Page 12

LINCOLN TO LOCAL

The work has only just begun As OKFB celebrates 75 years of policy achievements, the organization must continue to defend the protections agriculture and rural Oklahoma enjoy today. n 1942, a group of farmers and ranchers recognized the need for an organization that would fight for the rights of an everdeclining population: agriculturalists and rural Oklahomans. They realized the power of the collective voice, and knew that many united voices were stronger than one. Thus, Oklahoma Farm Bureau was created to provide farmers and ranchers an opportunity to unite to solve problems and fight to protect the rural way of life. Over the past 75 years, OKFB members have battled for many of the protections enjoyed by farmers and ranchers today. The organization has accomplished great things in its rich history, but the work is far from finished. In reminiscing on the past seven and a half decades, OKFB finds many of its proud achievements must increasingly be defended.

North American Free Trade Agreement

OKFB members played a crucial role in supporting a historic trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Signed in 1994, NAFTA removed barriers to agricultural trade between the three countries. Since its inception, NAFTA has increased U.S. agricultural exports to the two countries from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.1 billion in 2016. While farmers and ranchers have enjoyed access to these foreign markets for 23 years, the election of one president threatens to upend the deal. Negotiators from the three countries have been meeting throughout the year to modernize the agreement. OKFB, alongside the American Farm Bureau Federation, is pushing to ensure any modernization of the agreement continues to expand market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Agricultural sales tax exemptions

Oklahoma farmers and ranchers today reap the benefits of sales tax exemptions on all farm inputs like feed, seed, fertilizer and

12 — Oklahoma Country

farm machinery, allowing producers to reinvest that money into their businesses. But Oklahoma agriculture has not always enjoyed the exemptions. From the beginning of the grassroots organization, winning the agriculture sales tax exemptions was a priority for OKFB members. In fact, an exemption on sales tax from feed, seed and fertilizer was the organization’s first legislative effort. But the blanket exemption was not won until 1978, following a difficult 30-year battle at the state Capitol. The agricultural sales tax exemptions remains a strong asset today, providing Oklahoma farmers and ranchers millions of dollars in savings each year. Yet the exemption is not permanent law. As the state repeatedly faces budget problems, coupled with the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on exemptions this summer, tax credits and exemptions could increasingly rise to lawmakers’ attention. With a Legislature largely unfamiliar with production agriculture, OKFB members must continually remind state lawmakers of the necessity of the sales tax exemptions.

Ad valorem taxes

With tens of thousands of farm and ranch members across the state, OKFB represents a large portion of Oklahoma’s landowners. Members always have believed in an equal ad valorem tax system. From a supermajority vote requirement for bond issues to accurate land use valuation, OKFB avidly has fought to secure a fair ad valorem tax system. But recently, municipalities have called for a re-evaluation of city funding sources. Historically, Oklahoma cities and towns have relied strictly on sales tax revenue. This year, however, municipalities ardently lobbied for access to ad valorem to fund public safety. Though the measure stalled in the Senate, the issue will not soon go away. As an organization that considers ad valorem a tax that unduly burdens farmers and ranchers, OKFB must continue fighting for equality in ad valorem tax issues.

Oklahoma Country - Fall 2017