McClendon: SQ 777 doesn’t really protect farmers

Letters to the Editor

State Question 777 will make its way to voters on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot. The bill, HJR 1012, is referred to as the Right to Farm and Ranch Amendment by its supporters. However, many others refer to it as “Right for Factory Farms” or “Right to Harm.”

It is persuasively worded and vaguely constructed, so the proposal implies that agriculture in Oklahoma is in jeopardy, and SQ777 would protect it.

This is absolutely a sham.

In reality, the bill is constructed to protect Big Ag, and consequentially hurt the livelihoods of Oklahoma farmers, and the health and well-being of Oklahomans in general.

Approximately half of the crops on this planet are grown, processed and shipped by fewer than two dozen companies. When the rules and regulations go away, industrial farming operations dominate even more. From an economic perspective, this greatly decreases profit margins and sales for local farmers and jobs for local agricultural workers.

I’m part owner of a local, organic farm. I don’t want my government to place unnecessary rules and regulations on such things as a minimum number of crops or animals we must produce in order to exist, or how far we must be from the city, even if within proper zoning limits. And this bill in no way protects those concerns.

Instead, this bill makes it nearly impossible to regulate the economic and health issues that profoundly affect local farms and every Oklahoman. These include market monopoly, air and water pollution, pesticide and other toxic chemical use, antibiotic use, food additives, animal abuse and noxious animal waste. I welcome government regulations or interventions on the issues listed above.

Before running a restaurant and organic farm, I was a public health worker and epidemiologist, focusing on cancer research and chronic disease. From that perspective, I greatly welcome government-backed, researched regulations on genetically modified organisms and other toxic chemical use, which are often associated with Big Ag.

Food should not be this complicated. A researched and well-thought-out government regulation should take the onus off of the consumer, and instead shift that responsibility to the producer. Our farms should be feeding the world, not merely selling to it.

Whitney McClendon is owner of Provision Organic Farm and Provision Kitchen in Oklahoma City