesel said. “We made it a priority issue to support not only keeping that one 4-H agent in every county, but also rebuilding the extension system with area agents that might serve several counties as an agronomy expert or horticulture expert or rural development expert.
“As our state’s blessed with extra income, the extension service – which has been one of the things that’s been punished in the last few years – is something we’re anxious to see restored and rebuilt,” he said.
Members also voted to reaffirm OKFB’s support for the sales tax exemption on agricultural production inputs, which was a policy fought for by Farm Bureau for nearly 30 years.
“All 50 states offer an exemption on the inputs that go into ag production just like they do the manufacturing companies,” Moesel said. “If suddenly we removed that ag exemption in Oklahoma, we would immediately – depending on the local, city and county – be at a 7 to 10 percent disadvantage compared to competing with farmers in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico.
“The sales tax system was designed only to tax at the point of last sale, so the crops we produce are ultimately taxed when they’re sold as cereal or they’re sold as hamburger or when they’re sold as potted plants, but they shouldn’t be taxed on the inputs that go into producing those crops.”
With feral hogs plaguing Oklahoma farmers and ranchers for years, Farm Bureau members bolstered the organization’s call for complete eradication of the invasive species by any means possible. Many producers are working proactively to reduce the population on private land, but OKFB members voted to urge municipal, state and federal agencies to also eradicate feral hogs on public lands.
“It’s clear from the voice of the Farm Bureau voters that they don’t see the feral hog problem getting reduced, they see it even becoming more serious,” Moesel said.
Members also voted to oppose mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, urge cell-cultured food products to be labeled properly, encourage federally-funded research on industrial hemp production, and affirm support for free and fair international trade.
The OKFB board of directors will vote on final approval of the grassroots policy at its December meeting.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau Annual Meeting is the organization’s largest gathering of farmers and ranchers every year. At the event, members vote on grassroots policy, elect leaders and award outstanding individuals. OKFB has a presence in all 77 Oklahoma counties and serves as the voice of agriculture and the rural way of life. To learn more, visit www.okfarmbureau.org.