"Oklahoma Water Issues, State Government, and Board/Council Leadership Responsibilities"
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 a.m.
Scribe: Mechelle Hampton
The Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program Class XIV convened in Oklahoma City on April 22 at the American Farmers and Ranchers Office (AFR) for Seminar VII. We were welcomed by Mr. Terry Detrick, President and CEO of AFR. AFR is located in the historic Classen High School which was the first high school in Oklahoma City.
Our first speaker was Dr. Michael Smolen, Extension Coordinator for statewide educational programs in water quality for Oklahoma State University. Dr. Smolen holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Dr. Smolen showed us a public service announcement (PSA) from Tarrant County, Texas regarding water rights and issues and who owns the water in the Red River. The message basically states that Oklahoma has more water than they use. If one watches the announcement, one quickly becomes a believer and can understand the argument Texas is sending.
Pros and Cons of Water Sales:
Pro – Unallocated water can be sold to highest value of use.
Pro – Revenue from sales could fund services and capital improvements.
Pro – We have unallocated water.
Con – Those who purchase water will need it at the same time as Oklahoma (drought is regional).
Con – If we commit too much for sale, we are selling our future.
Who owns the water? Stream water is publicly owned and ground water is private property. But they are connected hydrologically. Stream water is water in a “definite stream” – a natural channel, with defined beds and banks, originating from a definite source or sources. Groundwater is fresh water under the surface of the earth, outside the cut banks of any definite stream.
Philosophy of Oklahoma water law for public waters is “first in time, first in right.” The first person to apply for a water permit is senior and in times of shortage, the junior person’s rights may be denied. Unless the water is being used for beneficial purposes, the right to water may be denied if it is deemed wasteful or polluting. All beneficial uses are considered equal, no priorities. He mentioned several times that as a permit holder, one must either “use or lose” the rights to water. An individual cannot grab a permit to just keep others away. As for ground water, it is owned by the landowner and pumping may be limited by the State based on aquifer storage.
Dr. Smolen also discussed the sale of water as a current issue concerning water in Oklahoma. In 2004, a moratorium was issued on out-of-state sales of Oklahoma water until November 1, 2009, or until the State of Oklahoma completes a comprehensive scientific hydrological study. In 2007, the Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas filed a federal lawsuit alleging the moratorium is invalid and unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Legislature encouraged the Oklahoma Attorney General in 2008 to vigorously defend the State of Oklahoma and the state law implementing a moratorium on out-of state water sales in the federal lawsuit filed by the Tarrant Regional Water District.
The second speaker was Ms. Jeri Fleming, J.D., Communications Manager for the Institute for Sustainable Water & Oklahoma Water Research Institute (OWRRI).
Research support on all topics related to Oklahoma water resources and the management of water resources.
Education and training of water specialists and professionals.
Outreach and information transfer in the Oklahoma water resource community.
Ms. Fleming spoke to us about the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan – a “Good” Plan vs. the “Right” Plan. She indicated that there has been policy development with public input, followed by local input meetings as well as regional input meetings. Additionally, there have been planning meetings and town hall meetings followed by feedback meeting and policy recommendations. Currently in progress are technical studies and research regarding water supply and demand analysis along with public water supply assessment and supplemental studies.
Major water use sectors include the public supply (residential, commercial, industrial and self-supplied domestic), self supplied industrial (large industries, power plants and oil & gas) and agriculture (livestock and irrigated crops). Agriculture is the largest user in Oklahoma; 3.0 million acre feet/year is permitted for irrigation. The public water supply is the second largest user in the state of Oklahoma.
One issue to consider regarding water in the state is where will population growth occur? Studies show that an increase of 1.1 million people will occur in the state of Oklahoma. The projections indicate that the largest numbers of population growth will occur in Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties. Statewide population is expected to be 3,700,000 by 2010 and 4,800,000 by 2060.
The next presentation given by Ms. Fleming was in regard to the laws governing rights to water in the State of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Water Law: Oklahoma Statute Title 60, §60 states that the owner of the land owns water standing thereon, or flowing over or under its surface but not forming a definite stream. The owner of land may use a dam on his land for the collection or storage of such waters so long as he provides for the continued natural flow of the stream(s). It also states that the use of groundwater shall be governed by the Oklahoma Groundwater Law. Water running in a definite stream…may be used by the owner of the land riparian to the stream for domestic uses… but he may not prevent the natural flow of the stream…as such water then becomes public water is subject to appropriation.
