Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

SQ 777: A Growing Controversy

Right to Farm raises crop of questions



 



Parse the language of State Question 777 and what you are left with is an abundance of questions. The so-called Right to Farm legislation “protects the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices.” Aside from the lack of clarity related to the scope of “practices,” opponents also point out that the idea behind this state question was not introduced by farmers or ranchers.
 

State Representative Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, voted against the bill in 2015 – one of only five representatives to do so – and he said the bill was introduced by two legislators who are not themselves farmers or ranchers. Dunnington, who comes from a large farming family – the farm is still active in Indiana – said state questions usually arise when enough people sign a petition to get the Legislature to do something about an issue the public feels has not been properly addressed.

“In the case of State Question 777, what we have is legislation introduced by Senator [Jason] Smalley and Representative [Scott] Biggs, the language of which is 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,” Dunnington says.

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.

“I voted against it because I think it harms the interests of farmers and ranchers,” Dunnington says, “but I’m also distrustful of ALEC legislation since it often represents the interests of multinational corporations.”

Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson is also supporting the “Vote No” side of the issue. He said the major reason he took a side was because he wanted to further the work he did as AG. Edmondson spearheaded reforms in agriculture law that protected the state’s water supply from large chicken operations in eastern Oklahoma and large hog farms in the west.

“A ‘yes’ vote on SQ 777 will give large corporate farms license to do what we worked so hard to stop,” Edmondson says. “In spite of the claims of the proponents, family farmers are being driven out of business not by regulation or liberal organizations, but by the huge farming operations 777 is meant to protect. It’s an ALEC bill, and they have never been known for protecting the little guy. In fact, support for SQ 777 comes from farm organizations like the Oklahoma Farm Bureau … not family farmers.”

 



A ‘yes’ vote on SQ 777 will give large corporate farms license to do what we worked so hard to stop.

Drew Edmondson
 


 

Brian Ted Jones, the director of education for the Kirkpatrick Foundation, said his organization had conducted studies of Right to Farm “based on a wide-ranging examination of factual and legal issues” related to the legislation. While the Kirkpatrick Foundation cannot legally endorse or oppose legislation, they can offer clarification about what legislation actually can or will do.

“The result of a ‘yes’ to SQ 777 is a fundamental change to how agriculture is governed at all levels in Oklahoma,” Jones 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.

Jones said this kind of legislation creates a couple of problems. “It’s hard to see what agricultural laws would not result in litigation under this sort of legislation,” he says. “That means it would best be utilized by entities that can afford litigation; small, family farms and small municipalities don’t typically have those resources.”

Technological development creates another complication for Right to Farm. Jones offers as a possible scenario – because technological innovation is always ongoing – the development of a new technology 10 years from now that allows for more production but increases water pollution in the area. A ‘yes’ vote for SQ 777 would mean that a municipality likely would be sued for passing an ordinance that restricts pollution levels, and because of the affirmative defense, the burden of proof would be on the municipality.

 

The second clause of the ballot verbiage reads: “It prohibits the Legislature from passing laws that would take away the right to employ agricultural technology and livestock production without a compelling state interest.”

Mark Yates is the director of field operations for public policy for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, an organization that is in favor of SQ 777. His main concern is not overactive legislatures, but he did say a “yes” vote means that future legislation would need to be in the best interests of Oklahoma. However, his strongest warning is directed not at legislators but at special interest groups.

“We are seeing agricultural practices being pulled off the table all over the U.S. as the Humane Society, PETA and the Sierra Club push for changes,” he says. “When these organizations pushed for larger cages in California under Prop 2, the chicken industry simply put fewer birds per cage to compensate. Production fell as a result and people ended up buying imported eggs. The legislation protects consumers, not just farmers and ranchers.”

Edmondson said one of the main problems with SQ 777 is that it is missing some very important verbiage: “subject to reasonable legislation.” In other words, the “right to farm” could not be infringed under the banner of “reasonable legislation,” a bedrock of lawmaking, according to Edmondson.

“This legislation uses the ‘compelling state interest’ language,” Edmondson says. “That elevates the right to farm to the same level of protected status as the right to free speech and the right to practice religion. Those rights can only be infringed with a compelling state interest; all non-fundamental rights are subject to reasonable legislation.”



No out-of-state special interest lobby can come in and tell us how to farm.

Mason Boley
 


Mason Boley, a farmer from the Perry area, said he supports SQ 777 because he believes the bill protects farmers. “No out-of-state special interest lobby can come in and tell us how to farm,” Boley says. “If you want organic, backyard grown or more traditional farming, the bill protects all of us and gives consumers a choice.”

Boley’s family has farmed for five generations, and while their 4,000-acre farm is not the stereotype of a family farm, three generations are alive and farming the land now. “Some people look at us as a large farm, but we are a family operation,” he says. “Some of the land is in an LLC, so we’re sort of incorporated. Mainly, I tell people we have too much land when we’re fertilizing and not enough when we’re harvesting.”

As to whether these special interests have shown up in the state to wreak havoc yet, the answer is certainly no. All sides will admit that Oklahoma isn’t exactly ground zero for liberal causes, and as Dunnington points out, “We’re not California.”

“Oklahoma already has the right to farm,” Dunnington says. “As for support for the farmers, even my Democratic colleagues had a hard time understanding why I voted against the bill. ‘Why are you against farmers?’ one of them asked me. I had to explain that just because something says ‘right to,’ is not a guarantee of protecting farmers’ rights.”

 

In mid-July, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court agreed to retain a lawsuit brought by Dunnington and others challenging SQ 777 on a number of grounds, including a violation of the state’s one-issue rule for legislation. Filings were due July 28, and the Court was expected to set a date for arguments after that. Dunnington said he was pleased that the case was going to the Supreme Court.

“It’s where we wanted it to go all along,” he says. “When the district judge dismissed it without even hearing it, we knew that we would have a chance to get it in front of the Supreme Court on appeal.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt called the lawsuit “a brazen, last-minute attempt to stop the democratic process.”

“My office and Supreme Court Justices are being forced to rush through the process, when the challenge could have been filed more than 200 days ago,” Pruitt says. “But, it is not surprising the Supreme Court decided to retain the case. We appreciate the court’s willingness to retain the case and resolve the issue with dispatch.”

Edmondson is not a plaintiff in the case, but said he is watching it with interest and hopes Dunnington and the other plaintiffs are successful. 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

A Texas Trifecta

Quick getaways don’t get much more stellar than the DFW satellite cities of Irving, Plano and Grapevine – plan a trip down I-35 and prepare for enjoyment.

Speaker Box: May’s Show Saturation

Exceptional May concerts coming to the Jones Assembly and Tower Theatre; Ariana Grande lights up the Chesapeake Arena.

Magic Carpet Ride

If redecorating is on your mind this spring, find a dose of design magic in these carpets and rugs from local retailers.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Website »

More information

As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
Contact Name: Nick Calo
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Watch happy hour turn to golden hour while we fill the air with live music. For 5 consecutive Tuesday evenings, we invite OKC to come out after work to enjoy a variety of food, views,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: OkSessions.com
Contact Name: James
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags