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Class XII Curriculum

State Government and the Political Party System

Seminar VII

Oklahoma City

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Scribe: Kirk Darnell

Brian Wiles led the synthesis discussion of Seminar 6 in Washington, D.C. Excellent discussion followed with input:

  • Learned not to accept everything at face value – i.e. NRCS guy in D.C. acted like everything was rosy, meanwhile OK budget was being cut!

  • Don’t count on government for changes. 

  • Next 5-10 years 60-80% of government employees will be retiring – massive turnover = newer blood = better ideas? 

  • Good news that the government won’t be meddling in my business. 

  • “D.C. = 40 sq miles surrounded by reality.” 

  • Notice how easy it is to access our reps. 

  • 1 phone call mean nothing – 5 calls gets attention – 10-20 is a HOT issue! 

  • No such thing as common sense – if there was, everyone would have it.

  • There is a lot of ignorance in D.C. regarding specific issues. 

  • Gettysburg represents turning point in determining power of federal government – Keep open mind about the other side (i.e. Ken Cook – once I listened his side, was interesting) 

  • Importance of communicating with “fringe ag.” 

  • Don’t just sit there, do something! i.e. incorporated a visit to the City Manager of Elk City regarding attracting a Cabela’s store while on a business trip there. 

  • Expressed deep felt appreciation for OALP in terms of educating us about the diversity of agricultural interests and pursuits across the state, even for someone that has spent a lifetime in the industry. 

  • When you have a passion, don’t just talk about it, take action. We’ve seen many paths. 

  • These are people just like us. We can be one of them and make a difference. 

  • Senators and reps were on a pedestal – they are real humans, not encyclopedias of info – only know what they get told – our key is working to become THE source of information on your topic of interest!

We then heard from Matt Wilson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, our host for the day. OFB is a grass roots organization starting with the membership and county board of directors in all 77 counties of the state. Policy for the organization is initiated at the local level and then voted on at the annual convention. OFB has approximately 350 home office employees, 330 insurance agents, 200 county secretaries, 6 field reps and nine state board members. The president of the state board, Steve Kouplen was introduced, as was Jeramy Rich, Director of Governmental Relations. Nearly 95% of the employees are related to the insurance business, which generates roughly $260 million in annual premiums. The company also produces quarterly and bi-weekly publications for their approximately 158,000. Truly a great company!

We then heard from Clay Pope, Executive Director of Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and former House of Representatives member from ’94-’04. We also heard from Mike Thralls, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Both of these individuals discussed the importance of the “voluntary” and “locally led” aspects of the conservation districts, as well as the importance of becoming involved in local efforts regarding conservation of natural resources.

Mr. Thralls also updated us on the plight of the flood control structures that are nearing the end of their 50-year life spans and the struggle to maintain funding at the federal and state level to renovate these structures while emphasizing their significant importance. Other issues discussed were phosphorous from poultry litter, cedar tree infestation and carbon sequestration.

Next we heard from Mike Melton – Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Mike Thralls was raised on a dairy farm in Jefferson County. The OWRB is a 9-member board appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the senate. OWRB has between 95-105 employees, with more on board during the summer. He remembers a time early in his career when “things were simple.” They had no attorneys on staff and no need for them, whereas they now have three full-time attorneys.

The OWRB is charged with many things including:

  • Monitoring water quality in all lakes and streams in the state;

  • Water rights administration – ground water/stream water;

  • Licensure of water well drillers.

There was significant discussion regarding groundwater access, measurement, rights, etc. Unfortunately, time did not permit full pursuit of the issues of importance.

During our “working lunch” we heard from Jeramy Rich of Oklahoma Farm Bureau regarding current legislative issues including a stern warning that agriculture is ripe for litigation (i.e. OK attorney general’s attack on poultry growers/companies). We also heard from Mason Mungle, Jeramy’s counterpart at Oklahoma Farmer’s Union. Both Jeramy and Mason are OSU graduates with strong roots in agriculture. Jeramy grew up on a farm/ranch near Prague and now operates his own ranch North of Prague. Mason operated his family dairy near Atoka for 15 years before serving as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and then moving to OFU. He still maintains interest in the family farm. Mason was in OALP Class I.

Next we heard from Terry Peach, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. He is a 3rd generation farmer, ag education instructor and an OALP alum from Class V. Terry gave us an overview of the OK Department of Agriculture, one of two departments created by the state constitution.

Next we walked across the street to the Capitol to visit our legislators, reminding them of the importance of agriculture in general, OALP specifically, and also to invite them to breakfast at the Faculty House.

