A group of plaintiffs have failed to keep State Question (SQ) 777, the “Right to Farm”, off the November ballot. A County District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by Save The Illinois River (STIR), State Representative Jason Dunnington, and other landowners and farmers to challenge the amendment’s constitutionality. The next strategy could be to appeal the decision or wait to see if the amendment passes in November and file another lawsuit.
SQ 777, if passed, will add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution which prohibits the Legislature from passing laws that interfere with the rights of farmers and rangers in their “agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices” unless there is a “compelling state interest” to interfere. The concern here is that ability of the state to regulate these agricultural and livestock and ranching practices and protect our land and water from pollution will be diminished. It opens the door to the dumping of waste and abuse of animals. The amendment also benefits corporate farming interests. So there is the issue of the quantities of water needed by large scale farms when the state has been facing extreme drought.
A “compelling state interest” is also a high burden for any law to have to satisfy in order to challenge any of these practices. No other industry has this type of protection in the Oklahoma Constitution. Also, we already have a right to farm statute which protects farmers and ensures they are subject to state and federal regulation.
SQ 777 pits corporate agricultural interests against those of small farmers, environmentalists, and animal welfare advocates. The Oklahoma Stewardship Council which includes STIR, Oklahoma Sierra Club, the Humane Society, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, and the Oklahoma Municipal League will continue to educate the public about the importance of voting NO in November. Oklahoma Rising Inc. has formed another coalition called Oklahomans for Food, Farm, and Family and is also campaigning for a NO vote.