State Question 777, also known as Right to Farm, is on one of the most controversial measures on the Nov. 8 ballot this year. Recently, 405 Magazine researched the vague language of the measure, including the history, who is behind the bill and what phrases like “compelling state interest” mean for Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and citizens.
While supporters of the measure boast it will benefit Oklahomans of all walks of life, did the idea of the new “Right to Farm” originate in Oklahoma, for Oklahomans? Short answer: No.
State Question 777 was “drawn from an ALEC mock bill used in North Dakota, and one that was defeated by the unicameral Legislature in Nebraska because legislators said it would hurt farmers and ranchers in the state,” says Jason Dunningham, State Representative, D-Oklahoma City.
Dunningham, who comes from a large farming family, was one of the few representatives to vote against the bill in the beginning and is an advocate for voting no on SQ777.
From 405 Magazine:
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, crafts model legislation for conservative causes around the country. Dunnington said the North Dakota bill was word-for-word copied from ALEC’s model legislation on Right to Farm.
The Kirkpatrick Foundation, who focuses research on the impact SQ777 could have on Oklahoma’s environment, animal welfare and water quality, has amped up its effort to educate the public on the measure.
“The result of a ‘yes’ to SQ 777 is a fundamental change to how agriculture is governed at all levels in Oklahoma,” [Brian Ted] Jones [of the Kirkpatrick Foundation] says. “Any farming or ranching entity or related industry could challenge in court any ag-related legislation, restriction or rule if it can be seen as restricting the rights of farmers and ranchers to practice their business in terms of ranching practices, deployment of technology, livestock production, et cetera.”
What that means in practice is that a farming entity with sufficient legal representation – often an issue of financial wherewithal – would be able to sue municipalities or other government agencies that attempted to restrict certain practices. Essentially, the legislation would be an affirmative defense for farmers and ranchers when facing potential restrictions on their agricultural practices.
Read more on the controversy surrounding the measure on 405magazine.com.
The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma stands firmly against the passage of SQ777 and encourages the public to do research before voting in November. Visit OKResponsibleAg.org, Oklahomans for Food, Farm & Family and the Kirkpatrick Foundation for more information on State Question 777.