Membership Numbers Grow
With the first few years in the history books, Oklahoma Farm Bureau moved into the 1950s with more than 25,000 members.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau Farmer magazine showcased the organization’s foundation: the members. Every issue is filled with photos of meetings, picnics, square dances and learning workshops.
By the late 1940s, leaders had recognized the need for a new building to house the ever-expanding organization. By Feb. 9, 1952, a contract for the new building construction was signed. A number of locations for the new building were considered, but many leaders preferred a site close to the State Capitol Building in hopes legislators would become more aware of the organization.
With a contract price of $610,481, OKFB turned to the membership for help with funds. Farm Bureau families invested $247,150 in building certificates, which indicated the confidence of the membership in the organization. The remainder of the funds was paid by the insurance company’s surplus funds.
Soon, the new building for the growing organization was finished. Dedication of the new building was held Aug. 3, 1954, with retired OKFB president John I. Taylor giving his speech.
Growth continued for the organization. In May 1952, OKFB reported Pottawatomie, Rogers and Pawnee counties had organized, leaving only one county without a Farm Bureau. Early in 1954, Cimarron County Farm Bureau leaders announced the county would have its own office building, making it the first county to have one. In the next few years, several counties would follow in their footsteps.
OKFB leaders and staff also enhanced their communication efforts by creating a radio show that was available to 75 percent of OKFB farm families in 1954. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau Farmer was converted to a tabloid newspaper format in 1954 in order to provide more news space, more timely news and to reduce costs.
County Farm Bureaus step up
Community activities were widespread throughout OKFB’s membership. Eagerness for learning about farm practices and new technology continued as OKFB frequently encouraged attendance at informational sessions and learning opportunities. In one program, OKFB joined with other organizations to bring young farmer trainees from other countries to live and work on local farms for a certain time.
Support for Junior Farm Bureau members was also apparent through donations to local FFA and 4-H programs as well as encouragement to attend state and national training workshops.
OKFB Leaders at the Oklahoma State Capitol
OKFB worked heavily to earn a presence at the State Capitol. At the time, OKFB did not have a staff member to follow pending legislation. Instead, contacts were made primarily by the OKFB president, directors, county leaders and executive secretary. John I. Taylor, Lewis Munn, Dan Arnold and other leaders were familiar figures in legislative halls. These leaders earned respect and contributed to Farm Bureau’s initial reputation. Lawmakers soon recognized OKFB as a reliable source of agricultural information.
As OKFB became more involved in legislative matters, leaders recognized the importance of farmers’ votes. In May 1952, OKFB officially launched the Votemobile, a sound truck that toured the state spotlighting the dates for registration and voting.
In 1953, OKFB failed again on sales tax exemptions, but succeeded in getting gasoline money earmarked for rural roads and in getting annual audits of county government and publication of minutes of meetings of county commissioners.
1953 also marked a change of leadership in the organization. John I. Taylor resigned in August 1953 due to pressing business matters concerning the settling of several estates in his family. Lewis H. Munn, Alfalfa County wheat and livestock farmer, took his place as OKFB president. Munn had served on the county level in several positions and had served eight years as secretary and one year as vice-president.
In 1955, OKFB leaders caused the first filibuster in Oklahoma’s Senate when the opponents of the tax exemption bill on feed and seed had to resort to a 10-hour talkathon to kill the bill. The Senate finally recessed at 5:30 a.m. the next day after OKFB’s one-vote margin dissolved.
Another example of a legislative win for OKFB started with Frank Carter, OKFB legal counsel. In 1956, Carter asked the state Supreme Court to permit Farm Bureau to intervene in a lawsuit involving the rights of a farmer to use natural gas produced on his farm for fuel for irrigation pumps. The case was decided in favor of the farmer.
In 1957, OKFB led a coalition of farm groups that finally succeeded in getting exemption of feeds and the trade-in value of used farm machinery from sales tax. Ora J. Fox, a leader of the welfare lobby, circulated a petition to call for a statewide vote on the new law, but the courts declared the Fox petition invalid in 1959, when the sales tax exemptions went into effect.
Near the end of the 1950s, the organization continued to push the importance of active membership, but a recognizable shift to legislative matters was evident. More news space was dedicated to explanations of bills and acts that would affect agriculture. Legislative and political opinions from members across the state were printed in the OKFB newsletter.