Talequah Daily Press: Other states have issues with ‘Right to Farm’

Other states have issues with ‘Right to Farm’

· By Sean Rowley srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

Sean Rowley

· File photo

Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, has stated that the tribe is opposed to State Question 777, or “Right to Farm” The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes has also announced its opposition.

Other states have issues with ‘Right to Farm’ http://www.tahlequahdailypress.com/news/other-states-have-issues-with-right-to-farm/article_5bdb6296-cd2a-5a46-9092-2fe090c0c910.html

Opponents of State Question 777 – the "right to farm" initiative on Oklahoma’s November ballot – found some ammunition when a coalition in Nebraska announced it had dropped plans to pursue the addition of right-to-farm language to its state constitution.

The language was introduced in the unicameral Nebraska legislature, but did not advance. Agricultural leaders in the state said farming interests had decided protections should not be sought through constitutional adjustment, but state statute.

"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," said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president, in a release. "It’s about initiating actions, policy and otherwise, that creates an environment where our members can thrive and boost local and state economies. Our efforts are targeted to immediate challenges such as making sure high property tax burdens aren’t the reason families are pushed out of agriculture."

Introduced by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, SQ 777 will appear on the Nov. 8 state ballot for consideration by voters. It would add language to the Oklahoma Constitution reading: "The legislature shall pass no law that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest."

North Dakota and Missouri have placed right-to-farm language in their constitutions through ballot initiatives, and some residents in those states have complained the measures have hurt small family farms while giving free reign to agriculture-based corporations.

North Dakota approved the change in 2012. Voters again went to the polls on June 14, 2016, in a referendum, and rejected a measure that would have allowed a corporation to own a dairy or pork production facility.

The state farmers union pushed for the referendum after North Dakota lawmakers, claiming the state’s dairy and swine industries needed modernization, voted to loosen a 1932 law that banned non-family businesses from running farms or owning farmland.

Missouri’s right-to-farm initiative passed in 2014, but required a recount. Requests for comment to three farming operations in Missouri were not returned by press time.

Since its introduction, SQ 777 has been contentious between agricultural and environmental interests within Oklahoma. Those against Right to Farm claim it allows too much room for farmers to dump waste and abuse animals by minimizing state oversight. Supporters assert the "compelling state interest" language gives the Legislature room to pass agricultural and livestock regulations, and that state constitutions do not trump federal regulatory power. Opponents, though, say they don’t trust the Legislature to look out for their interests.

Those favoring Right to Farm further contend their disagreement lies mostly with interference by animal rights activism from outside Oklahoma, not with in-state environmental and clean water interests. Opponents argue that no industry deserves exclusive constitutional protection.

The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association and Oklahoma Cotton Council are among the organizations that have announced their support for SQ 777.

The opposing coalition, the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, includes STIR, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and the Oklahoma Municipal League.

A second opposition coalition, Oklahoma Rising Inc., has formed the coalition Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family. All anti-SQ 777 coalitions have announced their intentions to inform voters of the potential drawbacks of passage.

Arguments in favor of SQ 777 can be read at oklahomarighttofarm.com, and arguments against are at votenoon777.com.