Terry Peach | 2011
Throughout his many roles in agriculture and agribusiness, Terry Peach has never forgotten his roots and has remained a farmer and rancher at heart.
Peach graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Agricultural Education in 1972. He taught agricultural education at Cashion High School for one year.
“That year teaching agriculture was one of the most rewarding experiences for me,” Peach said. “I truly enjoyed going to shows with the 4-H and FFAers. They were looking for attention and someone to spend time with them and help them set goals for the future.”
In that year teaching agriculture, Peach developed the conviction that Oklahoma’s youth should be given an opportunity to remain in Oklahoma and engage agriculture for a career.
Peach returned to his family’s farm and also owned and managed a feed store in Woodward. In 1979 he added an oilfield supply business.
During this time he was a member of the Woodward Chamber of Commerce and served on their board. He directed the Northwest District Livestock Show, establishing a trophy auction to increase the premium money returned to the youth. And, Governor David Walters appointed him to the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
“While on the Woodward Chamber I realized that we in agriculture needed to engage in every organization and opportunity we can to ensure we have bold leadership and people will step up and say what our opinions are,” Peach said.
Peach was soon called upon to be a bold voice for Oklahoma when he was hired to be the State Director for the Farm Service Agency in Oklahoma in 1993.
“At FSA, I learned a lot about how the farm programs were actually developed and created,” Peach said. “I learned you can actually help develop programs if you engage with the people in Washington, D.C.”
Peach advocated changing the livestock feed program because he realized ranchers who were good managers of their feed supplies and maintained proper stocking rates were actually penalized and ineligible for the program.
In 2003, Peach was called upon to represent Oklahoma agriculture in a new way when Governor Brad Henry appointed him Secretary of Agriculture for the state. In this role, Peach was able to set policy and create a vision for what agriculture in Oklahoma can be. His first goal was to help all the agriculture groups come together with a unified voice.
“I could see while I was at FSA that agriculture’s voice at the state Capitol and even in Washington D.C was deteriorating,” Peach said. “The worse thing we can do is for each ag group to go out speaking different opinions.”
“He brought the ag groups together and made us realize we agree on way to many things to bicker about the few things that keep us separate,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., OPC executive director. “He helped us work on the things that we all agreed on and we are a stronger group because of it.”
Peach brought a practical approach to policy setting at the ODAFF. He focused on promoting business and business growth in his decision making.
“Terry was an agriculturalist first,” said Rick Maloney, former director of marketing at ODAFF. “As we made policy decision, his first rule of thumb was to look at what was the impact to the producer or to rural communities.”
“Terry was always willing to look at the rules for the swine industry and say let’s keep what makes sense for protecting the environment and the public but let’s look at things that can make things easier for the pork industry and change them,” Lindsey said.
One way Peach brought support to Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers was the development of a state-of-the-art Agriculture Laboratory that serves to assure the quality of agricultural products sold, to protect the environment, to diagnose animal diseases and to assure the correctness of all weights and measures. The $11.3 million dollar facility with 37,000 square feet of space opened in 2008 and serves all of Oklahoma agriculture.
“I don’t think we would have that lab if not for his persistence in moving that forward,” Maloney said. “What that lab can do for producers will be of monumental importance.”
Peach realized the importance of the export market to Oklahoma agriculture. He was an ambassador for the state to market our products throughout the world. Under his leadership, the ODAFF sponsored many trade trips to other countries to showcase Oklahoma agricultural products.
“Terry let the state know the strength and that came from agriculture,” Lindsey said. “He reminded people that the majority of Oklahoma is still rural and agriculture is a significant contributor to the state.”
Peach always operates with an easy-going, humble manner and developed many friendships with those in the agriculture community. Most of them refer to him simply as Terry, not out of disrespect, but because he is so easy to work with.
“I’ve developed a true friendship with Terry and appreciate our good working relationship,” Lindsey said. “He’s been a tremendous help as we’ve worked on policy for our industry these past eight years.”
Peach said he feels Oklahoma’s pork industry is a shining example of value-added agriculture. He expressed his appreciation for the industry and how they take raw Oklahoma products and produce a retail-ready product.
“Receiving this award is very humbling because I don’t think it was particularly anything I did,” Peach said. “I think I was here at a good time and I have a good staff behind me in this department that took my vision and made it reality. I’m just fortunate enough to get credit for the hard work that those in this division have done.”