HB 4118 Edges Closer to a Senate Vote- Likely to Happen This Week

Spreading Poultry litter on pasture near Poteau Oklahoma

On today’s Beef Buzz- we feature the work being done by multiple ag groups at the Oklahoma state capitol to get a legal firewall set up between farmers and activists who want to create havoc in the courts system by filing what some have called nuisance lawsuits. Listen to the Beef Buzz featuring Farm Bureau’s Steve Thompson, OCA’s Michael Kelsey and State Senator Brent Howard by clicking on the Audio Link below:

Ron Hays Beef Buzzes with Steve Thompson, Michael Kelsey and Senator Brent Howard on HB4118

HB 4118 has been developed by lawmakers with the active support of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Cattlemen, the Poultry Federation and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce. The bill says “land application of poultry litter in compliance with a current Nutrient Management Plan shall not be the basis of criminal or civil liability in Oklahoma. ” It defines such a Plan as “a plan approved by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry and not yet revoked or rescinded by the state or suspended by a more recent plan.”

Sponsors include State Representative David Hardin and State Senator Brent Howard.

Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Vice President for Public Policy Steve Thompson told Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster Ron Hays that “it’s ready to go for a vote before the full Senate and that will happen one day this week and we’re excited to see where everybody stands.” Thompson adds that while this directly is to help contract poultry growers- it also very much has implications that matter to pork and beef producers, too- “the same set of issues and rationale that are used to harass the poultry growers- we have seen it in other areas grow into the swine industry and beef industry because they are the same folks who don’t like our business- don’t like any of the livestock sectors.”

Michael Kelsey, Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, says HB 4118 matters to the beef industry in our state and beyond because of the ability to provide protection to a livestock producer who is following government mandated regulations that are designed to protect the environment- activists can’t sue that producer if they are following the management plan agreed to by the producer and the government- in this case- the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. Kelsey adds “if you think about that from an agricultural standpoint, there are four animal rights lobbyists at the state capitol this year- four of them. They are not lobbying for the interests of animal agriculture. In fact, they are lobbying against us- they are very much against this bill because they want to put us out of business.”

Both Thompson and Kelsey are urging their members and others supportive of animal agriculture to encourage their state senator to support HB 4118.

Shortly after a successful push through the Oklahoma House- Rep Hardin told the Oklahoma Farm Report that “Oklahoma farmers are worried about the potential threat of wealthy, out-of-state activists suing them to promote a liberal environmental agenda. These sue-and-settle tactics are commonly used nationwide to impose regulations, and the lawyers behind them are known for targeting those who lack the means to defend themselves, such as small-family farmers.

“Let me be clear: House Bill 4118 will only shield Oklahoma’s farmers who comply with the state’s nutrient management plan. Those not in compliance will face recourse, which could include litigation.” Click here to read more and hear Hays and Rep Hardin discuss the legislation.

The Oklahoma passed HB 4118 by a 68 to 28 vote.

More recently, we talked with Senator Brent Howard who says this proposal is about “preserving the ability of our agricultural industry to be be able to continue their way of life without unnecessary or frivolous lawsuits being imposed as well as letting our agricultural producers be the stewards of their own land and the resources in that portion of the state.”

This measure focuses on the nutrient management plans found in parts of eastern Oklahoma- “a lot of this relates to the poultry growers and integrators…any of those located in the state have to have a nutrient management plan related to how they dispose of and/or scatter and integrate their chicken litter.” Senator Howard says there are groups who are opposed to raising of poultry in Eastern Oklahoma and this proposed bill protects “those who are following the rules and we want to give them assurances that they won’t see unnecessary lawsuits that will come against them from outside groups that aren’t really interested in protecting that agricultural industry.”

One of the lead groups that has organized the opposition to HB 4118 is the Kirkpatrick Policy Groupa letter opposing the measure was sent back in March to members of the Oklahoma Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee- urging a no vote- arguing “The bill shields the entire poultry industry (integrators, growers, and waste applicators) from any criminal or civil accountability for environmental harm, provided     they adhere to a nutrient management plan (NMP), effectively removing their responsibility for pollution.”

If the bill passes the Senate in it’s present form- it would proceed on to the desk of Governor Kevin Stitt and would become law if he signs the measure.

BONUS AUDIO– Click on the audio bar below to hear the full conversation between Ron Hays and Steve Thompson about this week and a potential HB 4118 Vote

Ron Hays and Steve Thompson talk HB 4118 ahead of a possible vote this week

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR at the top of the story for today’s show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.

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