Alva Review-Courier -

Secretary of Agriculture Arthur visits Sen. Pederson's wheat field at Burlington

• Secretary said Pederson's ag/producer perspective helpful at Capitol


The girls working at the Burlington Co-op have a surprise visit from the Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur. From left: Sadie Crusinbery, Caitlin Flackman, Blayne Arthur, Abbie Newman, Bayli Hyde.

Oklahoma Sen. Roland Pederson is best known in the Burlington area as a longtime wheat farmer and stockman. He and his wife Terry raised their now adult daughters on the family farm about five miles west of Burlington.

Last week Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur visited Pederson while he harvested his wheat. During an interview with the Newsgram, Arthur said she's been touring various parts of the state to see the effects of the excessive amounts of rain on crops – the yields, quality, etc.

Riding in the cab of Pederson's combine with him, Arthur said of the senator, "It's great to have someone at the Capitol who is a real producer and knows how to drive a combine. He brings a great perspective to the Capitol – from an ag producer point of view." She expressed thankfulness that "we have Roland who is willing to serve and when he's not at the capitol he's at his family operation and understands the challenges that come with ag production."

Vice chairman of the senate ag committee, Pederson said that Arthur is "very knowledgeable and doing a good job." The secretary grew up in Grady County southwest of Oklahoma City on a farm with wheat, soybeans and cattle. She was active in 4-H and FFA – and graduated from OSU. She worked in the secretary of agriculture office before becoming executive director of the 4-H Foundation. Then Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed her as the first female Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture in 2018.

"I've been very lucky that people gave me some great opportunities – I have been very, very blessed," Arthur said.

Pederson and Arthur had a chance to visit during their ride around the field in the combine. "Roland is a big supporter of the agency, our employees and any issues," the secretary said. "He's always willing to listen."

During the combine cab ride, Pederson said, "We discussed the Department of Agriculture budget and some of the issues facing agriculture in the state. She was appreciative of the increase in the appropriation the department received this year and is making a positive difference for ag in Oklahoma."

On her tour of Pederson Farms (family-owned property he's farmed for decades), Arthur said she was "most impressed with the family component," seeing his wife, daughters and others "working together to get the job done in conjunction with their other jobs. There's lots of early mornings and late nights."

"That's the wonderful part of Oklahoma – it's great to see family members working together,"Arthur said.

Arthur rode to the Burlington Co-op elevator to dump a load of wheat with Terry. The secretary went inside the scale house to see the process of testing the wheat and met the girls working there during harvest. Arthur wrote on Facebook, "Wheat looked great, got to ride to the co-op and meet some great young ladies with lots of jokes and even stopped by to see the Kisling clan. Burlington is a wonderful town full of great Oklahomans."

Despite rain delays and wet fields, Pederson said the 2019 wheat harvest was above average and "very good" for him, "just tough cutting conditions." For the first time he planted some sesame right behind his cut wheat. When it comes to till or no-till farming, Pederson favors tillage. He also raises alfalfa which many acres were lost due to flooding this year. He also runs a cow/calf operation.

Ag Secretary Arthur Speaks of Oklahoma Harvest, Challenges and Future of Farming

In her tour of the state wheat crops, Arthur said the worst was in the eastern part of Oklahoma. Touring the Webber Falls and Spiro area she said floods prevented some farmers from having any harvest at all.

She said as rivers rushed across fields the water washed away the top soil, brought in sand and has totally affected the quality and content of soil for those farmers.

The secretary said she's had many discussions with the conservation commission and NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Service) for options on how farmers can move on and improve their soil the next several years.

"The positive we've seen is, when they could get in if the rain cooperated, we've had a decent harvest for most of our producers, although much later than normal," Arthur said. "It's not as good of quality as hoped for but still some positive results for our producers in Oklahoma.

"Definitely our farmers are tough folks," the secretary said. "It's been really, really challenging for those folks on the east part of the state. We've had some tough years for our producers – just one thing after another.

"We've about completed harvest in Oklahoma," said Arthur. She recalled the May 18 pre-harvest reports that said 88 percent of the wheat crop was good to excellent. "Then monsoon season hit," she said.

"Commodity prices are not what we would like – producers are looking at options," the secretary said. Although northwest Oklahoma is an unusual place to grow cotton, Arthur said she is seeing a lot more of it in the last two or three years. "Price-wise it's good," she said of cotton, generally higher than wheat and the price is more stable. She said the Department of Agriculture has resources for people wanting to try cotton.

Arthur said there is one very new commodity to Oklahoma – industrial hemp. She said there are over 16,000 acres in test plots through a pilot program. She said the industrial hemp is different than marijuana (THC level is critical). Arthur said the THC levels must be at or below .03. "It's going to be a learning experience for us all."

She said canola was tried by some farmers, but it's really dropped off the last three or four years.

When asked the biggest challenges facing Oklahoma farmers, the secretary of agriculture listed: 1) weather from drought to flood; 2) commodity prices from cattle to wheat; 3) labor – finding people willing to work hard and long hours; 4) farm transition planning, because the average age of the Oklahoma ag producer is 65.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur said she is most impressed with the family component she saw at Pederson Farms at Burlington during her tour of the state. Sen. Roland Pederson's wife Terry drives their wheat truck as the two go dump a load of wheat at the Burlington Co-op. Daughters Kristy and Toni are in the field helping their dad.

The secretary said, "We understand why young people are not going back to full-time farming – long hours and it's challenging from an income perspective. But we also have a growing population and we need to make sure we are able to feed the world. Certainly the United States plays a huge part in that because of the natural resources we have available to us. Everyone in the ag world is starting to work together to see what the options are to encourage young producers to return to the farm and make sure there's opportunities for them there."

When asked about President Trump and tariffs, Arthur said, "We're very much part of a global market. It's good to try and get the very best for our American products. Some of the tariffs have been challenging for our producers, but I think the administration has acknowledged that with some of the funding resources that have come down through the USDA. We have a great dialogue with the state ag perspective and our USDA counterparts. We always have a close eye on those discussions so we can be a resource for our producers here in Oklahoma.

"The U.S., has the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. Some people don't understand how our food gets to grocery store."


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