Oklahoma's Right to Farm Amendment Sparks Opposition

December 14, 2015 05:00 AM

If farm interests are successful, Oklahoma could amend its constitution to protect itself from those who are trying to change the face of agriculture in the state.

Months from now, in November 2016, the citizens of Oklahoma will vote on whether to adopt a constitutional amendment, called State Question 777, a Right to Farm measure.

Both North Dakota and Missouri have passed similar constitutional amendments. North Dakota’s Farming and Ranching Amendment passed by nearly 67% in 2012, and Missouri’s Right to Farm Amendment passed narrowly in 2014.

If passed, however, Oklahoma’s amendment would be the strongest to date, according to John Collison, vice president for public policy for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

“Our amendment requires a compelling state interest for the state of Oklahoma to ban a farming practice,” said Collison.

Banning an agricultural practice is not without precedent in Oklahoma. For example, Collison noted that a compelling state interest led Oklahoma to ban castor beans from being grown in the state due to their high ricin content, a human toxin, and concern that ricin contamination could spread to wheat.

“The amendment would protect farmers and ranchers into the future from outside interests like HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and the Sierra Club that want to put an end to modern agriculture,” Collison noted.

What is occurring in Oklahoma is certainly nothing new. Several states have already passed laws that ban certain types of farm practices, primarily related to on-farm animal confinement, while others—like North Dakota and Missouri—have passed laws to protect agricultural practices.

According to the National Agricultural Law Center (NALC), Florida was the first state to propose and pass a law related to on-farm animal confinement. In 2002, Florida passed a constitutional amendment with 55% of the vote, making it illegal to confine sows to crates that prohibit them from turning around. There are several examples of similar laws in other states: 

  • In 2006, Arizona passed a ballot initiative, with 62% of the vote, which makes it unlawful to prevent pregnant sows and veal calves from lying down and fully extending their limbs or turning around freely, according to NALC.
  • In 2007, Oregon was the first state to legislatively pass a statue related to on-farm animal confinement. Oregon’s law makes it unlawful to prevent pregnant sows from lying down and fully extending their limbs or turning around freely for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period. Since then, Maine and Colorado have passed similar laws.
  • In 2008, California’s Proposition 2 extended protection to laying hens by banning battery cages. On Jan. 1, 2015, it became illegal for California egg producers to sell eggs for human consumption from hens housed in these cages.

HSUS has sponsored all of these statutes, according to NALC. Since 2008, at least 20 other states have proposed similar laws related to confinement in animal agriculture.

The HSUS is also backing a newly formed coalition in Oklahoma, called the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, which is opposed to State Question 777. The council argues that Oklahoma’s amendment would enshrine the rights of farmers in the state’s constitution, which could lead to increased air and water pollution as well as the poor treatment of animals. “No other industry in Oklahoma enjoys that type of protection,” said Drew Edmondson, chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, former state attorney general for Oklahoma, and legal counsel for HSUS.




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Spell Check

Alva, OK
4/8/2016 02:55 AM

  The man from San Antonio, TX knows exactly what he is talking about. He is very informed and has done his research. The people of Oklahoma need to support this ammendment or they will be buying their food from China because these special interest groups will have run all the farmers out of business. I hope you like rice!!

Randy Janssen
San Antonio, TX
12/15/2015 05:57 AM

  National animal rights groups like the HSUS, PETA and the ASPCA have become urban concentrated vegan cults. They raise millions of dollars by pretending to take care of dogs and cats, then spend it on attacks on agriculture and hunting. Local shelters complain about their aggressive fund raising sucking up all the money, so animals go wanting. ALL THREE HAVE CONCOCTED STORIES ABOUT ANIMAL ABUSE. They have little or no experience with the animals they claim to protect and either misconstrue legitimate animal husbandry or take isolated instances of animal cruelty and say they are the norm. Their goal is to stop hunting by increments, passing laws against individual methods of hunting or shorten hunting seasons. They get away with this because of the urban population of the US is separated from its food production and large or wild animals. The country has become a society of small pet owners who view livestock the same as small lap dogs. If these groups have their way, primates will have the same rights as humans and meat eating will be outlawed. According to Bloomberg Financial Reports, their attack on food production is already causing an increase in cost. So unless you want to end up paying $10.00 a doz. for eggs, $20.00 a lb. for bacon $30.00 a lb. for chicken and $50.00 a lb. for beef, don't support these groups.

Tante Cindy
Hutchinson, MN
12/15/2015 12:39 PM

  I do not consider so-called right to farm laws wise or necessary. But if the various states choose to pass them, they are welcome to do so. However, it is never anything but foolishness of the first order to amend a constitution to legislate a hot button issue. If the law will pass constitutional muster then a simple bill is all that is needed. There is no need to incur needless expenses to the tax payers to promulgate a state constitutional amendment. What is more, why do you think that those who make the videos showing bad practices will be deterred by such action on the part of the state. They see themselves as crusaders, and shall not be deterred. If the videos disclose actual violations of the already existing laws that govern handling of livestock, and they are not considered acceptable documentation because they were made in contravention of the law (from a simple bill or by constitutional amendment), livestock operators will have accomplished nothing but creating a backlash toward all producers in that urban population at which you sneer (also known as your customers) rather than anger at a single operator. Growing up I was taught that it not wise to cut off one's nose to spite one's face. Hyperbole such as yours, like the so-called "right to farm" legislation, are ultimately doomed to failure. Hyperbole turns potentially sympathetic ears away. This sort of legislation brings into question your honesty by raising the question of what you are trying to conceal. In are living in an era in which more not less transparency in desired. So unless you are Monsanto, or Mondelez, or they are ready to bankroll your fight, accommodations need to be made on both sides. Cooperation & compromise will yield better lasting solutions.


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