Oklahoma Will Decide “Right to Farm”
State Question 777, in Oklahoma, is also known as the “Right to Farm” amendment. It would amend the constitution to prevent future regulation on agriculture that doesn’t meet a “compelling state interest”.
For farmer Greg Leonard, agriculture is a family trade.
“My son farms and has cattle, and my daughter has cattle,” Leonard said.
For more than 30 years, Leonard has spent his fall harvesting. But he says a shrinking farming population is making it easier for over-regulation.
“It becomes very easy to make new regulations and things with a smaller percent of your population actually being in agriculture,” Leonard said.
It’s why he supports the right to farm initiative. Question 777 would amend the state constitution and guarantee the right to make use of agricultural technology, livestock procedures, and ranching practices.
“There’s been so many more laws and regulations that it’s been more burdensome than it’s ever been,” James Fuser of Fuser Farms said. He raises livestock and supports the right to farm question.
“We feel like we’re the best stewards of the land than they would be. We don’t feel like they should be telling us how to raise our animals.”
“I understand that concern, and I understand that sentiment,” Chairman of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, which opposes Question 777, Drew Edmondson said. “But if you put up a road block for legislation that never happened, you’re also putting up a roadblock for legislation that may be necessary.”
Opposition says the measure would protect large-scale, corporate operations. And could give free reign to inhumane practices. The Humane Society of the U.S. said in part, “The measure is so broadly worded that it could prevent future restrictions on any ‘agricultural’ practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter and raising gamefowl for cockfighting.”
The right to farm amendment wouldn’t change any existing regulations. What it would do is set up a barrier for future regulations unless it has a “compelling state interest”.
“No state law changes when this passes,” Leonard said. “It’s not like we’re starting from scratch.”
“777 is a solution in search of a problem,” Edmondson said. “That is tantamount to the protects that we give our freedom or religion, our right to vote, and our freedom of speech.”
“10 years from now I’ll be retiring. But my son has a lifetime if he wants to return to the farm,” Leonard said.
There are 7 state questions on next week’s ballot in Oklahoma.