Going into the start of the 2007 Oklahoma legislative session, farm and ranch leaders wanted a legal definition of animal manure to help them comply with environmental laws. When the session ended May 25, the so-called “manure bill” had passed and now ranks as the top victory for Farm Bureau during the session.
“We needed to make sure animal manure would not be classified as hazardous waste,” said Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Steve Kouplen. “It seems obvious to us that manure is a beneficial soil nutrient, but until SB 709 was passed, we had little protection from environmental lawsuits.”
Another benefit of SB 709 is the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will be responsible for regulating the use of animal manure as a soil nutrient.
“The Agriculture Department is better equipped to understand soil science and regulate animal manure,” Kouplen said.
In a major win for private property owners, the farm organization convinced lawmakers to pass HB 1915, which requires permission to hunt or fish on land primarily devoted to farming, ranching or forestry.
“This bill strengthens our no trespassing laws and further protects landowners,” Kouplen said.
Unfortunately, a failed trespassing bill to increase the penalty of a convicted trespasser to $500 and the one-year forfeiture of hunting and fishing license added frustration for landowners. The bill actually passed both the Senate and House, but was vetoed by Governor Henry.
“This bill was especially important to landowners who lease out property for hunting and fishing as it would have put some teeth into the law,” said Lori Peterson, OFB vice president of public policy.
Agricultural leaders praised lawmakers for their bi-partisanship during the session.
“Our rural legislators from both sides of the aisle, really stepped up to support agriculture and improve the lives of Oklahomans,” Peterson said.
Successful passage of the state budget is a good example of the bipartisanship.
he budget includes annualized funding for the Ag in the Classroom program, rural fire departments and agri-tourism.
Other victories for farm and rural interests include:
*HB 1916 exempting farmers from the road fuel tax on biodiesel produced with their own crops.
*Legislation to delay implementation of administrative rules which protect small fuel retailers with above-ground fuel storage tanks.
Kouplen said May 29 the last two items have yet to be signed into law by Gov. Henry but he is hopeful the governor will support the legislation.