'Right-to-Farm' Amendment Tops OFB's Agenda for 2014 Legislative SessionFri, 31 Jan 2014 16:56:08 CST
The Oklahoma legislative session gets underway next week and Oklahoma Farm Bureau has its eye on a number of issues both locally and nationally. LeeAnna Covington, who works in the public policy division at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays about this year’s agenda. (You can hear the full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)
Topping Covington’s list here at home will be getting a “right-to-farm” amendment added to the state constitution. Nationally, she says, Oklahoma Farm Bureau members will be keeping a sharp eye on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill and on action on making it possible for horse slaughter plants to be built in Oklahoma.
She said the recently-passed farm bill in Washington has drawn mixed reactions from Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. While most approve of it, some were disappointed that the repeal of COOL was not included in the legislation.
She also said that stand-alone legislation is in the works to provide funding for USDA inspectors in horse slaughter plants. Funding was stripped out of the recent budget that was passed and Senator Jim Inhofe says he will introduce a bill to restore funding so that slaughter plants can be built.
As the legislative session in Oklahoma gets underway, Covington says the Oklahoma Farm Bureau will be focusing a lot of its efforts on getting a “right to farm” amendment added to the state constitution.
“Our members came to us and wanted a layer of protection for their right to engage in modern farming and ranching activities. So, what we are really pushing for this year in this legislative session is “right to farm” legislation which will effectively provide a constitutional right for farmers and ranchers to engage in modern agriculture practices. And that’s, of course, a moving target because modern technology changes by the minute. But, in order to keep up with the growing population and to provide food and resources for this population it’s important for Oklahoma to have that layer of protection for this industry.”
Covington said it is a daunting undertaking and there are many activist groups opposed to allowing farmers the freedom to conduct their business as they best see fit.
“We’ve seen some negative press from animal rights activists that just really, truly do not understand what it takes in production agriculture to feed a growing population. I know the hog industry has felt the impact of this, also the cattle and poultries have taken hits on this. But it is really important to come together as a group of Oklahomans who want to provide for the people of this world to engage in modern agricultural practices and to do it effectively.”
Republican Resentative Scott Biggs from District 51 has introduced House Joint Resolution 1006 addressing right to farm in this legislative session. Republican Senator Eddie Fields from District 10 has introduced the companion bill, Senate Joint Resolution 56, in the upper chamber.
Even if the measures were passed and signed by Governor Mary Fallin, Covington said the issue would probably not be ready to put to a vote of the people by next November’s general election.
Similar measures in North Dakota and Missouri took about a year from the time they cleared their respective legislatures to being placed on the ballot. Both states will vote on their versions of right-to-farm next fall.
Another issue that has members’ attention, Covington said, is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in farm applications. Technology is advancing rapidly there and farmers and ranchers want to be assured they will be allowed to use UAVs to their fullest capacity without undue and burdensome regulations.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau will hold its annual state legislative leadership conference February 17-18 at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City.
“Many members attend this event because it is very important to them to realize what’s going on in Washington, D.C. We’ll have Representative Markwayne Mullin and Representative James Lankford come and give legislative updates. Attorney General Scott Pruitt is scheduled to be there. So, we’ll see lots of these folks get face-to-face opportunities to speak to our members and engage in conversations that are important to Oklahoma agriculture.”
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