As Oklahoma Legislative Sesson Enters Homestretch, OKFB's Steve Thompson Says There Are Still Several Key Ag Issues to be ResolvedFri, 26 Mar 2021 08:43:26 CDT
The 2021 Oklahoma legislative session has passed the halfway point and is heading down the backstretch.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays recently talked with Steve Thompson, senior director of public policy for Oklahoma Farm Bureau., to get a legislative update on rural and agricultural issues.
We’re in that part of the session where some of the big stuff has been set aside and we’re down to around 800 of the original 3,000 bills at the beginning of the session, Thompson said.
There are still multiple bills alive relating to rural broadband, an issue agriculture and rural Oklahoma has been working on for years and Thompson said it will probably be a few more years before anything is resolved.
The bottom line is it takes piles of money, more than we have available, but we are trying to set that as a foundation to make that as good a situation as possible, Thompson said.
Another area Farm Bureau is working on has to do with addressing a loophole in the trespassing law.
Someone could be on your property without permission and still not be guilty of trespassing, Thompson said.
We’re optimistic that several of our partners are working on that to get it fixed, he said.
Also working on sales tax verification changes, taxes on timber handling equipment and nuisance lawsuits.
Education funding has drawn some attention from the farm group regarding a bill introduced by State Rep. Kyle Hilbert.
We’re very much an interested observer and the Senate still has some work to do on this, Thompson said.
The state budget negotiations are well underway, and Thompson said it appears there is going to be a small surplus to allow the state to add to the rainy-day fund as well as help the agriculture department.
They (ag department) are much in need of hiring additional meat inspectors, he said.
We don’t want people to forget about the need to invest in the Extension Service, he added.
The budget is coming together and there is progress being made, Thompson said.
One factor helping with the budget negotiations is the stronger than expected economy.
Six months ago, I would have told you we would have had to brace for a disaster, but the Oklahoma economy has been resilient, Thompson said.
It’s a testament to farmers and ranchers who have worked throughout the pandemic, staying committed to what they are doing, keeping the bills paid and the tax revenue up, he added.
Click on the listen bar below to hear more of Ron’s interview with Steve Thompson.
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