Senate Pro-Temp Mike Schulz of Altus Keeping Farmers' Interests in Mind this Legislative SessionMon, 30 Jan 2017 16:55:25 CST
In the face of some big challenges this year, Oklahoma Senate President Pro-Tempore and Altus cotton producer, Mike Schulz, says it will take an open-mind and lots of discussion to solve the budget deficit situation the state has found itself in for the second year in a row. He told Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays in a recent interview that all options are on the table as he leads the state’s legislature in its efforts to fix this issue.
“There’s no one silver bullet out there that will solve this budgetary situation that we’re in right now,” Schulz said. “We’re talking about reforming tax credit, tax incentives and we’ll probably have some discussions about new revenue raising measures.”
He says expanding the state’s sales tax base is something that has been looked at for a while now and uses neighboring states as an example in his illustration that Oklahoma is far less on par with the norm of taxable goods and products. However, he feels confident that exemptions commonly used by farmers for their operational expenses will not be subject to these discussions and admits these talks in and of themselves will be a source of contention.
“It’s one of those things,” he said. “The rule of thumb in a good piece of legislation - if all sides in the piece of legislation are not completely happy, it’s probably a good piece of legislation. And some degree of that holds true in the budgeting process.”
Balancing the budget will be a major focus in the legislature this year, but also being scrutinized are any actions concerning property rights and in regards to that, water issues. Although Schulz is unsure at this point what, if any property rights issues will crop up in this session, he does assert that it is a priority of his that stays top of mind under his radar, in case defense measures are required.
Speaking as a cotton producer though, Schulz says Oklahoma’s cotton crop this past season is a bright spot in the state’s economy.
“We’re in an extremely difficult time overall in agriculture. We’ve seen cattle prices, grain prices take a tremendous downward trend over the last couple of years and not a lot of rosy outlooks that they’re going to bounce right back,” Schulz said. “So, right now, the cotton segment of agriculture looks really, really good.”
Schulz explains that this could mean a boom in cotton production here in the state as an alternative to wheat, given the commodity’s less than enticing value in the marketplace currently. He suggests there is great potential for a significant increase in planted acres of cotton not only in Oklahoma, but throughout the cotton growing regions of the South-central United States. He adds that the benefits of cotton surpass that of economic reasons, but also tap ecological benefits.
“Even after grain prices recover, cotton is a great rotation,” he said, “a great opportunity to break disease patterns, weed patterns and insect patterns. It’s a great rotation to small grains.”
Listen to Hays’ full conversation with Schulz pertaining to issues expected to arise in this year’s legislative session as well as his outlook on the future of Oklahoma’s cotton sector, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
Schulz will join Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays for his 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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