OK's 2019 Legislative Session Wraps Up, OKFB's Steve Thompson Recaps on Ag's Many VictoriesFri, 24 May 2019 14:44:57 CDT
The 2019 Oklahoma Legislative Session has officially adjourned, as of Thursday of this week. While the State Legislature has reserved the right to return next week and reopen business if the need arises, for all intents and purposes Oklahoma Farm Bureau Assistant Director of Public Policy Steve Thompson says this year’s session is essentially wrapped up. He sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn to recap this year’s session. You can listen to their complete review of the 2019 Oklahoma Legislative Session by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“The legislature has gone home,” Thompson said. “The last-minute stuff is on the Governor’s desk and we’re kind of sorting through things to process what’s happened this year.”
Overall, Thompson says 2019 turned out to be a tremendous year for agriculture and rural Oklahoma.
“Governor Stitt and a large number of freshman lawmakers came into the building and - partially driven by the better budget situation - had such a positive attitude and our rural voters did such a good job turning out last year,” he recounted. “We passed a number of positive things that for us came really early and really smoothly.”
Most notably, agriculture and rural Oklahoma witnessed the passage of bills that cap non-economic damages on nuisance suits against agricultural operations; allow for several modernizations with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry’s operations and regulatory framework for certain areas; and advance the state’s Industrial Hemp Production program to allow farmers a legal market in which to sell a new, potentially lucrative and versatile crop.
“I think it was a very workman-like, productive year,” Thompson remarked. “We didn’t have many defensive things - we had a few - but I think we handled business on behalf of agriculture in a very professional and productive way this year.”
While many achievements were made, Thompson says some there were regrettably still some things left on the table, though he says if that doesn’t happen, then you are not reaching far enough.
“We left a lot on the table when it comes to rural healthcare. That was a priority issue for OKFB members and we spent quite a bit of time on a number of issues,” he said. “While we had a lot of support for addressing that issue, we just couldn’t get the kinks worked out enough to get that support moving. That will be a high priority in the interim to work on coming up with a better plan for next year.”
Where rural healthcare advancements fell short, conservation made up for it. The budget, signed today by Gov. Stitt, included what Thompson called “small but meaningful investments” in both agriculture and especially conservation in particular regard to the improvement of rural flood control dams which have demonstrated their importance to the state this week probably more than ever in history. In summary, the FY2020 Budget includes $1.59 million for rural dam improvement; $500,000 for maintaining clean water in Oklahoma with an emphasis on high-density poultry areas; $200,000 devoted to wildfire mitigation programs; $500,000 to the Healthy Food Financing Revolving Fund; $600,000 to rural fire operational grants; and $90,000 to hire an additional state veterinarian.
“So, we had a very good year,” Thompson concluded, “but we’re happy to wrap up and move into next season.”
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