SQ777 Allows an Entire Industry to Go Unregulated Forever

Katie Plohocky is an Oklahoman, founding director of Healthy Community Store Initiative – including R&G Family Grocers – a Tulsa Food Security Council chairperson and a member of Smart Growth Tulsa, a supporting partner of the Our Voices Count coalition with Oklahomans for Food, Farm & Family. As an Oklahoman farmer and rancher, Plohocky opposes State Question 777 (SQ777) and its possible effects on our land, our agricultural standards and farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to protect their land, animals and environment.

First, Oklahoma already has a right to farm statute and it works just fine.

Second, the proposed amendment provides for an entire industry to go unregulated forever. There is a purpose and a place for regulations; to protect our water and land, our property rights, our workers, and the animals and crops we raise for food.  No other industry operates in a regulation free environment. We can’t predict what is going to happen over the next 10 years and beyond.

Climate change and extreme weather increasingly threaten our water and our lands, and unregulated agricultural practices will only make it worse; and we won’t be able to do anything about it. Chemicals and pesticides could be used without oversight and kill our pollinators.

Animal and chemical waste runoff could contaminate our water supply, our streams and rivers and other natural resources. Future technology that could be harmful to our environment and our citizens would go unchecked. My biggest concern is not with our farmers and ranchers today. If passed, this amendment could attract more foreign investors and larger corporate farms to Oklahoma to operate as they please because there is no regulation.

Supporters of State Question 777 often state that 98 percent of farms in Oklahoma are family-owned; however, according to USDA’s agricultural census data, the other 2 percent of farms sell over 90 percent of the product. Plohocky states:

China already owns over 385,000 acres in Oklahoma according to the Kilpatrick Foundation. Without the right to regulate, profit-driven interests can sacrifice sound agricultural practices and put us all at risk. We need to be able to react with laws and regulations as new threats emerge.

SQ777’s language includes the vague “compelling state interest.” Without a firm explanation of what could be a compelling state interest, farms – especially smaller, family-owned farms – could be tied up in the courts, costing time, money and at the most extreme, farms.

“Protecting an entire industry in the constitution in essence provides a free pass without oversight from citizens or their elected representatives,” Plohocky said. “The lawsuits likely to be created by this amendment will only exacerbate a state budget already in crisis. Our education system is broken. Essential services are being cut to the bone. We cannot afford more lawsuits due to poorly conceived legislation. The tremendous legal and financial resources of industrial agriculture, its lobbying power and political donations are such that small agriculture and state government cannot possibly compete.”

To read Plohocky’s full post, visit Smart Growth Tulsa‘s website.

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