Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 19, 2013

Farming has real issues to face

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — From ongoing droughts to legislation impacting the future — there are a number of issues on the radar of farmers in Garvin County.

Many of those issues bubbled to the surface during a recent legislative dinner hosted by the Garvin County Farm Bureau.

And then there’s the fact this is officially Farm Bureau Week here in the county.

For Farm Bureau board president Dale Schauer the top concerns for those in farming and ranching can really be narrowed fairly quickly.

“Our biggest issues in a nutshell would be regulations, the fiscal responsibility of our government and let us do our job like we know how to do,” Schauer said.

“Another big issue is water. That’s a really big issue, especially with this drought,” he said, adding this historically dry period is now entering its third consecutive year.

“Bridges and roads are always a big issue. We need that infrastructure in place.”

As for regulations, Schauer says the Farm Bureau’s concerns are focused on the agenda of the national Humane Society.

“It’s a social activist group trying to press legislation on what they call the unreasonable treatment of animals,” Schauer said.

“They’re basically telling us how to take care of our livestock,” he said. “We feel we’re better able to care for our animals over someone coming in from the outside.

“We’re not going to mistreat our animals. They are our livelihood. That’s our bread and butter. That’s the tools of our trade.”

Yet another concern is the urbanization of rural areas that for generations have been used for farming.

Put simply — it’s cities and suburbs reaching out to annex longtime farm lands.

Legislation Schauer calls the Right to Farm bill is action he believes is needed to protect farming.

“It’s encroaching on prime farm land,” he said.

“We don’t have the language in place, but hopefully this Right to Farm bill will go before voters. This bill would allow us to be proactive and practice our trade without a lot of outside interference.

“We’ve got to ease the regulations so we can do what we do best. We’ve got to take care of the ag community and not just farmers but people in general.”

According to Schauer, one part of that need is due to an estimate that by 2050 the world’s food supply will need to be double what it is today.

That, he says, means farming needs a fighting chance to get the job done.

“We’re looking at trying to achieve a higher level of production of efficiency,” Schauer said.

“One hundred years ago anybody could be a farmer or rancher. Many had to be just to survive,” he said. “Now less than 3 percent of the population is feeding the whole world.

“We’ve got plenty of food now but if we don’t take care of the ag community what about the future.”

Rising costs of operating a farm represents another big challenge, along with the future of the industry since many agriculture producers are getting older.

Schauer, who has been around farming and ranching his entire life and even spent time teaching agriculture in the classroom, says the average age of farmers in Oklahoma is around 60, while some board members for the Farm Bureau here are around 80 years old.

The obvious answer is more youth is needed to keep the industry going strong into the future.