by Olivier Rey, Red Dirt Report
Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters reviews all State Questions and provides a pro & con Voter’s Guide here. SQ777 is opposed by the Oklahoma League of Women Voters.
A passionate discussion regarding SQ 777 was held by the League of Women Voters of Norman on Tuesday at the Norman Public Library.
Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council was representing the pro-777 contingent (so-called “Right to Farm”), and Randy Ross, mayor of Choctaw, an anti-777 (so-called “Right to Harm”) proponent was absent. A large majority of the attendees were anti-SQ 777, Red Dirt Report discovered.
Lindsey believes SQ 777 is a protective measure to prevent any future law that will regulate agriculture and agro-business such as in California, Massachusetts and Michigan saying, “It is not a response to measures that have been made in Oklahoma, yet, it is a response to things happening across the country.”
Lindsey added the regulations adopted in others states are rarely related to science, but more about the feeling good of the urban people on the practices used by livestock producers and therefore increase the cost of food.
He also said the farmers represent only two percent of the population in Oklahoma mainly due to urban migration.
“We believed it was necessary to maintain protection for natural resources,” Lindsey said. “We want you to have confidence that we’ll take care of our natural resources. We believe protecting water is important.”
In addition, Lindsey said state legislators will still have the right to interfere with the Right to Farm legislation through the compelling state interest, meaning the state will have the burden of proof to modify the Right to Farm amendment.
“North Dakota and Missouri didn’t add the compelling state interest in their Right to Farm legislation,” Lindsey said, adding a majority of Democrats and Republicans voted on SQ 777 in Oklahoma showing the state question as a nonpartisan legislation.
However, the majority of the attendees were very skeptical about Lindsey’s arguments saying, “SQ 777 will first favor the big corporations and help them to make more money and therefore destroy small farmers.”
Attendees believed corporations want to change the constitution because it will be more difficult after for citizens and legislators to remove and change the new amendment added previously in the state constitution.
Lindsey replied because the number of farmers are reducing in the state, people are less aware of how agriculture works and therefore in how it should be regulated. He added food industry is different from other industries because no one can live without food and it is why it should be protected in the state’s constitution.
Even if he was not able to show evidence, Lindsey said regulations are increasing the price of food such as the eggs in California.
In addition, Lindsey said agro-industries provide work for a lot of families in Oklahoma saying, “A lot of city leaders will tell you that the pork industry helps save their community.”
Further, Lindsey said fighting chickens will still remain illegal and it will not change actual state and federal regulations saying, “I don’t think fighting chickens and puppy mills has anything to do with agriculture.”
At the end of the meeting, a majority of the attendees said they weren’t really convinced by Lindsey’s arguments which they said lacked tangible facts and data.