Healthy Hearts from Oklahoma's Farmers and Higher Education

Healthy Hearts from Oklahoma’s Farmers and Higher Education - May 27, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

It may be true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but rural Oklahoma annually treats us to some of the most magnificent sights that anyone could ever encounter.  Just when you think that the delicate Dogwood and the hardy Redbud have stolen the show, the Indian Blanket, Oklahoma’s state wildflower blooms among patches of Indian Paintbrush and the occasional interloping Bluebonnet.

However, the visual grandeur does not stop there.  In seemingly synchronized orchestration, the fields of Oklahoma farmers come alive with the purple alfalfa flower and then the gentle waves of golden wheat.  Now, Oklahoma’s versatile agricultural industry has introduced a new cash crop sporting a brilliant yellow hue that rivals even the most colorful wildflower.

In a remarkable success story, Winter Canola has been grown commercially in Oklahoma in increasing quantities since 2002 and currently is growing on nearly 200,000 acres in the Sooner state, ranking us as the second largest Canola producing state in the country.  The farmers’ decision to grow canola however, is based on much more than aesthetics.

Not only is this new crop pleasing to the eye, it represents the cutting edge in agriculture adapting to a heart healthy product that is skyrocketing in demand. It is smart, it is healthy and it is the best wheat rotation crop to come down the pike…ever.  Using the same equipment to plant and harvest as wheat farmers currently use, farmers are seeing many problems of planting wheat only year after year disappear.

Oklahoma’s Okanola project is the direct result of the synergy of research, teaching and extension in cooperation with the agriculture industry.  Oklahoma’s enterprising farmers, the OSU extension service and agronomy researchers in the plant and soil sciences department of Oklahoma State University have opened the door to this revolutionary milestone.

Scientific research at universities like OU and OSU is currently under attack.  Some states are actively pursuing the elimination of funding of higher education with a goal of transforming colleges and universities into diploma mills.

The Texas legislature has proposed that through the use of “online courses” at major universities in that state the cost of a college degree can be reduced to less than $7,000.  Unfortunately, those legislators fail to see the value and impact of research and other positive aspects of higher education.

The improvement of agriculture is a goal of OSU and the entire world is better for it.  Meteorological research is a goal of the University of Oklahoma and the entire world is safer for it.

These are only two examples of programs at OU and OSU and other universities in Oklahoma making the world a better place through the fulfillment of their mission.  Let’s not let Oklahoma become short-sighted in this regard.  Funding education is not only essential, but the failure to do so is irresponsible.

In the 1890’s cotton was rapidly becoming king in Indian Territory.  Around 1898, the Chickasha Cotton Seed Oil Company and later the Chickasha Cotton Oil Company with branches across Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico processed food grade seed oil.

In 1899, Wesson Oil was introduced when chemist David Wesson developed a process for deordorizing cotton seed oil.  In 1911, Crisco shortening, an acronym for “crystalized cottonseed oil,” was introduced and the seed oil quickly became the most used oil in margarine production.  Oklahoma agriculture was on the cutting edge then.

Now, one hundred years later, Oklahoma agriculture stands at the threshold of becoming a leading producer of Canola Oil.  Canola is not only beautiful in the field, but also a potential biofuel as well as the most heart healthy cooking oil widely available.  In 2006 the FDA approved a qualified health claim for use of canola oil (improved human heart health) and demand has escalated rapidly.

Today, not only do we go to Bricktown for entertainment, we also send our canola there.  The Producers Oil Mill, just south of Bricktown was established in 1944 to process cotton seed oil.  Now, since 2008, it also processes canola oil from plants grown right here in Oklahoma.

We should not fool ourselves.  Commercial agricultural production of canola and the OKanola Project would not have happened without the cooperative effort of Plant and Soil Science personnel at OSU and the faculty in Entomology and Plant Pathology, Agricultural Economics, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering there.

They and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension staff across the state constantly work closely with farmers, agribusiness and support from organizations like Oklahoma Farmers Union to promote advances in agriculture addressing the needs of our communities, our state, our nation as well as our world.  They are all to be commended.

A healthy heart is a pretty good return on your investment.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as State Representative.  For questions, comments or assistance, call me at 405-557-7401, email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov  or visit my website at www.davidperryman.com   I look forward to hearing from you.