OKLAHOMA CITY — A newly formed coalition announced Tuesday that it is opposing a state question that would enshrine the rights of farmers in the state Constitution.
The Oklahoma Stewardship Council is urging voters to reject State Question 777, called the “Right to Farm” by supporters and “Right to Harm” by critics.
Former state attorney general Drew Edmondson is chairman of group.
Critics of the measure said its passage could lead to increased pollution of air and water and poor treatment of animals.
“No other industry in Oklahoma enjoys that type of protection,” Edmondson said, adding that agriculture would become a protected class. The measure will appear on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot.
It would invite federal regulation because the state would have a very difficult time passing regulations on farming in the future, Edmondson said.
“I have a word of advice for those people who are involved in agriculture whose real concern is what is happening at the federal level with the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies of state government,” Edmondson said. “If you really want to get the federal government involved in Oklahoma agriculture, then pass State Question 777.”
Edmondson said the measure should be renamed “State Question 666.”
In addition, it would benefit corporate agricultural operations, such as poultry and swine, at the expense of the small family farmer, Edmondson said.
“This measure would not only take away the power of the Legislature and municipal governments to regulate agricultural practices, it effectively takes away the power of the people to vote on such changes,” Edmondson said. “The world of industrial agriculture is changing with chemical additives to feed, growth hormones and genetic modifications. I can understand why they want to be free from scrutiny and regulation, but I cannot understand why we should let them.”
Former Sen. Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa, is the co-chairman of the Stewardship Council and a farmer.
“State Question 777 is bad news for Oklahoma farmers and their communities,” Muegge said. “We have witnessed the demise of family agriculture as a result of the industrial model of food production.”
Brian Klippenstein is executive director of Protect the Harvest, a national coalition that supports State Question 777.
“These days, there is a lot of money to be made by those trying to malign farmers,” he said. “The statements made by the Oklahoma Stewardship Council are not designed to inform the debate, but to stir, raise money, and divide the historical bond between farmers and consumers.”