On This Ag Perspectives Podcast- Ron Hays Gets a Legislative Update from Steve Thompson

After two weeks of the general legislative session in Oklahoma, Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, caught up with Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy, Steve Thompson to talk about the latest policy impacting producers in the state of Oklahoma.

Ron Hays talks with Steve Thompson of Oklahoma Farm Bureau

As there has been some movement on particular bills in the 2024 state legislative session, and Thompson said he feels that this year’s pace is historically fast.

“Everybody is truly scrambling to make sure there is not something that anyone has missed or that your bases are covered,” Thompson said.

The number one issue right now, Thompson said, has to do with water.

“We have had probably four or five predominant bills kind of geared at western Oklahoma,” Thompson said. “We have lived through multiple years of drought. We were reading today about the drought map and how good it looks relative to where we have been, and one of the reasons we noticed that is because of what we are used to, unfortunately, for the last few years.”

There are a few more water-related issues impacting the rest of the state, but Thompson said the predominant bill concerns western and southwest Oklahoma. Thompson said this bill is aimed at the Upper Red River Basin.

Thompson said this bill would completely rewrite the way Oklahoma water law works.

“It has some dangerous implications as written that would take away some groundwater rights, particularly in the northern end of that basin, and comingle some of that with surface water rights, which we handle totally differently,” Thompson said.

There are many other ideas that are being explored in several bills involving water in Oklahoma concerning issues such as water metering, measurement, and trying to gauge how much water is being used in permitted wells, irrigation, and more.

Thompson said with permitted water, it is currently somewhat of an honor system with no verification of how much water is actually being used. There is also discussion about water wells that are not metered but should be.

When it comes to measuring how much water is being used, Thompson said producers he has had the chance to speak with are open to the idea, but more concerned with how much this technology will cost.

“Make no mistake, these are significant potential policy changes in Oklahoma,” Thompson said.

Hays and Thompson also talked about Eastern Oklahoma water issues- especially as it relates to the poultry industry. Thompson also offered an updated on the 13 year old court case that has recently been ruled in favor of the state of Oklahoma versus several poultry companies, legislation to help implement the efforts of the legislature last year to allow younger drivers to get limited licenses for driving to and from town legally and more.

Click on the link above to listen to their full conversation.

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