MUSKOGEE – A group of area residents gathered Monday night in Muskogee to voice their opposition to a state question that will alter Oklahoma’s constitution and strip the ability of local governments to regulate corporate agriculture.
The proposal, State Question 777, gives the highest level of legal protections to a broad range of agricultural activities. The problem, opponents say, is the proposal’s language is so expansive and the protections so complete that it virtually prohibits local, county and state officials from enacting necessary and reasonable regulation, including protecting surface and groundwater from pollution.
Hosted by the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, the meeting was attended by a contingent of Oklahoma residents from Tahlequah, Muskogee, and surrounding counties.
“State Question 777 could negatively impact Oklahoma streams, rivers, and lakes,” said Drew Edmondson, OSC’s chair and former Oklahoma attorney general. “We do not want to give foreign-owned agricultural operations a constitutional shield, while at the same time, tying the hands of the local and state officials who protect our water from pollution.”
Stripping regulatory authority from local officials only invites interference from the federal government, Edmondson said.
“The surest way to invite involvement from federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency is to pass a proposal that prevents local officials from protecting our natural resources,” said Edmondson. “If we want to keep the federal bureaucrats out of our business, we should ensure our regulatory agencies can do their work. Defeating State Question 777 in November will do just that.”
Several organizations and individuals, including many farmers, have indicated they are standing together to defeat SQ 777. Those opposing the proposal include Save the Illinois River, Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, Oklahoma Municipal League, League of Women Voters, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Bella Foundation, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family, Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Sierra Club, Oklahoma Welfare League, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, and Oklahoma Coalition of Animal Rescuers.
“People should not be fooled,” said farmer Paul Muegge, OSC’s co-chair and former state senator. “State Question 777 is not about family farms. Its purpose is to protect huge, often foreign, companies from reasonable regulation. If this proposal becomes enshrined in our constitution, it’s Oklahoma’s water that will suffer the most, and Oklahoma’s family farmers will suffer along with it.”
The Oklahoma Stewardship Council is a coalition of family farmers, community leaders, and concerned citizens opposing SQ 777.