The use of groundwater shall be governed by the Oklahoma Groundwater Law. Groundwater means fresh water under the surface of the earth regardless of the geological structure in which it is standing or moving outside the cut bank of any definite stream. Fresh water means water which has less than five thousand (5,000) parts per million total dissolved solids. If it is not fresh water, it is considered salt water and it is important not to mix the two.
Our next speaker was Dr. Renee Daugherty, Educational Methods Specialist, Department of Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University. Dr. Daugherty spoke with us about Civic Engagement through Public Deliberation. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce the concept of public deliberation and how public deliberation can be used to address challenging community problems and public issues.
The people must be actively involved in making public judgments . . . . To preserve American democracy, there is something for everyone to do – average citizens, institutions, people in positions of leadership, experts, government officials, and the media – all of us. Yankelovich, 1991
The public decision making process consists is shown by the following diagram.
Dr. Daugherty explained that there are numerous ways to get public input on public problems/issues, some of the examples are voting, polling, debate, letters to the editor, civil disobedience, demonstrations/protests, town halls and boycotts.
Public deliberation helps people weigh alternative policies to solve challenging public problems. This method takes a public problem, one that is complex with no simple answers and does not require an emergency decision. Structured dialogue offers public understand and knowledge about the issues, giving people an opportunity to learn about the concerns that they have regarding the issue. This approach offers a means to make tough choices about policy directions.
It is a way to reason and talk together that weighs the views of others and considers consequences, costs and benefits by respecting the perspectives and values of others. Deliberation participants are required to interact peacefully and share their knowledge on the issues. The hope is to find a common ground for action and to secure a commitment to work together.
The number of participants is limited to 15-25 persons and is facilitated by a trained moderator and recorder. Persons participating will be a diverse group of the population with broad perspectives on the issues. The deliberation will last approximately two to two and half hours, with the agenda being an opening or introduction on the issue, followed by the deliberation of approaches, and then the reflections, closing and possible outcomes.
Deliberative forum participants come from every part of society. Some will even reconsider their own opinions and judgments and will approach issues more realistically considering costs, consequences and trade-offs associated with policy options. Most define their self interests more broadly.
More information about training and workshops can be found through the Oklahoma Partnership for Public Deliberation at http://OKdeliberates.org.
Our luncheon speaker was Mr. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma. Drew Edmondson was elected Attorney General in 1994, and was re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006, winning more than 60 percent of the vote in his last two elections.
Under his leadership the attorney general’s office has helped reform the death penalty appeals process, established victims’ services, and vigorously represented rate payers in telephone, gas and electric rate cases.
In 2005, Edmondson, on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, filed suit against more than a dozen poultry companies. The lawsuit, which was filed after years of negotiations, accuses the companies of creating runoff into the Illinois River Watershed as a result of their waste dumping practices.
Before his election as Attorney General, Edmondson was elected, unopposed, to three consecutive terms as Muskogee County District Attorney in 1982, 1986 and 1990. He served as president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association and was selected as Outstanding District Attorney for the State of Oklahoma in 1985 and the Outstanding Death Penalty Prosecutor in the 9th and 10th Circuits.
Edmondson served one term in the Oklahoma Legislature before entering the University of Tulsa Law School in 1976. His undergraduate teaching degree is from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, which he attended after graduating from Muskogee Central High School. Edmondson is a Navy veteran with a tour of duty in Vietnam. He is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Party.
Mr. Edmondson discussed Oklahoma water issues and the issues with poultry producers in Eastern Oklahoma as well as the E. coli outbreak at Country Cottage in Locust Grove.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 p.m.
Scribe: Charles Rohla
The afternoon started with a deliberation on water issues. Dr. Renee Daugherty, Sue Darst Tate and Kimberly Williams helped moderate the deliberation. Dr. Daugherty guided the discussion. The following were guidelines for our study circle forum.
The moderator will guide the discussion yet remain neutral
Everyone is encouraged to participate
No one or two individuals will dominate
The discussion will focus on the choices
All the major choices or positions on the issue are considered
An atmosphere for discussion and analysis of alternative is maintained
We listen to each other
Approach 1: Allow water to be bought and sold in a free market like any commodity.
