Right to Farm Ballot Initiative Assigned State Question Number- SQ 777Fri, 08 May 2015 04:11:39 CDT
The 2015 Oklahoma State Legislature has approved the ballot initiative HJR 1012, the so called ‘Right to Farm’ initiative. State Representative Scott Biggs and State Senator Jason Smalley authored the legislation- which now has a new number to be known as- State Question 777. Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down with Biggs to talk about the details of the legislation. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.
Getting the bill passed has been a three year process. The original version was the first bill ever filed by Biggs. The House and Senate couldn't come to an agreement on some of the amendments. This time around it was a different story. The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently approved the Senate amendments by a vote of 85 to 7. The Senate amended and passed the resolution on April 21st with a vote of 39 to 6. The amendment will go to the vote of the people in November 2016.
"The pure intent of this bill is to protect farming and ranching in Oklahoma for our future generations," Biggs said. "You know this is about, in November 2016 - a chance for Oklahomans to help Oklahomans ensure we have an adequate supply of safe and affordable food in Oklahoma."
Similar "Right to Farm" bills have been passed in North Dakota and Missouri. Biggs said the proposed constitutional amendment for Oklahoma offer two aspects that the other two bills do not have. He said it has a safe guard so if a law needs to be passed and if there is a compelling state interest, lawmakers have that option. Secondly, the bill grand fathered a lot of existing statutes from December 31, 2014 and prior. Biggs said the grandfathering clause puts all those in place, so we can begin to move forward in protecting agriculture.
Iowa passed a similar "Right to Farm" bill in their state statues, however it was overturned by the courts. By having "Right to Farm" in the Constitution, Biggs said this is a better way to go in preventing outside interest groups from coming to Oklahoma and telling producers how to farm and ranch. He said this amendment offers permanent protection in the Constitution of farming and ranching for future generations.
"If you put it in the Constitution it makes it more permanent," Biggs said. "The Constitution then trumps future statutes, it's just a better way to safe guard and ensure farming and ranching is protected."
The Constitutional amendment will go to the vote of the people in November 2016. The initiative has been assigned question number 777, so planning is already moving forward for the "Vote Yes Campaign". The "Right to Farm" initiative has unified many of the state's agricultural organizations that represent farmers and livestock producers. It's anticipated that activist groups like the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, Sierra Club, among others will come out against the Constitutional amendment. Biggs said they have seen how these groups have approached the same bill in other states, so they are starting early to combat those efforts.
Biggs confirmed that Protect the Harvest has been involved in the meetings held since passage- and will have a presence in the organization of Yes Campaign in the months ahead.
State Representative Scott Biggs will be joining Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays for the weekly "In The Field" report on KWTV News 9 in the Oklahoma City market on Saturday morning at 6:40 a.m.
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