Issues

Ballot Language for State Question 777

What more information? Below you’ll find the actual ballot language for SQ 777. To be clear, this proposed state constitutional amendment would prohibit the Oklahoma Legislature or state regulatory agencies from passing laws or adopting rules and regulations that negatively impact the rights of farmers and ranchers “to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices.”

View Ballot Language

State Question 777

If approved by voters in November, State Question 777, the so-called “Right to Farm” measure, would largely exempt the agriculture industry from oversight by the state of Oklahoma. By prohibiting the Oklahoma legislature from passing laws that restrict or regulate agriculture, SQ 777 could have a profound effect in many areas such as our food, water quality, water rights, soil, fish and wildlife, property rights and more.

A Matter of Fairness

Oklahomans believe strongly in fairness and a level field of play. Simply put, SQ 777 would give one industry protections that no other industry in our state enjoys. The measure also circumvents democracy. By prohibiting the legislature from passing certain types of laws, SQ 777 would tie lawmakers’ hands and prevent them from enacting laws even if the people overwhelmingly support them.

Not only is it unfair, it’s unnecessary. Oklahoma statutes already guarantee that Oklahomans have a right to farm and are protected from nuisance lawsuits. Farmers and ranchers in our state have had those protections for years.

Food

“We are what we eat,” according to the old adage. Advances in agricultural technology over the last two centuries have revolutionized farming, allowing farmers to feed more people on less land than in any other time in human history.

But even with all that success, mistakes are made. Take DDT, which was widely used as an insecticide at home and on the farm in the 1940s and 1950s. Advertisements at the time even claimed, “DDT is good for me.” In the 1960s, scientists began to understand the damaging effects of DDT on human health and the environment. Public outrage led to a ban in 1972.

Those mistakes could still happen as new innovations propel agriculture forward, but SQ 777 would take away lawmakers’ ability to swiftly and effectively address those issues and the concerns of their constituents.

Water

Protecting our natural resources is a core function of government. Several years ago, the state of Oklahoma sued major poultry companies over the chicken waste that had degraded the water quality of the Illinois River. Oklahoma won that suit, the chicken producers cleaned up their act, and today that scenic river is far cleaner than just a decade ago.

Under the language in SQ 777, such a suit would be far more difficult, if not impossible, to win.

Few issues in Oklahoma are as contentious as water rights. Water is not only vital to agriculture, but to the growth of towns, cities, and businesses. Oklahoma’s complex water rights laws aim to protect the rights of farmers and ranchers, landowners, and cities and towns. Should SQ 777 pass, it could place the rights of one industry above those of other Oklahomans.

Soil

Oklahomans can look back less than a century — to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s — and see the incredible effects of poor farming practices on the land. The Dust Bowl ended and the land was healed because of new farming practices that were adopted through government research, incentives and regulations.

We may have learned enough from the 1930s to avoid another Dust Bowl, but the next agricultural disaster could be equally unprecedented. SQ 777 would prohibit the legislature and regulators from taking steps to prevent, or mitigate, such a disaster in the future.

Fish and Wildlife

Just as Oklahoma has a long tradition of farming, hunting and fishing loom large in our state’s culture. SQ 777 would restrict the state’s ability to regulate agricultural pollution, which could have profound effects on our streams, rivers and lakes. It could also impact the state’s ability to manage logging and forest resources. Under the language in the state question, the rights of hunters and anglers in Oklahoma would be second to those of corporate agricultural interests.