Already in place
Promotes more efficiency
Landowners have investment opportunities
Speculators – not a true free market: could be overrun w/ speculators
Allows greed to set price
Commodity can be renewable; water is not
Unfair/imbalance to those who have less
Strain on current infrastructure to sell more when prices go up
People must have water
Not as feasible to import water
Who gets the money
Hard to determine who receives money for surface water
Production agriculture prices could be driven up out price land for ag use
Separation of water rights
Taking land out of production affects rural areas and businesses
Difficult to meter/enforce amounts
Big disadvantage to Ag; highest bidders would be municipals and industry
Could lead to government bailout
Approach 2: Promote conservation to balance water demands with water supply.
Only so much usable water
Counter balances our current use-it or lose-it system
Remove disseminative to use-it or lose-it
Drop type irrigation
Government EQIP program
Encourages better Ag technology and water tech including domestic lawn
Fines for overuse and waste
Includes incentives to conserve
Necessity dictates change
Should be a part of any policy
Hard to regulate
Hard to enforce; money to enforce
At what point does a large organize get involved with water issues (public perception)
How to teach this, especially in an already full elem. curriculum
Hard to change habits
Takes too long to make a difference
Voluntary; some won’t buy it
Those areas with less water would have to conserve more
Moving Ag production to where water is can also be populated areas
Approach 3: Allow government - with public guidance - to treat water as a “common good.”
Some level of national security in ensuring U.S. grown food source
Ag can have more input from the beginning vs. free marketing
Government probably only ones who could have influence with tribes
Government could fund education
Ag is biggest users but a minority, so threatened
Bigger government is scary
Government could fund educationPeople disconnected from source of food
People won’t value Ag heads; Ag production move out of U.S.
Government does not work as hard as private sector to conserve
Government does not work as hard as private sector to conserve
Approach 4: Other ways help with the water issues
Incentives for conservation
Accountability for water usage (private & public)
Education on Conservation and water use/benefits
Technology to transfer, purify, re-use, desalinate (economically, feasibly)
Market ag’s proactive conservation efforts
Trade Offs “even if”
The economy of having the meter vs. economy of related costs
More complex than I thought
More need for government than I originally thought
Don’t know complete facts
Keep our way of life
We should have as much say about the benefits of the water used as we have to say about how much we use
Maintain a safe, abundant food source
Not only do we live/produce in this watershed but we drink/use it
Actions to do individually or collectively
Complete education about the Ag industry; help people understand what ag does for them
International relationships important; but balance with safe food
Support for U.S. Ag (for security supply) even if support is poorly perceived abroad
Safety important even if it means government involvement
Useful things learned
Timer for children in shower
Take showers with spouses
Keep open mind to different perspectives
TX county’s ag productions benefits
Talk with OWRB; talk locally go the distance
Be accountable on our own
After a short break Dr. Damian Adams spoke to us about the value of water. We learned that 41% of all water used in Oklahoma was for irrigation of which 32% is from ground water. 38% is used for residential with 32% coming from surface water. Dr. Adams discussed some of the supply factors (weather volatility, thirsty neighbors, ageing infrastructure, changes in water rights, water quality, new sources, invasion species, unexpected events) and demand factors (population growth, biofuels, water conservation, change in water rights, water prices, recreation, environment) that could influence price of water. Dr. Adams discussed how the rate structures for most municipalities were not encouraging conservation. Some of the future trends that we many see with water are a decrease Ag share of water as economic development increases, there will be increased non-ag demand for water with urban development, water sales and transfer and recreation. There will also be reduced access because of water law changes, climate change and regulation.
Thursday, April 23, 2009 a.m.
Scribe: Rose Bonjour
At 7:15 Thursday morning, April 24, 2009, we left the Meridian Hotel and Convention Center, caravanning to the State Capital. Getting through security took a little time as Dr. Joe’s and other’s boots set off the alarms. We made our way to our meeting room. Flexibility was the key to the morning as speakers came and left quickly responding to phone calls telling where to be next. Chairperson Dana Bessinger welcomed everyone and introduced Steve Thompson, Associate Commissioner of Agriculture who helped in making arrangements for our speakers.
