John Collison Discusses Oklahoma Farm Bureau's Legislative Priorities- Water and Feral SwineThu, 28 Jan 2016 17:14:44 CST
Oklahomaís budget shortfall will be the dominate factor of the 2016 Legislative session. The stateís two largest industries, oil and agriculture are dealing with a devastating blow of lower prices and economic revenue. The state is looking at a $1-billion shortfall. Oklahoma Farm Bureau believes itís time for the state to look at diversifying the stateís economy. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John Collison said there is untapped potential in the stateís water resources.
ďWe let 65-million acre feet of water out of the state of Oklahoma this year and ag value of that water, at $65 an acre foot, thatís $4.2 billion in revenue,Ē Collison said.
Collison said the state needs to look at building the infrastructure necessary to capture, transport and sell water. Even during the drought, he said 20 million acre feet flowed out of the state. The excess water flows out of the Arkansas and Red Rivers into the Gulf of Mexico. Oklahoma Farm Bureau thinks itís time to start maximizing the benefits of these water resources. The Panhandle relies on ground water, so Collison said itís time to look at ways to capture that water and pump it back into the ground to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer.
In the future, the legislature will have to address the stateís aging infrastructure. With much of the infrastructure built in the 1920ís, he said the state will have decide if they will patch it or build it new. He said itís time to build new infrastructure and it will pay dividends in the future. Collison believes itís time to develop it first for Oklahoma, then for surrounding states like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and even California.
Another top legislative priority will be the eradication of feral or wild hogs. Oklahoma Farm Bureau supports the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) efforts to eradicate feral hogs statewide, but they do not support the transportation of feral hogs and they want a moratorium in place. That would require wild hogs to be killed, if they are caught. ODAFF has proposed the concept of a ďFeral Free Hog ZoneĒ along the northern border of the state. Collison said that doesnít do enough.
ďItís fine for a first step, but letís go farther," Collison said. ďLetís make the whole state a feral hog free zone. That should be our goal.Ē
Collison said feral hogs are not considered a sporting species and they are not regulated by the Department of Wildlife. Wild hogs are managed under the Department of Agriculture, because they are considered an invasive species and he said weíve got to get an economic value for a sporting species off of these animals.
ďWe donít put a value on boll weevils, we donít put a value on musk thistles, we donítí put a value on invasive species,Ē Collison said. ďWe eradicate them and thatís we need to do with wild pigs in the state of Oklahoma. Itís devastating to Oklahoma.Ē
In Oklahoma Farm Bureauís comments on the proposed ODAFF feral hog rule, Collison said they called for full implementation of this plan in all 77-counties in Oklahoma.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays interviewed Collison. Click or tap on the listen bar below as they discuss the 2016 legislative priorities of Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
John will also join Ron Hays for our weekly In the Field report on KWTV News9 in the Oklahoma City market on Saturday morning at 6:40 AM.
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