As legislators convened at the state Capitol to begin work on more than 3,000 pieces of legislation, Oklahoma Farm Bureau leaders and staff hit the ground running on a number of issues of importance to its grassroots farm and ranch members.
For several years, Farm Bureau members have been involved in discussions at the state Capitol concerning new ad valorem taxes and the 2021 session will be no different. Only four days into the first week of committee work, a bill advanced that would allow voters within a municipality to vote on a resolution to create a Public Safety Protection District funded by ad valorem taxes. If approved by local voters, the municipality would assess an ad valorem tax of up to 5 mills on qualified property within the district to fund equipment, salaries and other related costs for law enforcement and fire departments which are currently funded through sales tax.
While Farm Bureau members are avid supporters of public safety officers, OKFB policy for years has opposed new ad valorem taxes because farming and ranching are capital-intensive industries susceptible to uncertain weather and volatile markets – especially during a global pandemic. Ad valorem taxes remain the same regardless of whether or not the producer turns a profit and can make the difference between keeping the family farm or having to sell. As conversations on ad valorem taxes continue at the state Capitol, OKFB will continue to be at the table to voice the needs of Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers.
With Farm Bureau members advocating for improved high-speed internet access for years, OKFB is encouraged to see 11 bills introduced this year seeking to expand broadband access across the state. The explosion of virtual schooling and teleworking during 2020 helped put the need for access to quality, high-speed internet at the forefront of the minds of both urban and rural Oklahomans. Throughout the legislative session, OKFB will work with legislators to find a plan to improve and expand broadband access statewide.
As always, the involvement of Farm Bureau members is critical to the organization’s success this year at the state Capitol. Though COVID-19 protocols may impact the traditional efforts of county Farm Bureaus, OKFB staff has worked diligently to provide members with opportunities to stay informed and engaged in the legislative process. Members can watch OKFB’s weekly Lincoln to Local videos on social media, join public policy staff for legislative update calls every Friday at 12 p.m. and sign up for legislative action alerts. Check out OKFB’s online 2021 Advocacy Guide to learn how to stay involved.