Taxes and rural healthcare were at the top of the list as Oklahoma Farm Bureau members finalized the organization’s 2018 policy during its 2017 annual meeting Nov. 10-12 in Norman, Oklahoma.
OKFB’s grassroots policy begins at the county level before being refined by a state resolutions committee and finalized by the full delegate body at state convention. OKFB staff uses the policy to advocate for its farm and ranch members at the state Capitol.
As the state of Oklahoma continues to grapple with budget shortfalls, state lawmakers have attempted to raise revenue by implementing various tax increases. Members this year heavily considered the organization’s stance on a number of tax issues including fuel tax, ad valorem tax, wind production tax incentives and the agricultural sales tax exemption.
Approved by an overwhelming majority of the delegate body, members voted to support a maximum 6-cent increase in gasoline and diesel taxes dedicated to roads and bridges. Members also passed a resolution favoring fuel taxes or state sales taxes over any ad valorem tax increases.
Reversing the organization’s policy on wind generation, members voted to support elimination of tax breaks for wind power and encouraged levying a competitive tax rate on wind production in Oklahoma.
After the state Legislature narrowly stalled a bill to allow municipalities access to ad valorem taxes, Farm Bureau members this year reinforced the organization’s policy on property tax increases.
“We oppose any increase to rural ad valorem taxes by any municipality,” the resolution states.
With this summer’s Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that elimination of existing sales tax exemptions require only a simple majority vote by the state Legislature, members also backed a resolution to give agricultural inputs non-taxed status rather than only tax exempt.
As rural Oklahoma continues to struggle with adequate medical care access, Farm Bureau members added several policy positions to strengthen rural health care.
“Oklahoma should develop and enact legislation focused on sustaining quality levels of rural health care,” the organization’s new policy states.
To improve affordable and accessible health care in rural Oklahoma, members supported the easing of physician supervision requirements for nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists, along with a student loan forgiveness program for medical professionals practicing in rural areas.
Members also encouraged the use of telemedicine to help sustain rural hospitals.
As feral swine continue to wreak havoc on farms and ranches across the state, Farm Bureau members called for increased funding for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to finance USDA Wildlife Services efforts to control the feral swine population.
Members also reversed a key water policy by opposing any and all out-of-state water sales.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau Annual Meeting is the organization’s largest gathering of farmers and ranchers every year. At the event, members vote on grassroots policy, elect leaders and award outstanding individuals. OKFB has a presence in all 77 Oklahoma counties and serves as the voice of agriculture and the rural way of life. To learn more, visit www.okfarmbureau.org.