The Oklahoman: “Oklahoma ‘Right to Farm’ proposal voted down” — Finally, industrial ag hits a speed bump.

Oklahoma ‘Right to Farm’ proposal voted down

by Paul Monies Published: November 8, 2016 8:01 PM CDT Updated: November 9, 2016 2:37 AM CDT

Oklahomans weren’t ready to enshrine the “right to farm” in the state constitution as voters in urban and rural areas rejected State Question 777, according to preliminary election results Tuesday night.

With all precincts reporting, opposition to SQ 777 had 60.3 percent of the vote, compared to 39.7 percent in support. There were 863,752 votes opposing the measure, while 568,891 voted in support.

The proposed constitutional amendment would have forbid new regulation of farming and ranching in Oklahoma unless it met the higher legal standard of a "compelling state interest."

“I think it was asking too much,” said former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a spokesman with the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, which opposed the measure. “The idea of enshrining any industry or business in the constitution was asking too much of people, and they recognized that.”

Edmondson said opposition came across the state, including urban and rural areas and the eastern and western sides of Oklahoma.

“We carried Woodward County, Muskogee County and Little Dixie,” Edmondson said. “This is people paying attention to issues and protecting their property.”

Supporters said the amendment was needed to protect agricultural practices from animal rights and environmental groups. Tom Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said his side was disappointed with the outcome but would regroup after the election.

“We’re Oklahomans. The sun will come up tomorrow,” Buchanan said Tuesday night. “We’ll continue to produce the most abundant, safest and affordable food supply this nation’s ever seen and continue to be effective farmers, ranchers and Oklahomans.”

Buchanan said the opposition to SQ 777 was effective at spreading “half-truths and fearmongering.”

“We tried to run a good, positive campaign, but I think there was too much confusion on the issue,” Buchanan said. “There was a definitely a need there for this; we wouldn’t have done it on a whim. But we’ll let the dust settle, regroup and decide what we’ll do going forward.”

Some cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, passed resolutions opposing SQ 777, saying the measure would restrict the ability to enact zoning restrictions inside their cities. Opposition to the measure was high in both Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

Opponents had separate campaigns, the Oklahoma Stewardship Council and Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family. Together, they raised more than $950,000 as of Sept. 30, including $250,000 from the Humane Society of the United States.

Backers of the effort, Oklahoma Farmers Care SQ 777, included many of the state’s agricultural associations and the Farm Bureau. The group had raised more than $1 million by the end of September, according to state Ethics Commission filings.

Voters were bombarded with television ads from both sides in the closing weeks of the campaign, with an estimated $1.2 million spent, including some funded by so-called “dark-money” groups.