Lawsuit to keep 'Right to Farm' off state ballot dismissed

News

Litigation brought by a consortium of plaintiffs to stop State Question 777, or “Right to Farm,” from being put to voters has been dismissed.

The suit was tossed out by Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish. STIR is among the plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of SQ 777. Other plaintiffs include State Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City; local landowner Ed Brocksmith; and farmer John Leonard.

“We are very disappointed,” said Denise Deason Toyne, a local attorney and president of Save the Illinois River Inc. “We believe the issues and motions to dismiss were not the basis for the judge’s decision.”

Deason Toyne said the plaintiffs are huddling to consider other legal options.

“We are planning a conference call on Tuesday to discuss what we will do next,” she said. “We could decide to appeal or perhaps wait to see if it passes, and then file a lawsuit.”

Introduced by Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, SQ 777 is scheduled to appear on the Nov. 8 state ballot for consideration by the voters. It would add language to the Oklahoma Constitution reading: “The Legislature shall pass no law that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.”

Since its introduction, SQ 777 has sown discord between agricultural and environmental interests within the state.

Those against Right to Farm claim it expands latitude for farmers to dump waste and abuse animals. Supporters assert that the “compelling state interest” clause gives the Oklahoma Legislature room to pass regulatory agricultural and livestock measures.

The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Park Council, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association and Oklahoma Cotton Council are among the organizations that have announced their support for SQ 777.

The opposing coalition, the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, includes STIR, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and the Oklahoma Municipal League.

A second opposition coalition, Oklahoma Rising Inc., which has in turn formed the coalition Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family.

All anti-SQ 777 coalitions have announced their intentions to inform voters of the potential drawbacks of passage.