Meet with Commissioner of Agriculture Terry Peach
Terry Peach, Secretary and Commissioner of Agriculture, welcomed our group and clarified that Steve Thompson is not a lobbyist, but an educator at the capital. He said that everyone is our friend, but not everyone is passionate about agriculture. He feels that we are a spoiled country, and someday people have to realize that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store. Our challenges are in front of us. He encouraged members of our class to run for office, including the office of governor. He added that people don’t understand that we wouldn’t do things to hurt the environment; that we have to be the most efficient with what we have, and that we depend on the natural resources to survive. He added organic farming is important, that it is a niche market, but that “it won’t feed the population.” We have a passion about agriculture and we need to share it with everybody. As leaders, for every meeting we go to, we need to grab five neighbors to go with us. www.oda.state.ok.us
Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Ron Justice
For a brief few minutes, Senator Ron Justice from Chickasha visited with the class. He served as a cooperative extension “agent for some thirty-odd years.” Some of the major issues he shared with us include water, right to farm, and trespassing. Several of the issues are controversial and we didn’t think much about them before, but they are very important to us. He added there are a lot of opinions out there on all of the issues. It is important for us to stay together, settling our differences together behind closed doors, coming out together, as a responsibility to one another. Senator Justice added that it cost $150 million to get the bill passed to kill animal agriculture in California with Proposition 2. Agriculture, energy, and tourism are the top three major economic drivers in Oklahoma. Now, more important than republican’s verses democrats, it is rural verses urban and many legislators don’t understand the issues effecting agriculture and Oklahoma. Senator Justice answered class members’ questions regarding agri-tourism and carbon trading, admitting he doesn’t know all the answers, but does relay on us to help him because he can’t do it alone.
Meet with Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins
Commissioner Peach introduced Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins, saying she understands rural Oklahoma. Lieutenant Governor has served three different branches of the government, having served as a judge, a Representative, and now as Lieutenant Governor. With years of serving as a judge, she understands the consequences of bills that are passed, and feels every legislator wants to do the right things. As a legislator, she’s voted on 1,000’s of issues, sometimes dozens of times on the same issue! She said it is our responsibility to make the legislators more credible by contacting and educating them on big and little issues. The process is the same, no matter the size of the issue. We have the ability to make a difference and influence decisions, and encouraged us to do so. The day we were there was a “crazy day” as it was the deadline for senate to hear house bills and house to hear senate bills. As chair of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission, she feels passionate about giving us a pitch on agri-tourism. She hopes to improve Oklahoma’s image and give visitors a better impression of Oklahoma. Lieutenant Governor Askins said although she does have cattle and doesn’t maker her living in agriculture, she understands agriculture. She said she needs to understand, and that very little good happens in this building without (legislators) talking to each other. You don’t have to be an elected leader to show leadership. She encouraged us to show leadership by having the confidence to stand up and speak on behalf of what you believe in. (She is passionate about leadership programs.) We were reminded that Oklahoma started as a horse race to grab a piece of property.
Lieutenant Governor then answered our questions. When John Cothren asked what we need to do to educate the public, she said a generation ago we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Today, many people are not aware of the current ag issues, and that we should take every opportunity to let them know about the issues – at church, civic organizations, schools, the store. She added that on legislation, 60% “zooms” though, of the remaining 40%, ¼ is Oklahoma City verses Tulsa, ¼ is democrat verses republican, and the rest is urban verses rural. When Brent Thompson asked about her opinion on confined animal operations, she said she hasn’t met anyone with a desire to intentional do things to harm the environment and we need to bring people together to discuss these issues. Allen Entz bravely asked the question regarding issues she would be addressing at our next governor. She replied it was hard to give specifics because she didn’t want others to step out and do something as a result of it. Taking care of the infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, dams, water supplies, etc.) are all very important to her; “the state is old enough that things need to be taken care of – things that we haven’t maintained.” She would also like to see a 2 year budget so that every other year appropriations could be dealt with, and ever other year substantive bills could be dealt with, allowing all legislators to participate, and not just 6 or 7 making all the budget decisions. Scott Neufeld asked about preventing groups from impacting animal legislature in Oklahoma, to which she replied “education.” She shared some of her experiences of working with FFA and 4-H and the importance of these organizations. Surprisingly, Mary Steichen asked about local wineries and direct distribution. As Chair of the Tourism Commission, the Lieutenant Governor echoed that it shouldn’t be easier to ship outside than it is to sell locally. She eloquently said Oklahoma has moved from “the Grapes of Wrath to grape growing,” and again pitched agri-tourism, explaining “Chic trips” to wineries.
