"Right to Farm" bill heads to Senate

Published: Apr. 8, 2015 at 10:06 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2015 at 10:01 AM CDT
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._Oklahoma farmers are keeping a close eye on a controversial farming bill being considered by an Oklahoma Senate committee.

The question is whether or not a bill guaranteeing the right to farm will help or hurt local farmers. And though it passed in a landslide 90-6 in the House of Representatives, the Oklahoma Food Co-op is counting on Oklahoma senators to vote against it. They say if passed, the bill would allow more corporate farming in Oklahoma. But despite their opposition, supporters say it offers plenty of benefits to farmers.

House Joint Resolution 1012 would be an amendment to the state's Constitution, aimed to protect farming and ranching practices in the state. It would also prohibit legislators from passing any laws that would hinder the advancement of farming and ranching unless it was a state interest.

"Representative, I just wanted you to know that this is my favorite bill of the day," said state Representative Scooter Park during the bill's discussion.

Rep. Park says this bill would protect our local farmers and ranchers from federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency that currently has the power to step in and stop farming practicing that they believe are harmful to the environment.

"That will give us more of a voice to stand up against them. Not only together as farmers and ranchers, but through our state Legislature," explained Rep. Park.

But the president of the Oklahoma Food Co-op, Bob Waldrop, says the bill would offer no such protection.

"If he thinks Oklahoma law is somehow going to trump federal law, then he is wrong on that. We can say what we want in the Constitution, but the federal laws will always trump that and the federal courts will uphold that," said Waldrop.

Waldrop says what the bill will do, is open up more chances for large corporate farming in the state, which he says could hurt the operations of local farmers.

"There is very little constraint in the bill to setup a confined animal feeding operation, other than our statute laws, and with this constitutional amendment those will be swept right off the board," said Waldrop.

Rep. Park, who has been a rancher for his whole life, says this is a bill that stands against corporate farms and speaks for rural farmers and ranchers.

"I am dead against corporate farming. I am for our farmers and ranchers, and if this was a bill that would hurt me as a farmer and rancher, or farmers and ranchers not only in Southwest Oklahoma, but across this state, I would be adamantly against it," said Rep. Park.

The bill will go to a Senate committee before reaching the Senate floor.

Since the bill would amend the state's Constitution if it passes the Senate, it would be voted on by the public in a 2016 general election.