Opponents Launch Ad-Attack to Keep ‘Right-to-Farm’ Off Ballot in Oklahoma

  • Logan Layden

If passed by the Oklahoma legislature, the right-to-farm amendment to the state constitution wouldn’t appear on the ballot until November 2016. But the Humane Society of the United States is trying to kill the controversial issue in its crib.

The organization is running television ads in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City markets urging residents to tell their legislators to vote against the measure, which, as The Tulsa World‘s Barbara Hoberock reports, is expected to be taken up by the state Senate Rules Committee later this week:

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.

If the proposed amendment survives the political process, right-to-farm would change the constitution to read, in part, “the right of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in the state. 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.”

North Dakota and Missouri recently added right-to-farm language to their constitutions, and it was a big fight in Missouri. As was the case in Missouri, in Oklahoma the fight is really between the Humane Society of the U.S. and Farm Bureau, which requested the legislation as a response to Humane Society-backed anti-GMO laws and chicken-caging regulations in California and Oregon.

But as StateImpact reported in February, the right-to-farm fight in Oklahoma goes even deeper, with Attorney General Scott Pruitt investigating HSUS over fundraising related to the 2013 Moore tornado, and Humane Society suing Pruitt, saying he isn’t investigating the organization, he’s harassing it.

In that same story, StateImpact reported it would be at least a year before voters would be seeing ads for and against 2016 ballot initiatives. We were off by about 10 months.