Sunday, May 15, 2016

Right to Farm or Right to Harm?

Who is Backing the Anti State Question 777 effort?

  Strange how some things are just supposed to happen. Bear with me for a minute because this is an interesting story. Last October, a few days after the Appellate court reversed and dismissed the charges against me for emailing the good senator, I had a busy day planned, had given my word that a set of countertops would be installed that day to a builder. Well, that morning on the way to work the alternator light comes on, alternator dead, and the job site is way out in the sticks so no way I could make it on the battery. Into the mechanic shop where the mechanic said he would give me a ride to my shop and come back and get me when the car was ready. An older guy had come in right before me to pick up his favorite coffee cup he had left accidentally the day before, he was the president of the American Farmers and Ranchers Union and he offered me a ride to my shop. We got to talking for about an hour about politics and he left a copy of their annual platform with me to see what they were about.

  So, a few days ago when this Right to Harm business started showing up, I gave him a call, busy man, it was a few days before he could call back then we played phone tag for a few more days till I finally got to speak with him and ask about this issue.

  Here is the skinny on SQ 777. Who supports it? Almost all of the AG organizations except for the corn and soybean growers who are in the far East part of the state and I was told that was because they simply weren't that active any more. The Pork Council, the Cattlemen's Association, the wheat growers, the Farm Bureau, and of course the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Union. Now some might call a farmer with 3000 acres a corporate farmer and they have probably incorporated for legal and tax reasons but the profit per acre is not that great and in some cases there are three, even four, generations trying to eke a living out of the operation. The American Farmers and Ranchers Union is composed of small, medium, and large operations and all of them are backing this state question.

  What doesSQ 777 do? Very little, but it is a fig leaf that will allow the farmers and ranchers to attack bad legislation that is being pushed by out of state special interests like the HSUS, PETA, and the Sierra Club. The following language will be added to our Oklahoma Constitution if the question passes:

  " To protect agriculture as a vital sector of Oklahoma's economy, which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security and is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma's economy, the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest."

  Here is how the law will affect future legislation. From the date that the state question was passed the legislature, assuming it passes in November, any legislation that impacts farmers or ranchers MUST have a compelling state interest, i.e., the state must have a really good reason to stick their nose into the business. So ANY law or regulation BEFORE that date is still law but any NEW laws that are proposed or passed MUST pass the litmus test of having a compelling state interest.

  The proponents of the bill knew that it was a weak constitutional change but it did allow a court challenge of any law that restricted or outlawed farming and ranching practices. As an example HSUS is trying to make all eggs come from free range chickens. And as a baby step they passed a bill that doubled the price of eggs by doubling the space required for a bird in a cage. You take a 100,000 square foot laying house with all the climate control and needed machinery and investment, then chop the production in half in one fell swoop. Their profit might be ten percent before the law and now they increase prices to meet the double costs of plant, equipment, mortgage payments, and of course for the new plant and equipment required to keep the same number of eggs flowing out of their operation. So the price of eggs doubled and the free range eggs at $9.00 look more affordable according to this article.

  Then there are the pork producers who are being pressured to outlaw farrowing crates for sows. Now a good farmer is going to pasture a sow for part of the time, yes pigs eat lots of grass if they have a chance. But when it comes time to have the piglets the sow will smother around 20% of the piglets if you don't use a farrowing crate. After a few weeks the little legislators are big enough to get out of the way but that division between them and the sow is important. Now you kill off 20% of the litter, added on top of the normal stillborn rate and you really impact the cost per piglet produced. Around 85% of the piglets will die before they are weaned; average litter is around 12, so you lose around two of the 12 to still births and normal attrition. Now add that 20% death rate of piglets being crushed or smothered, you lose another 2.5 piglets. So 12 were born, 7.5 survive without using farrowing crates. Your cost per piglet has nearly doubled, production per sow has been almost cut in half, and twice as many sows, twice as much feed, land, equipment, boars, and labor are incurred.

  Now it would be lovely to raise all eggs and pigs and chickens free range, healthier, less antibiotics, and it is more humane. But after the cage restrictions in California and due to the Avian flu, egg prices shot up to as much as $5.99 per dozen in California and some stores just didn't have eggs to sell. Can anyone afford to pay double the price of meat, milk, and eggs and all the associated products like cheese and other dairy products? This is where this state question might help, it would require a compelling state interest to outlaw caged chickens, farrowing crates, feedlots, or genetically modified plants or animals. Not simply because it is more humane for a hen to have a few more square inches of room.

  Back in the seventies the state AG department convinced farmers that it was better to use chicken litter for fertilizer and they started spreading it on the land but neglected to think about soil testing so they added more fertilizer than the land could absorb and it ran off into the rivers. That would still be regulated under this new constitutional clause. But you couldn't pass a law about dust from farming unless the state could PROVE that it was impacting a significant number of people. Control burns will still be regulated by the local fire department. All farmers large and small would benefit. Just like that farmer that fought the EPA in Wyoming over the pond, there would need to be a compelling reason for the state to act. And that is good government for ALL laws I think.

  Here is a good source for info on who is attacking SQ 777.   Drew Edmondson, the guy that tried to put the chicken farmers out of business, as liberal as they come, is a spokesperson for the anti 777 group. Then he says chicken fighting and puppy mills would be legal which is a bald faced lie. Edmondson also claims that cities and the legislature couldn't regulate agriculture and the power of the people to vote on changes is removed. Edmondson goes on to claim that proving a compelling state interest is nearly impossible. Then there is the former state senator speaking against 777 and he is a MEMBER of HSUS. This Oklahoma Council of Churches proudly states that they work on social justice issues and they are openly sending out press releases asking the Syrians be brought into the U.S. for resettlement! They call for unity with Muslims and are against the death penalty

  Here is another article that confirms the connection of HSUS, the Social Justice Oklahoma Council of Churches, and that Adam Price is a local grown food and organic food kind of guy. Both of these guys are right on HSUS's own website!

  Also  look at the anti 777 website that proclaims that HSUS, the Sierra club, SPCA, a group called the Oklahoma Animal Welfare League, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, and the Oklahoma Coalition of Animal Rescuers are backing the anti SQ 777 movement. This is a coalition of animal rights activists, how in the heck have they managed to convince so many activists that they want anything but SQ 777 preventing them from putting an end to modern farming!

  I like our cheap food. You know that Americans spend a tiny percentage of our income on food. Most third world countries like the Philippines have the poor spending about 40% of their meager income on food and we are talking dried fish and rice.

  We will continue to watch the fight over SQ 777 but it appears that the constitutional change is helpful and conservative values.  At this point it seems clear that animal rights activists have joined with anti GMO or sustainable food activists in order to drive up the cost of food and make organic food seem more affordable to the masses.