By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
A rally to defeat State Question 777 will be held 5 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, September 27, in the main ballroom of the Tower Hotel, 3233 Northwest Expressway, in Oklahoma City.
Well known speakers turning out in support for the rally are former Governor David Walters; former Attorney General and chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council; Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Baker, attorney and former Attorney General Mike Turpen and former Oklahoma University coach Barry Switzer.
The event is hosted and paid for by Christian Keesee, Board chair of the Kirkpatrick Foundation and president of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund, both based in Oklahoma City.
S.Q. 777, also known as the “Right to Farm” measure, is a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the statewide ballot this November.
According to a press release, the event “promises to be a bipartisan rally that will attract hundreds from across the metro who want to defeat a risky and unnecessary change to the state constitution.”
“This measure could have profound implications for habitat, conservation efforts and water quality in Oklahoma, not to mention property rights and land access,” said Bud Scott, Oklahomans for Food, Farm & Family (OKFFF) executive director and rally speaker.
“Water is already a contentious issue in Oklahoma, and this measure will muddy the issue even further,” Scott 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.”
Additional rally speakers will include:
-The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Oklahoma Conference of Churches Executive Director
-Willa Johnson, Oklahoma County commissioner
-Pat Hoerth, farmer and daughter of late, former Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon
-Don Faulker, Oklahomans for Responsible Water Executive Director
-Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma Senior State Director, Humane Society of the United States
-Ron Suttles, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Board Chair
-Susan Bergen, Peach Crest Farms owner
-Adam Price, Oklahoma Food Cooperative Operations Manager
-Johnson Bridgwater, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club
Bridgwater explained, “S.Q. 776 would do nothing but work to protect large corporate farming and ranching interests. It is so vaguely written that it basically gives free reign or the possibility of all types of pollution to go forward without the legal ability to address them.”
Oklahoma top musicians Kyle Dillingham will perform during the event.
“While proponents of S.Q. 777 have misleadingly dubbed it ‘right to farm,’ Oklahoma already has a right to farm law and has a long and unbroken history of supporting family farmers and generational farming,” the release stated.
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.
Opponents of S.Q. 777 seek to defeat it because the measure shields multinational corporations involved in industrial farming from the democratic process, eroding local and state governments’ ability to protect local water and air quality. Some legal experts content the measure has deeply flawed language that could result in other significant and unintended consequences.
In addition, critiques point out that S.Q. 777 was not put on the ballot as a result of voter initiative. The proposal reached the ballot as a result of legislative action.
Chief Baker said, “This state question is designed to be exploited by huge agribusiness and corporate farms. Dodging oversight and polluting our land and water are not in the heart of what an Oklahoma farmer is all about, and they are most definitely not at the heart of what it is to be Cherokee. I hope you will join me in voting no against 777 in November.’
Organizations that oppose S.Q. 777 include: Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, Oklahoma Municipal League, League of Women Voters, Oklahoma City Council, Edmond City Council, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, Save the Illinois River, Sierra Club, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family, Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Stewardship Council, Humane Society of the United States, Bella Foundation, Oklahoma Welfare League, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and Oklahoma Coalition of Animal Rescuers.
“This measure would not only take away the power of the legislature and municipal governments to regulate agricultural practices,” Edmondson said. “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.
Information from those opposing the ballot measure is available at okfoodfarmfamily.com or at 405-546-5073.