State Question 777, a constitutional amendment referred to voters by the Legislature, will be on the ballot in November 2016. In late May, supporters of the measure applauded a court ruling that the measure could stay before voters in the upcoming general election.
After Oklahoma County Judge Patricia Parrish dismissed a lawsuit against S.Q. 777, Oklahoma Farmers Care — an umbrella support group for the state question – said the jurist “recognized that State Question 777 on its face is constitutional. The judicial branch is now allowing Oklahoma voters to decide this important issue on the ballot in November. We look forward to continuing our education effort. Oklahomans across the state recognize passage of State Question 777 will provide for food affordability and availability, as well as food security.”
Judge Parrish, saying new constitutional litigation might be appropriate if the measure is approved this fall, also said the lawsuit was filed too late.
In an earlier release, the advocacy group had described the litigation as “a nuisance lawsuit to delay and obfuscate our efforts. Unlike our opponents, we welcome the opinion of Oklahomans and look forward to ensuring their opportunity to vote on this important right and decide for themselves.”
Advocates of S.Q. 777 said in a press release last fall the Right to Farm measure will protect Oklahoma jobs and defend “the hardworking farm and ranch families that drive our rural economy from out-of-state animal-rights groups that have targeted agriculture nationwide. It also protects small and organic farmers and ensures Oklahoma families are able to afford the food they need.”
“Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers are the original environmental stewards,” said Roy Lee Lindsey, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Pork Council. “We care about our land and water and S.Q. 777 protects those resources for future generations.
Supporters of the proposition say the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is financing a group called the Oklahoma Stewardship Council in an effort to derail S.Q. 777.
When opposition emerged with national support last year, advocates of S.Q. 777 rebuffed the stewardship council’s arguments, saying in a press release, “The Oklahoma Stewardship Council’s deceptive statement and press conference … is simply Wayne Pacelle’s way of making good on his threat to double down on Oklahoma when our legislature passed Right To Farm with an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority.”
Wayne Pacelle heads HSUS, an international animal rights group advancing what right-to-farm advocates describe as an “animal-rights agenda.” The right-to-farm release said, “HSUS has opposed farming and hunting rights across the country, financing ballot campaigns against dove hunting in Michigan, against egg farmers in California, against farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, and by pushing federal legislation against farmers, ranchers, and hunters.”
“S.Q. 777 is not only an agriculture choice it is a consumer choice,” said Tom Buchanan, President of Oklahoma Farm Bureau. “Outside groups want to take food off of your plates and clothes out of your closets. Oklahoma agriculture is the lifeblood of the economy of Oklahoma that needs to be protected from outside groups and outside interests.”
“SQ 777 was written to protect Oklahoma’s citizens and family farmers from outside activists like HSUS,” said Joe Neal Hampton, President of Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association. “Contrary to the claim of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council, SQ 777 will not guarantee foreign corporations any new rights.”
“Oklahoma agriculture values of stewardship, responsibility and integrity are not held by the Washington D.C.-based HSUS group that is dead-set on deceiving Oklahoma voters,” said Michael Kelsey, Executive Vice President of Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. “Right to Farm provides for freedom in food choice and security so that Oklahoma families can make their own food buying decisions rather than the government or animal rights groups dictating how their food will be produced.”
“S.Q. 777 will protect our ability to use science based production methods to humanely produce food and fiber,” said Terry Detrick, President of the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union. “We are in a daily struggle with adverse weather conditions, burdensome regulations and contrary markets. S.Q. 777 will lend stability to our industry by encouraging younger generations to be involved in agriculture without worrying about outside influences with an anti-agriculture agenda.”
State Question 777 is supported by leading agriculture groups including; 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, Oklahoma Cotton Council and family farmers across the state.
Other notables opposed to SQ 777 are the Sierra Club; the Kirkpatrick Foundation of Oklahoma City; the Oklahoma Municipal League; the Oklahoma Farm & Food Alliance; the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma; former state Secretary of the Environment and Tulsa Water Commissioner Patty Eaton; and former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council.
Information from supporters of the ballot measure is available from OklahomaRightToFarm.com, or contact 405-761-3033.
NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.