Reprise with Commissioner of Agriculture Terry Peach
Secretary Peach explained that agricultural organization representatives meet every Monday at 3:00 at the Capital throughout the session to discuss agricultural related/impacting issues, becoming a power to be reckoned with. Legislators are not allowed to meet with the group unless the group invites them. Sometimes the discussions get heated, but they always come out united when the door opens. There are confidentiality concerns and they are working on that. He encouraged us to get involved with the groups in setting policy.
Chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Don Armes
Representative Don Armes from Faxon made a brief appearance while waiting on a call for a vote. He explained that right now, we are in the heat of the legislative process. He said a lot of people in Oklahoma just don’t get it. Right now, equine dentistry issue is huge, with three vets in the house. He feels a layperson (farmer or rancher) should serve on the board. Gary Kafer asked for clarification as to if ultrasound was legal or not. Representative Armes explained not with a machine can an ultrasound tech provide the services. Mary Steichen asked about capping lawyers’ fees and agri-tourism, to which he replied, “Lawyers don’t like it when you take away their “cha-ching!” He said there are good lawyers and just the same as there are huge opportunities for agri-tourism, liability is a huge issue. Upon receiving the call to go vote, Representative Armes left us.
The Legislative Process
Mr. Tommy Thomas with the Oklahoma Legislative Consulting Group LLC is a lobbyist and enjoys what he does. He explained that he had taught Agricultural Education in Minco and served the legislature for 12 years, “back when country boys ruled.” He introduced Haley Atwood, an Associate with the Oklahoma Legislative Consulting Group. Mr. Thomas stated that if you want to know a legislator’s priorities, see where they want the appropriations to go. A lobbyist has to talk to 149 different people in a very short piece of time. He said 100’s of people come out on some issues. A lot of time is spent on “scope of practice” issues. Mr. Thomas handed out a summary of how an idea becomes law. He explained that his freshman year as a legislator, House Bill 1017 was the biggest issue. He had put ads in newspapers, sent out letters asking for input. With 30,000 people in his district, only 6 called. He echoed the Lieutenant Governor’s comment that battles are not republican versus democrat, but rural verses urban. Mr. Thomas said that if you want an idea to become a bill, you need to call your legislator. www.okgov.us
Representative Dale Dewitt from Braman, a retired agriculture education teacher has served the House for 8 years. He stated that agriculture is his life, rural Oklahoma is his passion. He explained where the house is in the process, and explained that as money is divided up, some of it is as pass-through money to certain projects and some of it goes to areas where it an best be used. He said that there is fat in a lot of agencies and program, and they work hard to keep Oklahoma moving forward.
Assistant Commissioner Rick Maloney
Dana Bessinger introduced her immediate supervisor, Rick Maloney, who serves as the Director of the Marketing Division. Rick discussed holding eight meetings about provisions in the Farm Bill.
First Year Legislator Eddie Fields
Representative Eddie Fields, a rancher in Wynona (near Pawhuska), was a member of OALP Class X. He is serving his first year of his first term. He’s proud of his accomplishments and has had two bills already signed, including a weed-free seed certification bill. He explained that they were able to over-ride the Governors’ veto of the stem cell research bill by 1 vote. Allen Entz asked what will happen on the bill to which he had “no idea.” Dana Bessinger asked for clarification on the bill. His explanation said that stem cell research is legal, but that they want to do research on embryo fetus. He feels doing so would exploit women. Mary Steichen asked which ag issues they were having difficulty getting through, to which Representative Fields answered trespassing and water issues seems to be the big ones at this time. Burton Harmon asked about the Osage Tribe suing the state. The representative answered that the tribes didn’t have to pay income tax, but because it was not a reservation since statehood, it was thrown out. John Cothren asked him how his operation was impacted while he was serving as a legislator. The response was that he had good people to step in and “keep the ship sailing.” Mary asked him what made him interested in running. He said he served as a page when he was in high school. He went on to explain that the first couple of weeks were like drinking from a fire hydrant, but after the third week, it was on cruise control. He shared that he felt that shaping the future of Oklahoma was satisfying. David McMullen asked about petitions to get issues on the ballot.
