OKLAHOMA CITY — The Humane Society of the United States is targeting a bill it says would hurt Oklahoma farmers and could lead to pollution and animal abuse.
The organization is airing commercials in Tulsa and Oklahoma City urging lawmakers to vote against House Joint Resolution 1012.
The measure would send the following language to a vote of the people:
“The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.”
It would amend the Oklahoma Constitution.
House author Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, said the measure is needed to protect farmers and ranchers from unnecessary interference from outside entities.
“The farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and animals that we have,” Biggs said.
While supporters of the measure are calling it “Right to Farm and Ranch Resolution,” the Humane Society’s ads call it the “right to harm.”
“We think the bill is designed to shield industrial agriculture from the democratic process and prevent voters and legislators from making reforms that would benefit food safety, animal welfare and the quality of our air and water,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director for the Humane Society of the United States.
The measure was requested by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said John Collison, vice president of public policy and media affairs.
He called the Humane Society’s statement about pollution a scare tactic, adding that his organization doesn’t have any corporate members.
“We are the original environmentalists,” Collison said.
“I don’t see any way, shape or form where it is a right to harm,” said Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, the Senate author.
The Oklahoma Municipal League is opposed to the measure because it has far-reaching ramifications, according to the group’s website.
“We are not opposed to agriculture or farming, but a blanket protection of the industry is too broad,” the website states. “If enacted, HJR 1012 would prohibit future legislators from passing any laws impacting farmers and ranchers and placing their rights in the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The resolution is too broad and could pre-empt local laws, such as those dealing with zoning, protection of our water systems as well as environmental issues.”
The Oklahoma Food Cooperative, a farm-to-customer organization with nearly 5,000 members, also opposes the measure.
“Large agribusiness corporations — including ones owned by foreign conglomerates — would benefit the most from this measure, as their contract producers would be unencumbered from many commonsense regulations about what they can do to Oklahoma’s land, air and water,” the group said in a statement.
The measure has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, which meets Wednesday. Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, is the chairman.
Justice said he is “pretty sure” the committee would hear the measure but didn’t want to make any promises. The agenda is expected to be released on Monday.
The measure has been introduced in the past but failed to garner legislative approval.
Supporters want the measure to be placed on the 2016 general election ballot.
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465