After freshening up at the Ameri-Suites we traveled to the Oklahoma Farmers Union office to enjoy a wonderful dinner and listen to Terry Detrick, OFU Vice President.

Completing the day, we heard some “brief” comments from Dr. Williams regarding the California Ag Leadership Program’s four day visit to Oklahoma in March, 2005. A great time was had by all!


Thursday, April 21, 2005
Scribe: Burke Covey

We started of the day at 7:30 am at the Faculty House Restaurant. Jake Nelson was the chairman. We went around the room and introduced the Reps. and Sens. at our tables. The breakfast was courtesy of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Farmers Union, Oklahoma Cattleman’s Assn., Oklahoma Grain and Feed Assn., Oklahoma Agri-Business Retailers Assn., and the Oklahoma Pork Council. After the breakfast Jan Montgomery spoke to us about OALP funding.

At 9:00 o’clock we departed for the Capitol for a picture taking session with Lt. Governor Mary Fallin. After the picture we met with Rep. Dale Dewitt, Chairman of the House Ag Committee. Rep. Dewitt had several topics he wanted to discuss with us:

  • A new Diagnostic Lab at Dept. of Ag and OSU

  • MPDS bill – held up by court ruling on Feb Level

  • Fertilizer bill - Changing method of purchasing

  • Poultry industry - needs a standard set of Regulations

  • Increasing funding on programs possibly 10%

  • Funding OALP.

Next was Rep. Don Armes, Chairman of the House Environmental and Natural Resources committee. The topics Rep. Armes spoke to us about were:

  • Water Rights – Private property rights and selling water to metropolitan cities

  • Poultry industry – Waste

  • Studies on phosphorus run off

  • Need to determine how much water land owner can sell

  • There have been water issues on the house floor since 1990

  • Two types of water problems: Quantity and Quality.

  • Studies need to be done on these issues before doing legislation

  • Urban people cannot connect with rural business

Rep. Curt Roggow was our next appointment. Rep. Roggow talked to us about:

  • Rural vs. Urban issues

  • Personal relationships make a difference in the legislature

  • He ran because of Frank Keating

  • He used to work for Frank Lucas

  • Cutting taxes

  • Funding OALP

The last presenter was Sen. Daisy Lawler, Chairman of Senate Ag Committee. She spoke to us about her background and funding.

  • She and her husband raise cattle

  • She holds the same seat her husband held in 1990 to 1994

  • 20 senators on Ag Committee - 2 are woman

  • A new lab at the Dept. of Ag

  • Funding OALP

  • Her real goal is to help rural Oklahoma.

Lunch was on our own.

At 1:30 we met at the Oklahoma Restaurant Group Self Insurance Association and Brett Porter was Chairman. Our first speaker for the afternoon was Larry Watkins. Mr. Watkins is the General Manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. He spoke to us about:

  • Electric Coops were started in FDR days with 2% interest loans from the federal government.

  • There are 3 types of electric companies: Municipalities, Stockholder organizations, and Electric Coops.

  • There are electric coops in all 77 Oklahoma counties.

  • Their Youth tour of Washington, DC

  • “With every privilege, there comes responsibility”

  • OEC’s are working on rural broadband Internet though satellite and some via power lines.

  • Individual wind charges on coop lines and the safety issue the causes it to be non-economical

  • Touchstone Energy – is a marketing umbrella to reach consumers.

After talking about Electric Coops we talked to Rick Maloney. Mr. Maloney is the Director of Market Development for the Oklahoma Department of Ag. He had several talking points and they were:

  • There are no regulations responsibly on the Market Development Division

  • 6 sections of the Market Development Division

  • Ag in the class room and the expanding it to 7th and 8th grade

  • Agri-tourism (starts May 1st)

  • Made in Oklahoma (300 companies enrolled)

  • Diversified Ag (Oklahoma farmers markets)

  • Rural Development (Ag enhancement and Diversification)

  • Market News (reports 8 markets for livestock and grain).

Next was Heather Buckmaster and Scott Dewald. Heather is the Director of the Oklahoma Beef Council and Scott is the Vice President on the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. Heather spoke to us about OBC and what it has done for producers:

  • Beef demand is up 10% since 1998

  • Beef is safe

  • Explaining beef checkoff

  • $.50 of every dollar stays here in Oklahoma

Scott’s presentation points were:

  • Don’t say whether or not you support something, but ask which version you support.

  • Opening the Canadian border

  • Exporting to Japan

  • Country of Origin labeling.

