By John Collison,
Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy
Well folks, we’re a month into the legislative session and Oklahoma is still no better off than when we first started. Our state is not only facing a severe budget shortfall, but also a lack of leadership at 23rd and Lincoln. Over the past month, we’ve seen bills that cover a wide range of topics, but very few that deal with the real issue.
We have seen a number of bills dealing with education fail early on, and for now we’re OK with that. We have got to stop thinking all education fixes should come from a legislator. What we really need is a plan for the future. A plan and road map that addresses where we as a state want to be in five, 10 or 20 years. Without a vision from our state’s leaders, legislators are picking and choosing bills rather than laying out a plan to lead Oklahoma into the next few decades. A short-term solution will not fix the ongoing problems in our state!
Last week, we saw the deadline for bills to pass through committee. Outside of the doom and gloom, the state Capitol has seen some good things emerge for agriculture and rural Oklahoma.
Water is always a top priority for OKFB, and this year is no different. We saw a number of bills killed this past month that would have hindered our ability to move Oklahoma forward by developing our water. As always, we’ll continue our work to provide Oklahoma with plenty of water for the future.
Legislators in both the House and the Senate are working on bills to again allow H2A agricultural workers to get a commercial driver’s license. This bill is crucial to our industry; agricultural workers must have this ability in order to assist with wheat harvest. Thank you to Sen. Mike Schulz and Rep. Harold Wright for their work on the bills.
The fundraising tactics of animal rights organizations could be restricted with a bill by Rep. Brian Renegar and Rep. Larry Boggs. The bill would prevent animal rights organizations from using money raised in Oklahoma for out-of-state expenses or for political purposes. It already has faced much scrutiny and controversy, but will be extremely helpful in protecting not only farmers and ranchers, but also Oklahomans, from these organizations and their deceptive fundraising tactics.
We’ve also been actively engaging with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry in developing rules for feral swine. The agency’s proposed rules do not go far enough to completely eradicate the invasive species in our state. Do you know why the Department of Wildlife doesn’t regulate feral swine? Because it is an invasive species! It doesn’t belong in our state and should be totally eliminated. We’ll continue to charge ODAFF with further action until the species is eradicated in Oklahoma.
As the session continues, don’t forget that your voice matters! Follow along with OKAgPolicy as we educate and inform you of issues that affect you. We work each and every day to protect farmers and ranchers but without your voice, our work only goes so far. Call your legislators and schedule a visit to come see them. It matters!