AFR's Steve Thompson Flushes Out Possible Threats to Ag Community in 2019 Legislative SessionTue, 05 Feb 2019 15:14:19 CST
As the 2019 Oklahoma Legislative Session gets underway, lobbyists like Steve Thompson of American Farmers & Ranchers, are striving to maintain a presence at the State Capitol in an effort to field questions and concerns that might arise among policymakers - and to protect the interests of the various groups they represent. Thompson says that has become of particular importance this year with nearly three quarters of Oklahoma’s legislators coming into this session with only two years or less of legislative experience. While Thompson believes the intentions of each legislator at the Capitol are pure and motivated by a genuine interest in helping their constituents, he also believes there are unintended consequences that come with every decision made and every piece of legislation passed.
“That’s why we try to maintain a presence there on a daily basis to join in the conversation,” he said, bringing up a few of the bills that have been submitted for consideration this year which present a threat to the state’s ag industry and its rural community. “We’re about to tackle an old favorite of ours - the ag sales tax exemption.”
Thompson reports that there are several bills that have been filed this year that in some way approach the idea of either modifying or eliminating producers’ tax exemption. This, he says, has come under constant threat in recent years which if ever successfully attacked, could cause significant financial harm to farmers and ranchers across the state.
“So, we’re really concerned about educating this new group about the value in that - the economic benefit to not just farmers and ranchers, but retail businesses and how important that commerce in Oklahoma really is. When we compete with our neighbors, it is a critical thing we have to have.”
Beyond that, Thompson says several other issues of concern have popped up also, including proposed changes to ad valorem taxes and how they can be used. Thompson says AFR members have always strongly opposed any changes to the existing ad valorem tax structure. He says that while effort is always made to keep a congenial spirit and show support for causes when you can - there are also times when lawmakers must be asked to vote against a bill and to seek an alternative solution. He contends that this is one of those issues that AFR members will insist legislators strike down and return to the drawing board on. Given the influence that rural Oklahoma had in this last election, Thompson believes it is a request that the legislature will be obliged to pay attention to. If lawmakers and state officials continue to recognize and acknowledge the mandate rural Oklahoma presented the Administration with, he says this could turn out to be a friendly session in the eyes of the agriculture community.
“You saw the influence rural voters had on the election last year and it seems like everybody in the State Capitol building is aware of that,” he said. “So, we’re excited about the attitude of our legislators and the new statewide elected officials. There are always going to be bumps in the road, dangers lurking in every corner and a lot of unintended consequences. But, Governor Stitt has assembled a very friendly cabinet of officials for us to work with. The tone from the Chief Executive on down through the rest of state government is really a positive one right now.”
Listen to Thompson’s full remarks on the recent activities and sentiment of the 2019 Oklahoma Legislature, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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