OKLAHOMA CITY — American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) Cooperative has canceled its upcoming gubernatorial candidate forum, originally scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Tulsa Stockyards, a hub of agriculture business serving eastern Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
Through the event, AFR pursued a true nonpartisan forum for the two major party gubernatorial candidates to answer questions about real rural issues that AFR members and other rural Oklahomans see as important. To apply full transparency to that goal, AFR wanted to give both major party candidates an opportunity to speak on rural issues.
We now know this goal cannot be achieved at the date and time set for the event. Neither party candidate could sufficiently accommodate a mutual time and, as election day inches closer, finding a date and time to accommodate both candidates will be nearly impossible.
This loss of an additional live forum on agriculture and rural issues is disappointing for rural Oklahomans in the eastern part of the state where the forum was scheduled. All Oklahomans deserve an opportunity to hear answers to questions on topics that will affect them in the years to come.
In the spirit of transparency and equal access to information for all Oklahomans, AFR would like to give all candidates for governor an opportunity to answer the planned forum questions on their own time. Provided prior to the event, these questions focus on timely and important topics that could impact agriculture and Oklahoma’s rural communities throughout the next gubernatorial term.
The forum questions are listed below. We encourage candidates to answer them in the format in which they feel most comfortable. AFR will publish candidate answers in a free and accessible online location.
- Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers have been experiencing a severe drought over the past few months. What would your administration do to support agricultural producers during this and similar catastrophic events?
- We have seen consolidation across all industries over the last 50 years, with agriculture experiencing some of the most. This consolidation has led to decreased competition, loss of market access, inability to repair equipment, and many more problems for farmers and ranchers. We’re here in the Tulsa Stockyards—Cattle markets have been some of the hardest hit. What would your administration do to help ease the burden of consolidation for our state’s farmers and ranchers?
- The issue of foreign ownership of land has been a hot topic over the last couple of years. Foreign ownership of land in Oklahoma is already against the law based on the Oklahoma Constitution. What else would your administration do to enforce this law?
- The Oklahoma Legislature passed numerous bills in the last legislative session to further regulate the medical marijuana grow industry in the state of Oklahoma. Do you think these policies are sufficient to protect rural landowners and farmers and ranchers?
- The Covid-19 Pandemic spurred a rebirth of Oklahoma’s small-scall meat processing industry. What can you do to support these businesses and farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to market their meat directly?
- Although adequate high-speed internet is as vitally important as electricity and water in today’s society, many Oklahomans still lack access. Many of our rural communities and small-town businesses still do not have access to the high-speed internet that well help them compete with their urban counterparts. What can you do to help them access this vital utility?
- The Oklahoma Legislature just assigned millions in federal pandemic relief funds to expand access to healthcare facilities and mental health services in rural areas of our state. How would your administration further increase rural health access and support rural healthcare through the current mental health crisis and future challenges?
- Recent Oklahoma wildfires have grown so large they’ve burned thousands of grazeable acres and required numerous fire departments to contain. Virtually all fire response in rural Oklahoma is done by volunteer service. What can the state do to support volunteer fire departments and potentially alleviate these wildfire events?
- Recently school vouchers have been a contentious issue in the state of Oklahoma, particularly for rural areas. Do you support school vouchers and what do you think they mean for rural schools?
- For decades, Oklahoma’s rural communities have experienced decreasing populations. This population decline has led to loss of community infrastructure, lack of economic opportunity and general blight. What is your plan to rebuild rural Oklahoma and help its communities recover and thrive?
AFR Cooperative is a nonpartisan membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR principles.