Increased legislative pressure
By the 1970s, Oklahoma Farm Bureau members had harnessed the power of speaking as one voice for agriculture. After a few decades of experience at the state Capitol, OKFB had experienced both successes and failures in a variety of agricultural issues. With the increasing involvement in legislative matters, OKFB leaders recognized the need for a staff member to follow up on pending legislation. OKFB hired Bob Barr as the first legislative specialist in 1970. Barr was a Dover farmer and former legislator.
In 1970s, OKFB joined with the Oklahoma Farmers Union and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association to form a Tax Equality Committee. The main goal of the group was a referendum on ad valorem assessments on “use value,” and to remove tax on personal property. In 1972, the committee obtained a referendum and the land use taxation passed in August.
In 1973, strong cattle prices led to increased cattle thefts. To help identify rustlers, legislators suggested livestock trailers be identified by using a mandatory state license tag. To save money and provide an easier option, Oklahoma Farm Bureau members suggested that farmers, ranchers and owners of stock trailers be required to display their drivers license number on the back of their trailers, which also allowed highway patrolmen to check the driver without even stopping the vehicle. The idea was adopted at the OKFB convention in November 1973 and signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Dan Hall in April 1974, less than six months later.
OKFB also made great strides toward a longtime public policy effort: tax exemptions. After a few successes in the 1960s, sales tax exemption was granted to commercial applicators for fertilizer, poultry stock, seed, repair parts and agricultural chemicals in the early 1970s. After a 35-year-long effort, OKFB finally achieved a blanket exemption of farm inputs from sales taxes in 1978.
In 1979, OKFB launched the “Roads Now” campaign, a coalition that is credited with securing the largest annual increase in road funding the state’s history. It also served as the beginning of a long-range state-financed county bridge construction program.
community involvement and member benefits
Farm Bureau began its reward sign program in 1974, offering $500 rewards for information on crimes committed on Farm Bureau members’ property where the signs were posted. The reward amount later increased to $1,000 in 1988 and to $5,000 in 2006.
The 1970s also saw the expansion of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau home office in Oklahoma City, adding an adjoining structure to the one built in the 1950s.
In 1974, Oklahoma Farm Bureau kicked off the MEATCHEK program to encourage Farm Bureau members and others to purchase gift certificates redeemable for beef, pork, lamb or poultry at participating grocery stores. The program was designed as a positive approach to meat promotion to bolster the sagging livestock market. The promotion was held annually until 1992.
After Lewis H. Munn retired in 1975, delegates elected Billy Jarvis as the third president of OKFB. Jarvis was a Seminole County farmer who attended the inaugural meeting of OKFB in 1942 and helped organize Seminole County Farm Bureau.
A few years later in 1977, James L. Lockett was elected as OKFB president. With the second-longest term as president, Lockett led OKFB through several farm crises and fought in support of farmers and rancher through a variety of legislative battles at the Capitol.