Saturday, October 15, 2016

SQ777: information on 'Right to Farm'


On November 8th, Oklahoma voters will be voting on seven state questions. SQ777, also known as the Oklahoma Right to Farm Amendment, is one of the more prominent constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In the next week or two, I will be posting two exclusive columns, one in favor of SQ777 (written by a farmer from Major County), and one in opposition to SQ777 (written by a rancher in Cimarron County). Both grew up on family farms or ranches, and continue to work in farming or ranching after marriage.

Here is the language on the ballot:
This measure adds Section 38 to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Section creates state constitutional rights. It creates the following guaranteed rights to engage in farming and ranching:

• The right to make use of agricultural technology,
• The right to make use of livestock procedures, and
• The right to make use of ranching practices.

These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers' ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest-a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest. The measure-and the protections identified above-do not apply to and do not impact state laws related to:

• Trespass,
• Eminent domain,
• Dominance of mineral interests,
• Easements,
• Right of way or other property rights, and
• Any state statutes and political subdivision ordinances enacted before December 31, 2014.

Here is the language (Section 38) that would be added to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution:
To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma's economy, which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma's economy, the right so citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify any provision of common law or statutes relating to trespass, eminent domain, dominance of mineral interests, easements, rights of way or any other property rights. Nothing in this section shall be construed to modify or affect any statute or ordinance enacted by the Legislature or any political subdivision prior to December 31, 2014.
The Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, a pro-SQ777 group, has a good analysis here. Oklahoma Food, Farm & Family, an anti-SQ777 group, has their take here.

Here is a short list of support for SQ777:

  • Oklahoma Farm Bureau
  • Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association
  • Oklahoma Pork Council
  • Oklahoma Cotton Council
  • Oklahoma Sorghum Association
  • Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council
  • The Poultry Federation
  • American Farmers & Ranchers
  • Oklahoma Wheat Grower’s Association
  • Oklahoma Agri-Women
  • U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R)
  • Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn

Here is a short list of opposition to SQ777:
  • Sierra Club
  • Humane Society of the United States
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Oklahoma Alliance for Animals
  • Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma
  • Food & Farm Alliance of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma Municipal League
  • City of Oklahoma City
  • City of Edmond
  • City of Norman
  • City of Muskogee
  • Cherokee Nation
  • Choctaw Nation
  • Seminole Nation
  • Chickasaw Nation
  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  • The Tulsa World
  • Association of Central Oklahoma Governments
  • Save the Illinois River
  • Young Democrats of Oklahoma
  • Barry Switzer
  • Former Atty. Gen. Drew Edmondson (D)
I will be posting more information, columns, and my take on SQ777 between now and election day.

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