OCA's Michael Kelsey Says Agriculture Industry Had a Solid 2016 Legislative SessionThu, 23 Jun 2016 22:40:32 CDT
Although most of the 2016 Oklahoma legislative session was overshadowed by budget woes, Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, says overall, the cattle industry was pretty successful in several areas.
Legislators updated cattle theft fines and penalties, which Kelsey says is “a good step in the right direction” towards deterring criminal activity.
A new measure passed this session better defines a “burn ban” in the state and sets up a protocol for prescribed fire during a burn ban.
“It really defines what a burn ban is and then sets up that if you go through the steps of having a prescribed fore plan, then there may be an opportunity for you to do that even during a burn ban,” he says. “That’s very important considering the wildfire damage we’ve seen, the overgrowth of red cedar and so forth.”
Kelsey says a bill declaring water as a compelling state interest and codifying it in state law should help with Right to Farm - SQ 777.
“We’ve all along said water is a compelling state interest; now we have law that says that,” he says. “So that should really sweep that off the table, if you will, and kind of make it a non-issue regarding Right to Farm.”
Feral swine was another hot topic at the Capitol this year. Although Governor Fallin vetoed a bill to help eliminate the destructive predator, she did issue a general executive order that Kelsey says puts agricultural producers closer to being able to protect their private lands.
“If you look at where we were from a policy standpoint before the session began and where we are now, we’ve made progress forward - even through this general executive order,” he says.
Kelsey says the progress involves recognizing the concerns of the original bill, including the ability to hunt on public lands and proper involvement from the Oklahoma Wildlife Commission.
“We want to get rid of feral swine; I don’t think anybody argues with that,” he says. “But we need to do so recognizing what policy we currently have and then recognizing that landowners need the ability to do that appropriately moving forward.”
Finally, Kelsey says numerous Oklahoma agricultural organizations joined forces to block efforts to eliminate the agricultural sales tax exemption, specifically on the sale of horses and livestock purchased outside of Oklahoma.
“Both of those are bad. We have a lot of members that raise horses, Quarter horses, etc.,” he says. “We geared in on the latter really quickly because we import a lot of cattle into Oklahoma, especially from the Southeast, for wheat pasture.”
Kelsey says that although the bills were successfully defeated this session, this will be an ongoing battle as the state continues to look for ways to shrink its budget deficit.
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Kelsey talk more about the 2016 legislative session.
Kelsey will join Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays for the weekly In the Field segment on KWTV News9 in the Oklahoma City area on Saturday morning at 6:40 a.m.
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