‘Right to Farm’ SQ777

Proposed amendment sparks debate

Controversy over the “Right to Farm” amendment (State Question 777), to be voted on by state voters November 8, continues to mount.

A coalition of Nebraska agricultural groups has announced it will no longer pursue a constitutional “right to farm” proposal in that state.

“We are united in our belief that protecting our members’ interests and the future of agriculture isn’t about a single ballot measure or initiative,” Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president, said in a news release.

He added that his organization would be working to ensure “high property tax burdens aren’t the reason families are pushed out of agriculture.”

Farmer Paul Muegge, a former state senator and co-chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, applauded the Nebraska Farm Bureau for its decision to work in the interests of its members who are family farmers, rather than carry water for the corporate interests who want state questions like 777 to pass in agriculture-producing states.

“SQ 777 takes away the power of the legislature and municipal governments to regulate agricultural practices to protect water and other natural resources and individuals’ property rights,” Muegge said. “In this world of industrial agriculture, it is large corporations who will benefit from the unprecedented blank check that SQ 777 gives them, not generational farmers who have always protected water, land and livestock. I can understand why the corporations want to be free from scrutiny and regulation, but I cannot understand why Oklahoma should let them. Voters should not be fooled by this proposal.”

Numerous liberal organizations and individuals, including many farmers, are against State Question 777. Those opposing the proposal include Save the Illinois River, Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, Oklahoma Municipal League, League of Women Voters, Edmond City Council, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Bella Foundation, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family, Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Sierra Club, Oklahoma Welfare League, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and Oklahoma Coalition of Animal Rescuers.

The proposed ballot question is as follows:

“This measure adds a new section of law to the State Constitution. It adds Section 38 to Article 2. It protects the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices. It prohibits the Legislature from passing laws that would take away the right to employ agricultural technology and livestock production without a compelling state interest. It provides for interpretation of the section.”

The Oklahoma Stewardship Council is a coalition of family farmers, community leaders and citizens opposing State Question 777.

Oklahoma Agri-Women has officially announced its support for State Question 777, Oklahoma’s Right to Farm, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that will protect farming and ranching practices for farmers large and small across Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Agri-Women is a state affiliate of American Agri-Women, which is the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women with more than 50 state, commodity and agribusiness affiliate organizations throughout the country.

“Our members are college students, wives, mothers, consumers and agricultural producers,” said Kristi Bishop, Oklahoma Agri-Women president. “We recognize the importance of passing SQ 777 to protect farmers, ranchers and consumers in our state. Passing SQ 777 will ensure that farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma can continue to provide safe, healthy and affordable food choices for all Oklahomans.”

The mission of Oklahoma Agri-Women is to unite women in all segments of the Oklahoma food, fiber and agriculture industry having mutual concerns; to keep Oklahoma Agri-Women members informed of legislation that is of concern to Oklahoma’s agriculture industry while remaining nonpartisan; and to educate consumers, elected officials and the general public about the importance of agriculture to Oklahoma’s economy and environment.

Oklahoma Agri-Women unites women’s agricultural organizations and individuals to communicate with one another and with other consumers to promote agriculture. It is a state affiliate of American Agri-Women, the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women.

In Oklahoma, there are 80,000 farms and ranches, 98 percent of which are family owned and operated. Oklahoma’s farmers contribute more than $8 billion to the state’s economy and support tens of thousands of jobs.