OK SQ 777 - Why this farmer will vote NO
In Oklahoma on November 8th we will be voting on State Question 777 fondly referred to as the "Right to Farm Bill". I have been doing my research on this question as we have vested stake in all things farming these days. But the reality is that all of us do. It is important to know where your food comes from and how it is produced.
Mind you my father farmed our land and his father and grandfather before him. Farming is in my blood. So as I have approached the analysis on this subject I ask myself what would my father think? Because even if you are not a farmer this bill will effect you in one way or another. It will effect the way your food is produced, the conditions it is produced under and the environmental effects from such.
Here is the actual language of the amendment for your reading pleasure.
"To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma’s economy, which provides food, energy, health benefts, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma’s economy, the rights of 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 afect any statute or ordinance enacted by the Legislature or any political subdivision prior to December 31, 2014."
The following is verbatum from the website Vote Yes on 777 .
This measure adds Section 38 to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution.
This 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
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.
Note the underlined section above. "limit on lawmakers ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights". This legislation makes the Right to Farm a constitutional right. What? I mean yeah we should have the right to farm our own land but not at the expense of the citizens, the environment, water quality and humane and decent treatment of animals.
While this legislation does not overturn legislation that has already been put in place, if the Legislature decided to appeal the laws against certain industries such as cock fighting and puppy mills, this Right to Farm Bill COULD protect those industries moving forward. Additionally it would make it very difficult to prosecute large corporate farms who pollute local waterways and use unethical practices in their treatment of animals.
My assessment of this legislation is that its real intent is to protect large corporate farms and does not benefit the family farmer or rancher. As a farmer we depend on the land and water quality. Most small family farmers are not interested in utilizing practices that in anyway would destroy those resources and therefore we are unconcerned about any regulations that prohibit such behavior. Unlimited power by corporate farms to treat animals, the land and water resources in any manner they see fit is in my opinion dangerous for our food and ecosystems and truly becomes a health issue for all Oklahomans.
To quote an article I read in the Red Dirt Report:
"You have to remember that before this, corporate farms were not allowed to do business in our state,” Keesee said. “Since that time, 77 percent of all agricultural jobs have disappeared from our state. That is more than the Dust Bowl days. Since 2008, the amount of Oklahoma agricultural land that is owned by foreign nationals has increased 475 percent. That’s more than 375,000 acres of our farm land that is owned by foreign corporations. Corporations have no souls. Corporations have no conscience. Corporations function for only one reason, and that is to increase shareholder value to own money.”
There are many aspects of this legislation to consider, but these are the things that stand out most to me. There is ALOT of division and controversy on this subject. Do your research and develop your own opinion. This is mine and how I reached that opinion.
The reason we started our homestead was to control how our food is processed and so we would know it was produced ethically and in line with our beliefs on protection and sustainability of our ecosystems. Yes, we farmers need to make a living and we as a state and country need to support our family farms, but we shouldn't compromise our souls, our integrity and our communities. It is possible to make a living while still respecting the animals we raise, the land we work and the water we depend on. I believe that this is the true nature and heart of farming and farmers. When we know better, we MUST do better.
I say vote No on SQ 777 and I believe that my dad, if he were alive, would totally agree with me on this subject.
Thanks Dad for my love of farming, the land and for Oklahoma! Boomer Sooner!