Battle over ‘Right to Farm’ proposal continues across Oklahoma

[FILE] Cows stand in the pasture at a farm in Farmington, Missouri.

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EDMOND, Okla. – An Oklahoma community is speaking out against a proposed state question.

State Question 777, also known as the Right to Farm Act, guarantees broad farming and ranching practices, and would prevent the legislature from passing laws against those practices without a “compelling state interest.”

It has sparked a lot of controversy from many saying that it simply helps big corporations and puts Oklahoma’s natural resources at risk.

“The Walmart model of farming, if you will, will drive small farms out of the business, and they won’t be able to compete anymore with a company that can lower prices and take them out of the market,” Rep. Jason Dunnington said.

“Under 777, corporate agriculture will operate however they choose with no requirement to respect the land or respect the water,” said Sen. Kay Floyd.

Already, some cities have spoken out against the move, saying it would hurt their communities.

“State Question 777 puts cities like Norman at risk. Because of the language of the bill, if State Question 777 passes, municipalities like mine will be unable to do anything to stop future harm to our land or to our water,” said Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.

At a recent city council meeting, Edmond officials passed a resolution to oppose the state question.

“The passage of this question would change the State Constitution and that change would supersede our Edmond processes for land use planning and zoning regulations,” said Mayor Charles Lamb. “This change would limit our ability to fulfill our statutory obligation to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens.”

The resolution “urges its citizens to reject State Question 777.”

Another organization in Nebraska is also speaking out about the proposition.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau has announced that it does not want to pursue a “right to farm” proposal in that state.

“We are united in our belief that protecting our member’s interests and the future of agriculture isn’t about a single ballot measure or initiative,” Steve Nelson, president of the bureau, said in a news release.

“SQ 777 takes away the power of the legislature and municipal governments to regulate agricultural practices to protect water and other natural resources and individuals’ property rights,” Paul Muegge, co-chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, said. “In this world of industrial agriculture, it is large corporations who will benefit from the unprecedented blank check that SQ 777 gives them, not generational farmers who have always protected water, land and livestock. I can understand why the corporations want to be free from scrutiny and regulation, but I cannot understand why Oklahoma should let them. Voters should not be fooled by this proposal.”

However, there are several state leaders who say the measure is necessary.

“Anything that is in law today stays in law. Municipalities are protected just like they’ve always been. They can still zone. It takes nothing away from them,” said Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers & Ranchers.

“We’ve seen that agriculture’s under attack from east coast, Hollywood, DC type lobbyists who are trying to dictate how we farm and ranch, and limit our food supply here in Oklahoma,” Rep Scott Biggs said.

Opponents of the state question have filed an appeal to keep it off the November ballot.

However, a decision has yet to be made.

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