Our last presentations were by Brian Dougherty and Heather Walker. Brian and Heather spoke to us about OKC Community Foundation and OKC Childrens Center:

  • The children and their health problems

  • Brian likes to mow lawns

  • Farmers market

  • Using gardens to help with the kids therapy

  • Making us aware off the Foundation and the Childrens Center.

We adjourned at 4:30.

At 6:30 p.m. we met at Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant in Bricktown for dinner. We would like to thank McClain Bank and Jackie Listen VP, a member of Cass IX, for sponsoring the meal.

After dinner we traveled at OKC Memorial. Mark Bays, Urban Forrester, talked to us about the Survivor Tree and what they are doing to make sure it lives for another 100 years.


Friday, April 21, 2005
Scribe: Steven Clay

Friday, April 22, dawned clear with a brisk north-west wind blowing 15-20 miles per hour. The class met at 8:30 a.m. at the Oklahoma City Food Bank and was welcomed by Chris Kirby (OALP Class XI), the director. She began with some brief comments, exhorting us to get involved and pointed out the great examples in our midst, Joe, Julia, and Mike.

Chris provided us with some surprising details of how many persons in Oklahoma are at risk of going hungry. She also outlined the history, scope, purpose, and funding for the OKC regional food bank. The non-profit organization is twenty-five years old, services fifty-three counties in Central and Western Oklahoma, provides food to about five-hundred service organizations, was established through a $5.4 million grant from the Donald Ray Reynolds Foundation. Most of the food that is distributed is donated, but some protein is purchased. The facility distributed 20 million pounds of food last year which met 60 percent of the need. A large volunteer workforce is relied upon, providing around 25 thousand hours of labor per year. The five-year-old facility houses approximately a thirty-day supply of food. The only fee that is charged is 4.5 cents per pound for handling and shipping and only three-percent of the operating budget is administration costs. Funding is from private and corporate donors.

Chris shared with our class some of the special programs that they administer such as: Kid Café which teaches school children about safe food preparation and nutrition, Food for Kids that provides weekend backpacks containing highly nutritious foods that require little or no preparation to children identified by their school as at-risk for hunger at home, and Crop gleaning projects. She then gave our class a great tour of the facility including cold-storage, freezer, dry-goods warehouse, loading docks. Outside we saw the 3.5 acre organic garden used for the Urban Harvest program which is both for fresh fruit and vegetable production, and a teaching laboratory for community garden projects. Finally, Chris invited us inside the greenhouse and hoophouse where fresh vegetables and fruits are grown during the winter.

The group then departed in caravan to Express Ranches on the north side of Yukon, for a tour and overview of the cattle operation. The class was greeted by owner Bob Funk, Gerald Callahan, and Dr. John Edwards. Dr. Edwards explained the history, purpose, and goals of the enterprise. The ranch was begun twelve to thirteen years ago to win blue ribbons in the show ring, and has evolved into both a purebred and commercial bull production station and a seller of prospect show cattle. The ranch consists of about thirty-eight-hundred contiguous acres stocked with Angus and Limousine cows and offspring. The goal of the division is to break-even against all costs. Dr. Edwards emphasized the enterprise is a hobby, and that some of the expenses in the operation are not based upon return on investment, but on Mr. Funk’s desire.

Dr. Edwards explained the sales schedule and Express Ranches Jr. scholarship program. The ranch sells fifteen to seventeen hundred bulls per year. Dr. Edwards then fielded questions from the class on a variety of topics from trait selection culling and breeding goals to embryo transfer and ownership of recipient cows. Express strives to provide bulls that have a variety of traits so that they can fill the needs of a wide range of purchasers. Responding to a question about education of their clientele regarding EPD (expected progeny difference) numbers, he stated the younger more educated buyers were very comfortable with them as a selection tool, whereas the older buyers did not put as much faith in EPD as in visual appraisal. Some clients have enough faith in the management of Express Ranches to let them make recommendations for herd sires.

The class was given a brief tour of the Clydesdale enterprise, which Dr. Edwards called a costly one. A historic barn houses two hitches of rare black-with-white-stocking-blaze-faced Clydesdale geldings. A hitch is a group of horses used to pull a wagon, in this case for parades and public appearances. One hitch is made up of young showy horses and the other of older, more seasoned ones. A class picture was taken with Joe, one of the smaller horses, who weighs about seventeen-hundred-fifty pounds!

Finally, the class enjoyed a Barbeque lunch sponsored by Class XI and then discussed requirements for obtaining passports. The chairpersons led the class through about thirty minutes of reflection/synthesis of Seminar 7, then the class departed for home looking forward to our next seminar in July. Some class members were sad that this wonderful OALP opportunity is already half complete.