The first Monday of each February marks the beginning of a new legislative session in the state of Oklahoma each year. Gov. Kevin Stitt kicked off the 2022 session with his State of the State address Monday, Feb. 7, including statements and positions on several priority issues for Oklahoma Farm Bureau members.
Gov. Stitt – entering his fourth year as governor – thanked the people of Oklahoma for the opportunity to lead the state and expressed his determination to help Oklahoma thrive.
“I challenge each of us to be bold,” Stitt said. “Let’s capitalize on the opportunity we have and make Oklahoma a top-ten state.”
In his address to the state legislature, Gov. Stitt discussed the details of his plan to help Oklahoma reach top-ten status. Following are some key issues in areas of interest to Farm Bureau members mentioned in Monday’s State of the State.
Effects of the McGirt decision
A top priority for OKFB members, the McGirt Supreme Court ruling has been the cause of much uncertainty for farmers and ranchers in eastern Oklahoma.
“Over the past year, we’ve done everything we can to protect law and order and limit the impacts of this decision,” Stitt said.
Gov. Stitt acknowledged Oklahoma Farm Bureau as part of the coalition leading the charge to address the jurisdictional problems caused by the McGirt ruling. He cited two recent wins, including the Supreme Court’s decision that McGirt is not retroactive and their agreement to hear another related case.
OKFB will continue to advocate for private property rights and the interests of Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers as the impacts of the McGirt ruling develop.
Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry
Gov. Stitt emphasized “protecting Oklahomans and our way of life” through changes to regulations on Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry.
The rapidly growing medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma has created a number of challenges for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers as they carry out their daily work. The industry also poses concerns for landowners in the state.
“To the citizens of rural Oklahoma, I hear you,” Stitt said. “This is causing major problems in our communities, and we must get it under control.”
Gov. Stitt noted the charge for a commercial marijuana license in the state of Oklahoma is a fraction of those in other states, comparing Oklahoma’s fee of $2,500 to California’s $181,000.
“As a result, we have seven times the growers than California with just 10% of the people,” he said.
The governor’s push for a reexamination of licensing fees and a crackdown on illegal activity within the industry echoes OKFB’s policy supporting increased legal compliance and enforcement for marijuana growing operations as well as increased transparency regarding ownership of marijuana facilities.
Gov. Stitt also expressed the importance of transparency around initiative petitions in the state.
“This is a perfect example of why we need to make sure initiative petitions represent Oklahomans, not out-of-state special interest groups,” he said. “Oklahomans deserve to know the details before voting to change our constitution.”
OKFB considers state initiative petition reform a priority issue for 2022.
Supply chain challenges
Gov. Stitt recognized the challenges Oklahomans face with continued holdups in the supply chain – something that affects individuals and businesses in both urban and rural settings, including Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
The governor announced a new platform that will connect Oklahoma manufacturers with buyers and sellers to help keep money and products in Oklahoma.
Changes in taxation
Gov. Stitt focused heavily on taxation and the changes he hopes to make in the coming year, including a proposed elimination of the grocery tax.
While OKFB is supportive of helping Oklahomans bear the weight of inflation and rising costs, eliminating a revenue stream in one area causes concern for the potential increase in others. Farmers and ranchers often operate on slim margins, meaning any change in operating costs – including tax increases – results in a hit on profitability. OKFB is concerned that eliminating any current revenue stream could result in tax increases that unfairly burden agricultural producers due to the large amount of capital investment required to farm or ranch.
OKFB will closely follow the conversation around any changes in taxation and will ensure farmers’ and ranchers’ best interests are heard.