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June 21, 2016
This November, Oklahoma voters will have a chance to decide on the fate of the state’s agricultural industry. State Question 777 (SQ 777) would add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution relating to farming and ranching.
Essentially, SQ 777 would guarantee the right to engage in specific farming and ranching practices.
The “Right to Farm,” measure would add a new section to create state constitutional rights protecting the following farm and ranch management practices including:
• The right to make use of agricultural technology,
• The right to make use of livestock procedures, and
• The right to make use of ranching practices.
According to the referendum, “These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers’ ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest—a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest. The measure—and the protections identified above—do not apply to and do not impact state laws related to:
• Eminent domain,
• Right of way or other property rights, and
• Any state statutes and political subdivision ordinances enacted before December 31, 2014.”
SQ 777 faced a lawsuit earlier this year, which was ultimately dismissed. Advocates for the Right to Farm measure said it aims to protect, “the hardworking farm and ranch families that drive our rural economy from out-of-state animal-rights groups that have targeted agriculture nationwide. It also protects small and organic farmers and ensures Oklahoma families are able to afford the food they need.”
The Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council, The Poultry Federation, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, Oklahoma Grain & Feed Association, Oklahoma Sorghum Association, and Oklahoma Cotton Council have all endorsed their support of the measure.
However, it appears the entire farming and ranching community will need to do more than rally together; they will also need to engage with consumers to get this measure passed, particularly since the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is getting involved in the fight against SQ 777.
According to an article which appeared in the CapitolBeatOK, “Supporters of the proposition say the HSUS is financing a group called the Oklahoma Stewardship Council in an effort to derail SQ 777. When opposition emerged with national support last year, advocates of SQ 777 rebuffed the stewardship council’s arguments, saying in a press release, ‘The Oklahoma Stewardship Council’s deceptive statement and press conference ... is simply Wayne Pacelle’s way of making good on his threat to double down on Oklahoma when our legislature passed Right To Farm with an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority.’”
HumaneWatch, a project of the non-profit The Center for Consumer Freedom, reports that the Oklahoma Stewardship Council is bankrolled by HSUS, and although the group claims to consist of “family farmers, community leaders, and concerned citizens,” HumaneWatch says the Council’s website page shows the logos of their members—including HSUS and the HSUS lobbying arm—which are definitely not local. “Not to mention farmers, or anything else they claim to speak for.”
Oklahoma farmers and ranchers may be up for a battle in getting the Right to Farm measure passed. Let’s hope the voters aren’t swayed by HSUS’ ploy and that when they read the verbiage of SQ 777, they understand that if animal rights activists are allowed to cripple farmers’ ability to do their job, it will directly impact the price of their weekly grocery store bill.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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