Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Oklahoma debate over agriculture proposal heats up

...SQ 777 is a constitutional amendment that would prevent Oklahoma lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless it has a "compelling state interest." The state question would not reverse any state statutes or ordinances enacted before Dec. 31, 2014, but any law regulating agriculture passed after that date would be subject to repeal. Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, could be considered one of the fathers of State Question 777. He sponsored the measure as a legislative referendum in the Legislature in 2015. Biggs lives on a farm east of Chickasha with his wife and two daughters. He said he authored the measure as a way to protect Oklahoma farmers from what he calls "feel-good" legislation to limit farming practices in the state at the behest of groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club. "They have proposed climate-controlled shelters for cattle and limiting the amount of time you can ride a horse in other states," Biggs said. "They are successful in other states, but we don't want this legislation here and limiting family farms in Oklahoma." 'Solution in search of a problem' Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, chairman of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, says those arguments don't hold water. The Stewardship Council is one of the lead groups opposing SQ 777. "This is a solution in search of a problem — there is nobody attacking agriculture in Oklahoma," Edmondson said. "It's been protected since statehood." Edmondson said the constitutional amendment could render state lawmakers unable to pass new laws to regulate new herbicides or pesticides in the future that could be harmful to people's health or the environment. He likes to point out that the measure faces opposition that is much more expansive than just animal welfare and environmental groups. Opponents include an array of diverse groups, ranging from the League of Women Voters to the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, as well as several municipalities have passed resolutions opposing 777...more

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