Membership benefits and growth
The 1990s brought with it milestones for Oklahoma Farm Bureau as the organization focused on member benefits and programs to enhance the value of becoming an OKFB member. Growth was evident with OKFB membership reaching 100,000 for the first time in 1993.
In 1992, members received newly designed FB cards that could now be used for benefits through exclusive arrangements with a wide variety of businesses throughout Oklahoma, including restaurants, tire and service centers, pharmaceutical networks, entertainment parts, eyewear, motels, rental cars, parking, tax preparation, pest control and more. The first all-county membership gain recorded by OKFB staff occurred in 1992.
In addition to these member benefits, OKFB also focused on new programs and activities through its departments and organizations. The OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers began holding livestock judging and speech contests. The Farm Bureau Safety Services added a fire safety trailer to their curriculum to provide a realistic experience to educate youth on how to safely escape a burning building. County Farm Bureaus also grew, utilizing programs from the home office to renovate and build new facilities.
The decade began with the success of recalling State Question 614 in 1989, which contained controversial changes in the state’s property tax system, including 100 percent assessment rates. However, the fight was not over. During the following years, OKFB led the charge in overhauling ad valorem tax law to help remove burdensome property taxes from farmers and ranchers.
Trade continued to be a major issue in the 1990s. Farm Bureau championed the North American Free Trade Agreement, focusing on its positive impact for agriculture. The measure was implemented in 1994 in hopes to remove barriers to agricultural trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
With a new decade came new leadership. Eldon Merklin was elected OKFB president in 1993 and served until 1997. The Woodward County resident was also elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors in 1995, serving through 1997 when he opted no to seek re-election to the OKFB president’s office.
Jack M. Givens followed Merklin as OKFB president in 1997. The Mangum farmer-rancher was known for his excellence in agriculture and was eventually awarded the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture in 2012.
Elected at the end of the decade, Steve Kouplen served as OKFB president from 1999 to 2007. Kouplen served on the AFBF Board of Directors for eight years and retired from his OKFB president position after serving the maximum number of terms allowed by OKFB bylaws.