Headline: “Texas Beats Oklahoma!” No, not in football, but with their pro-big-business, so-called “Right to Farm” law.
I just returned from a nostalgic visit to my home state. Currently, Republican Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Republican legislature are attempting to impose the “Right to Farm” law in that state.
Oklahoma already has passed laws favorable to big-oil and gas, banning cities from controlling fracking. Cities as far away from Pawnee, Oklahoma as Dallas and Houston felt the 5.6 earthquake on September 3, 2016. This new Oklahoma proposition will curtail cities’ and citizens’ abilities to deal with agricultural conditions, water safety and the environment.
The data about existing “Right to Farm” laws are confusing. Some say all states now have similar laws on the books. Sometime the proposals generate great controversy; in other cases, not so much, or have been passed without enough public notice. Some states, such as Michigan, have repealed those laws. But the controversy is now bubbling over in the State of Oklahoma concerning S.Q. 777 (for this November’s election).
That law will ban farmers or other citizens from criticizing or attempting to defend themselves from large corporate farming. In both cases (and in other states), the proposition was instigated by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) on behalf of massive national and international farm organizations. In this respect, Texas beat Oklahoma. Big business has great friends in the Texas government—Texas sneaked in “Right to Farm” legislation without much attention.
The proposition is extra controversial, because, if passed, it would become solidified into the Oklahoma Constitution, therefore, much more difficult to change. It is designed to “shield multi-national, large-scale animal factories from reasonable regulation” (Jackie Gaston, Oklahoma Observer, Vol. 48, #4, April 2016). Faulty use of pesticides, additives, hormones, crowded hog or chicken farms would “ultimately be beyond legal action by farmers, family members or other neighbors.”
Don’t like the smell? Worried about damage to quality and quantity of water? Tough. The corporations have you boxed in, with the help of the agribusiness-friendly (bought?) legislature. Opponents, who are strong but in an uphill battle against “powers that be,” ask: “Who wants to farm now and can’t?” The answer, obviously, is “no one.” The single-issue they hope will convince most voters, is “water”—its quantity and quality—the “blue gold” so many are concerned about all over the U.S. and the world.
The City Council of Oklahoma City opposes the proposition as have councils of other cities in the state. On the other hand, proponents stress the dangers, as they see it, to corporations (hog farms, etc.) being shut down or limited by “nuisance suits.” Many if not most of those in Texas have been thrown out of court; the courts are Republican too and the clever “Right to Farm” message is repeated ad infinitum.
An attempt to investigate this issue via “google” leads an amateur into a morass of pros, cons, major corporation propaganda, hidden behind professional-sounding names. One must be very careful in trying to sort out the truth. I can’t say, as yet, I have finished the research. Opponents call the proposition the “Right to Harm” (former State Senator and still a farmer, Paul Muegge). The Senator and others are quite alarmed by the dominance of Monsanto (now owned by Bayer of Germany). The Senator sees it as “a giant corporate scam.”
I must admit my bias. I grew up on my Grandfather’s family farm. I tend to side with the small, family-farmers I met during my visit and whom I interviewed on the matter. Yet, as still a meat-eater, I can appreciate concerns of large-scale producers, their fears—whether justified or not–of diminished business (or fears of consumers of higher prices).
Perhaps a partial solution is for more of us to search our souls (and pocket books, environmental history and our own health history) on the way to becoming vegetarians or vegans? It is worth more than a thought. Various sources provide some advice; e.g., The China Study. So, “Right to Farm?” “Ag-Gag?” Bumper-sticker slogans do not suffice to tell the whole story. Oklahomans and Texans—whether farmers, producers or consumers—need all the food for thought they can get.