Gov. Kevin Stitt highlighted a number of key issues for Oklahoma Farm Bureau members in his State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 1.
“The state of our state is strong because we are resilient and well-positioned for a bright future,” Stitt said, as he began his address to state lawmakers.
Most notably for farmers and ranchers, Stitt committed to protecting Oklahoma agriculture producers as he announced the tenets of his legislative agenda, dubbed “The People’s Agenda.”
“We’ll fight for our farmers and ranchers and the Oklahoma way of life,” Stitt said.
The governor’s agenda also includes keeping taxpayer burdens low, supporting the oil and gas industry, and enacting business friendly policies.
Below, read about six issues of note for Oklahoma Farm Bureau members from the governor’s address.
Keeping taxes low
As he pitched his agenda to the state Legislature, Stitt stressed the need to keep tax burdens low on Oklahoma businesses.
“What we need is more taxpayers, not more taxes,” he said.
OKFB is grateful for Stitt’s commitment to prevent new taxes on small businesses including Oklahoma farms and ranches. By protecting the state’s agriculture sales tax exemption and preventing any new ad valorem taxes, Oklahoma will preserve a level playing field for agriculture producers and ensure they can continue producing food and fiber for the world.
Cutting regulations and red tape
During his address, Stitt again reiterated his goal of making Oklahoma a top 10 state for business by reducing unnecessary regulations and cutting red tape.
“Another key to a strong economy is letting businesses grow without fear of government overreach,” he said. “By working together to get rid of excessive regulation, we’ll unlock Oklahoma’s full economic potential for workers, business owners, farmers and families.”
With Oklahoma agriculture ranking in the top 10 in the country for production winter wheat, beef cattle, hay, cotton, canola and grain sorghum, OKFB appreciates the governor’s pledge to fostering a favorable business atmosphere for Oklahoma’s farms and ranches.
Farmers and ranchers are most successful when they are freed to produce healthy, affordable and abundant food and fiber for the world. OKFB will work alongside state leaders and lawmakers to ensure Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are not burdened by unnecessary regulations.
Improving state infrastructure
Because funding for continual improvements to Oklahoma rural roads and bridges is a priority issue for Farm Bureau members, OKFB was pleased to hear the governor’s dedication to enhancing the state’s infrastructure to provide new economic development across the state.
“A strong infrastructure is the backbone of any strong economy,” Stitt said.
Without dependable roads and bridges, farmers and ranchers cannot transport their high-quality agricultural commodities to market. OKFB looks forward to working with the governor and state legislators to find opportunities to fund improvements to the state’s infrastructure.
Finding solutions after McGirt ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma is the “most pressing issue for our state’s future,” Stitt said.
Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers – particularly in eastern parts of the state – are concerned about the potential implications of the ruling on regulatory and taxation jurisdiction.
The governor highlighted many of these uncertainties, including those facing farmers and ranchers.
“Another potential issue is who regulates agriculture? Water? The energy industry? Zoning? Who has the right to tax businesses?” Stitt asked during the address.
As the state, Oklahoma tribes and Congress continue to sort out the impacts of the McGirt ruling, OKFB will continue to ensure the interests of farmers, ranchers and rural landowners are represented.
Reimagining health care delivery
After voters approved Medicaid expansion last year, state legislators will be tasked with the challenge of funding the expansion’s $164 million price tag on top of other state health care services.
Citing Oklahoma’s ranking as 46th in the country in health outcomes, Stitt promoted his plan to “invest in our fellow Oklahomans” by privatizing Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to a managed care delivery system.
Farmers and ranchers live and work in rural Oklahoma, so access to quality and affordable health care services is crucial for Farm Bureau members. With 17 rural hospitals at risk of closure and an additional 35 categorized at risk of financial distress, OKFB encourages lawmakers to consider the unique needs of the state’s rural health care facilities as they discuss significant changes to the state’s Medicaid system.
As state legislators consider health care options throughout the legislative session, OKFB also encourages leaders to explore opportunities to bring more health care professionals to rural communities, as all but one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties is considered a health care professional shortage area.
Keeping the state budget flat
Thanks to the state Legislature’s budgeting in 2020 and the reopening of the state’s economy during the pandemic, Stitt said the fiscal year 2022 budget predictions are much better than many states.
“We’ll be able to invest in strategic places while avoiding cuts,” he said.
As the state Legislature works to craft a balanced budget, OKFB members have prioritized funding for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, which provides farmers and ranchers with invaluable research and offers Oklahoma youth access to fundamental leadership development programs.
As the legislative session begins, OKFB is committed to working with state leaders and lawmakers to create policies that will protect and preserve agriculture and the rural way of life.