As the Oklahoma legislative session comes to a close, officials with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau view the session a "success."
“We are extremely pleased with lawmakers passing measures on these critical issues for rural Oklahoma,” said Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
Spradling said legislation involving water, animal welfare, agritourism and property rights were all passed, with the support of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
The first issue, addressed early in the session was the issue of horse processing. Legislators passed HB 1999, which amends the Oklahoma Meat Inspection Act by allowing horses, mules or other equine to be transported, manufactured, processed, packed, sold or prepared in Oklahoma as long as the meat will be sold on the international market. The bill makes it unlawful for any person to sell, or have in their possession with intent to sell, any quantity of horsemeat for human consumption in Oklahoma.
Under Oklahoma law, horses are livestock, which are private property.
Farm Bureau, along with a coalition of other agriculture groups, supported the legislation from the day it was introduced in session.
“Oklahoma livestock producers respect and care for animals,” Spradling said. “This legislation provides a humane solution to the challenge of abandoned, abused and otherwise neglected horses.”
On the last day of the session, legislators passed SB 965, which reorganizes the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The bill provides more regional representation on the board.
SB 965 transitions representation on the nine-member OWRB – from one representative from each congressional district and four at-large positions, to one representative from nine geographic areas. The three Panhandle counties get one seat, as does Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, as those areas are the biggest water users in the state. The transition begins in 2014 and adds the requirement that one of the board members be well versed in oil and gas production.
SB 965 addressed concerns about a lack of regional representation on the OWRB board of directors.
“We strongly support SB 965 because it provides a fair and balanced regional representation on the Water Resources Board,” Spradling said.
Sandwiched between those two pieces of legislation were measures providing liability protection for agritourism venues (HB 1638), expanded hunting regulations for feral hogs (HB 1920), emergency drought relief (HB 1923), and a law to make it a felony for a second offense for cutting livestock fence (SB 708).
“Our success this year was a direct result of grassroots membership involvement,” Spradling said. “We had county Farm Bureau leaders constantly meeting with their legislators, staying informed and connected. This all played a dramatic and important role in getting these critical issues passed.”