Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review of State Question 777

Review - State Question 777

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 8 Oklahoma voters will be making several decisions from choosing a president to answering seven state questions.

In an effort to help with those decisions, The Mix 105.1 has turned to the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide to review the seven state questions that will be put to voters on Nov. 8. The Oklahoma Voter Guide is a nonpartisan effort by a coalition of Oklahoma entities from both the non-profit and for profit sectors. The voter guide does not endorse or oppose any candidates for state or federal office, nor does it take any position on the state questions.

Following is the review of State Question 777 on Agriculture. The Mix 105.1 will post a review of each question prior to the election.


State Question 777


This measure adds Section 38 to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Section creates state constitutional rights. It creates the following guaranteed rights to engage in farming and ranching:

· The right to make use of agricultural technology,

· The right to make use of livestock procedures, and

· The right to make use of ranching practices.

These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers’ ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest-a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest.

The measure—and the protections identified above—do not apply to and do not impact state laws related to:

· Trespass,

· Eminent domain,

· Dominance of mineral interests,

· Easements,

· Right of way or other property rights, and

· Any state statutes and political subdivision ordinances enacted before December 31, 2014.


If the proposal is approved, the measure would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless there is a compelling state interest.

The proposal would forbid the state of Oklahoma from regulating the use of agricultural technology, livestock procedures, and ranching practices. The standard of “compelling state interest” is a key component to the question because it sets a very high standard for a law to be judged.

If passed, the proposal would apply to any democratically elected body that can trace its creation to the state legislature, including county and city governments, but not school boards. Federal laws would not be impacted; current state laws about farming and ranching would be grandfathered in, and would not be repealed by this amendment. Grandfathered laws could be amended or repealed in the future.

Similar proposals have been presented to voters in other states, first in North Dakota. A similar amendment passed in Missouri in 2014; another amendment was considered in Nebraska earlier this year but was not approved by legislators for a vote of the people. Oklahoma’s State Question 777 is inspired in part by opponents of Proposition 2 in California. Proposition 2 required certain farm animals to be able to lie down, stand up, fully extend limbs, and turn around freely. SQ 777 is unique in that it added the “compelling state interest” clause.

Oklahoma’s top agricultural products in revenue are cattle, hogs, poultry, wheat, and dairy. Agriculture is the state’s fourteenth highest economic sector, accounting for less than 2 percent of GDP, (higher than agriculture’s national rate.) For decades, as technology and yields have advanced, the number of agricultural jobs and farms has declined. Nine in ten Oklahoma crop and animal operations are owned by private citizens, many of whom contract with larger corporations.


Both Sides


· The amendment would shield Oklahoma farmers and ranchers from needless red tape and attacks from out-of-state special interests, overzealous environmentalists, animal rights advocates, and other groups who promote stricter regulation of agriculture.

· The amendment may protect farm-related jobs and could provide long-lasting protection for farming and ranching families who don’t have a lot of resources.

· Family farmers and ranchers work hard to pass their farm on to the next generation. This amendment would help ensure that transition to the next generation by giving farmers and ranchers another tool to defend themselves from onerous laws and regulations in the future.


· The amendment, introduced by out-of-state “Big Ag” entities, is contrary to the ideals of democracy and representative government and would remove the rights of Oklahoma voters by putting agricultural lawmaking into the hands of the judiciary and large corporate enterprises that have the resources to wage long-term legal battles.

· The amendment is designed to protect large-scale, corporate-industrial farms—often owned by foreign entities—rather than to defend the heritage and rights of small Oklahoma farmers. It gives free rein to industrial agriculture and factory farms to pollute the water and environment and erode local economies.

· Serious, unintended consequences could give puppy mills, cock fighters, and factory farm employees license to treat vulnerable creatures with cruelty.


Our next review will be of State Question 779 on an Education Funding Tax. The Mix 105.1 thanks and credits the following for the information – The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, KOSU, OETA, Tyler Media, KGOU, Oklahoma Watch, The Oklahoman, and Kirkpatrick Foundation.

For more information on the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide visit

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

For more news stories stay tuned to The MIX 105.1 or visit

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