As the 2018 legislative session begins next week, property taxes and rural healthcare are among the leading issues for Oklahoma Farm Bureau as it represents its members at the state Capitol.
Keep ad valorem taxes low
Farm Bureau members oppose any and all increases in ad valorem–or property–taxes. Property taxes are used to fund county roads and bridges, libraries, career and technology education, county government and public schools. OKFB expects to see legislation progress to grant municipalities access to those funds.
Many cities and towns have seen a decline in sales tax revenue over the past several years, leading to a push for an expansion of property taxes in Oklahoma. OKFB opposes expanding the use of property tax dollars, as it could lead to unlimited property tax increases.
The state’s continual budget problems have led to legislation that would grant superintendents and school boards the authority to spend property taxes on operations, including teacher salaries. Current law requires schools to spend ad valorem funds on capital improvement projects like buildings, furniture and equipment.
Farm Bureau members are proud to support local school districts but believe the burden should not fall on landowners alone. Family farmers and ranchers already face thin margins from low commodity prices, rising input costs and varying weather. Increases in property taxes create an increasingly unstable business climate for agriculture. Reasonable property taxes allow family farmers and ranchers to continue growing high-quality and nutritious food for the nation and the world.
Preserve the ag sales tax exemptions
Ninety-eight percent of Oklahoma’s farms are owned and operated by families. Protecting the agriculture sales tax exemption is crucial for the vitality of family farms in Oklahoma. Agriculture is a capital-intensive industry, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, seed, feed and other inputs to grow food.
Without the exemption, family farmers and ranchers would be forced to pay taxes on equipment and inputs. Imposing sales taxes on family farmers and ranchers could force many small family farms and ranches out of business.
Enhance rural healthcare
Access to healthcare is crucial to maintaining and enhancing the vitality of rural communities across the state. Oklahoma ranks 49th in physician-to-patient ratio, and the lack of providers is most prevalent in rural areas.
To help improve access to healthcare in rural Oklahoma, Farm Bureau members support legislation to ease physician supervision requirements for nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Farm Bureau also supports the use of telemedicine to maintain and improve rural medical facilities.
Protect private property rights
Private property rights have always been cornerstone to Farm Bureau members. This year, OKFB will advocate for landowners in rights-of-way easements, particularly in regard to oil and gas pipeline easements.
OKFB also will work to prevent any “taking” of private property rights as measures to protect military training routes are considered.
Providing landowners every opportunity to eradicate feral swine on private property is also high on the list for OKFB members. The invasive species wreaks havoc on Oklahoma farms and ranches and causes an estimated $1 billion in damage to agriculture across the country.
Other priority issues include continued funding for the maintenance and construction of rural roads and bridges and continued legislative appropriations for the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension and research programs.