'Right to Farm' Vote Divides Oklahoma Along Geographic Lines

November 14, 2016 07:34 AM
Oklahoma was geographically divided on a "Right to Farm" vote for State Question 777.

State Question 777, the failed ballot measure on embedding rights to farmers and ranchers in the state constitution, divided Oklahoma along geographic lines.

County-by-county results show the measure had strong support in western Oklahoma, a stronghold for cattle ranching and pork production.

However, large portions of eastern Oklahoma and urban areas voted State Question 777 down.

SQ 777 ultimately failed with 568,891 or 39.7 percent voting in favor of the measure, and 863,752 or 60.3 percent opposed, The Oklahoman reports.

The Oklahoma Panhandle voted solidly in favor of the measure. Texas County voted 78 percent in favor. The Texas County economy is buttressed by pork production. Guymon is home to the large Seaboard Foods pork production plant, which processes about 5.5 million market hogs a year, according to the company's website.

Large numbers of voters came out against the measure in both the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan areas. In Oklahoma County, 69 percent opposed the measure.

Monte Tucker, a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in Sweetwater, said he believes urban voters did not fully understand the issue. He and other farmers who supported the measure fear animal welfare and environmental groups will push legislation in the state regulating everything from the size of chicken cages to methane emissions from cows.

Tucker also sits on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a major proponent of SQ 777.

"We've got to do a better job of reaching our urban consumers," Tucker said. "They are totally disconnected from what and where and how their food is produced."

Western Oklahoma also was insulated from the numerous television ads that SQ 777 opposition groups purchased in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City markets in the weeks running up to the election, Tucker said.

Much of the eastern half of the state voted against the measure, including the poultry producing areas like McCurtain County in far southeast Oklahoma.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson believes voters in the eastern part of the state were swayed to vote against SQ 777 over water pollution issues.

Edmondson leads the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, the coalition opposition group to SQ 777.

"Our rural vote was mostly in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Oklahoma," Edmondson said. "Western Oklahoma is probably far more interested in obtaining water than worrying about the quality of water they have."

Tom Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said opposition groups played on urban voters fears in television and social media campaigns to secure votes. "Those metro areas really bought into that opposition story based on fearmongering and falsehoods," he said.

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