By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahomans for Food, Farm & Family (OKFFF), a coalition of citizens opposed to State Question 777, kicked off its campaign against the ballot measure last month at the historic Farmer’s Public Market in Oklahoma City.
SQ 777, also known as the “Right to Farm” measure, is a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the statewide ballot this November.
An Oklahoma-based 501c4 social welfare and educational organization, OKFFF represents a coalition of farmers and ranchers, food markets, restaurant owners, municipal officials, wildlife and habitat groups, hunters, fisherman and Oklahomans concerned about water rights and water quality.
“State Question 777 is not about the right to farm,” said Mickey Thompson, OKFFF executive director. “Every Oklahoman has the right to farm, and no one is trying to take that away. Instead, State Question 777 is asking Oklahomans to give up their rights to protect their land, their water and their families.”
At the kickoff event, speakers expressed their opinions on the impact SQ 777 would have on wildlife habitat, voting rights, property rights, and water quality.
Speakers included Randy Ross, mayor of Choctaw and a member of the Oklahoma Municipal League; Cynthia Archiniaco, a vice president with Kirkpatrick Bank and member of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council; John Leonard, a farmer with the Kirkpatrick Family Farm and member of the Oklahoma Farm & Food Alliance; Sue Ann Arnall of Oklahoma Rising; and Bud Scott with OKFFF and the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma.
“The face of agriculture is changing dramatically in Oklahoma and across the United States,” Arnall said. “We are pro-agriculture, but first and foremost, we are pro-Oklahoma. We can’t support the concept of creating a special legal status just for agriculture producers, especially as that industry evolves into one controlled more and more by giant, multinational food corporations.”
Scott stated, “Every sportsman in the state should be paying attention to this state question. This measure could have profound implications for habitat, conservation efforts and water quality in Oklahoma, not to mention property rights and land access.”
Mayor Ross pointed to water quality and water rights as a major concern for Oklahoma municipalities.
“Water is already a contentious issue in Oklahoma, and this measure will muddy the issue even further,” he said. “Municipalities have a responsibility to provide safe, clean water to their residents, and State Question 777 will impact the quality of our state’s waters and the water rights of Oklahoma’s cities and towns.”
Authored by State Rep. Scott Biggs (R – Chickasha), the amendment would grant the rights of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices, according to the amendment those rights will be “forever granted” within the state of Oklahoma.
The amendment also prohibits the passing of any law, which restricts the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.
In the months leading up to the November election, OKFFF will meet with community leaders around the state and provide the public with information about the issue.
“This measure affects us all. If you turn on the tap and expect clean, safe drinking water, then you’re affected by local agriculture,” Thompson said. “It is vital that Oklahomans make an informed decision and vote ‘no’ on State Question 777 in November. We’ll be working to give them the information they need to do just that.”
Other notables opposed to SQ 777 are the Kirkpatrick Foundation of Oklahoma City, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society USA, former state Secretary of the Environment and Tulsa Water Commissioner Patty Eaton, and former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
“This measure would not only take away the power of the legislature and municipal governments to regulate agricultural practices,” Edmondson, chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council stated. “It effectively takes away the power of the people to vote on such changes.”
“The world of industrial agriculture is changing with chemical additives to feed, growth hormones and genetic modifications. I can understand why they want to be free from scrutiny and regulation, but I cannot understand why we should let them,” Edmondson added.
Supporters of SQ 777 include the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council, The Poultry Federation, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, Oklahoma Grain & Feed Association, Oklahoma Sorghum Association, and the Oklahoma Cotton Council.
Information from opposers of the ballot measure is available at okfoodfarmfamily.com or at 405-546-5073.