Reprise with Assistant Commissioner Rick Maloney
Rick said that in the building, time is the most precious commodity to the legislators. He stressed the importance of getting engaged and that nothing is more important than the fundamental understanding of food and fiber. We need to start young. We also need to be doing more “value added” in both domestic and international marketing. Rick also touched on agri-tourism with more than 500 venues in Oklahoma, fruit and vegetable farmers markets, the Farm to School programs and rural economic development.
Senator Johnnie Crutchfield
Senator Johnnie Crutchfield was an educator in Ardmore. He has served on the appropriations committee and subcommittees over his 11 years in the senate. He stated, “If a leaf on a tree moves, I’ll talk to it.” He said if you ask the general population, most do not know their representative or senator. If you ask someone involved in an organization, many know. If you ask someone in a leadership program, almost all will know them. He stressed the importance of knowing your legislators on a first name level. He is one of three with 11 years of experience, and due to term limits, everyone else has less. If your legislator “hits” with you 70% of the time on issues, you have a “home run.” Grassroots involvement is the most important thing. The worst way to communicate with legislators is through a petition. Second worst is through a form letter. Best way is face-to-face, then on the phone, then a personalized letter. One contact may or may not have an impact, but 10 will cause them to look into it. Senator Crutchfield emphasized that the stem-cell research vote won by one vote. He said government agencies will make it through this year (June 30) without cuts, but next year will require cuts. He said that Senator Bellman was one of the few statesmen that he ever met. He also said that we can’t realistically survive without raising taxes.
In answering Allen Entz’s question about emergency services, Senator Crutchfield explained that there is a bill to cut the $.50 tax for emergency services to $.15, which would kill the 911 service. He feels it should be $1 instead. Brent Thompson asked how legislators get on specific committees. The answer is that the party controlling the house or senate selectors the members. Minority party leaders can select members. This year the Senate pro tempore appointed all. Usually, people get where their interests are. Scott Neufeld asked about circumventing the financing in bills. Crutchfield explained that some bills have a specific amount or percentage for specific items. We need to take the stimulus package or budget cuts will be greater than 10%. With less than four weeks left, the rules may not all be in place and there may have to be a special session for the budget. There will also be no new programs. John Cothren asked about Crutchfield’s thoughts on casinos and loss of tax revenue. Crutchfield explained that the tribes are sovereign nations and they spend a lot of money that we don’t have to providing things to schools, building bridges, buying rural fire districts trucks and emergency vehicles, etc. We are number three in the nation of states in gambling, and gambling is illegal in Oklahoma. According to Crutchfield, the communities and Oklahoma are benefiting from the casinos. Instead, Wal-Mart is the worst thing to happen to America.
Reprise with Mr. Tommy Thomas
Mr. Thomas referred us to the handout to understand the process of how an idea becomes a law. He knew since he was 12 that he wanted to be a legislator and his dream came true. He echoed the importance of getting involved. He also echoed that he HATES form letters and petitions; they are not effective. His feeling is that legislators are “woefully ill prepared,” and they need our help. John Cothren asked if term limits would ever be overturned. Thomas does not think they will because it would have to go to a vote of the people and everyone thinks of Gene Stipe’s 52 year reign. He said that there is currently no “institutional memory” of anything past 12 years. His editorial comment on the gambling issue was that it is better for us with the tribes to keep the money in Oklahoma instead of privatizing it where the owners will take the money back east with them. Supposedly, 80% of those who gamble in the southern part of Oklahoma are from Texas, bringing money into the state.
Tommy Thomas introduced Haley, who “started as a page and never left.” At 28 years old and 8 years of experience, she has more legislative experience than most legislators! Burton Harmon asked her how she handles dealing with issues which with she morally disagrees. She said she generally agrees with the people that she has as clients. Often times, such as with scope of practice issues, she represents both sides. The cloning racehorse issue recently was a BIG deal to her clients, and in the end, it added three words; “or its offspring,” to the legislation. Brent asked the question about effectiveness of lobbyists since all we keep hearing is about the importance of “grassroots efforts.” She responded that there is a “pecking order” on who gets in to see legislators and sometimes she has to wait. It goes 1) another legislator, 2) a constituent, 3) a staffer, 4) lobbyist. She went on to explain their first year, legislators are afraid of lobbyist, the second year; they know them as “informants” who can really help them. Dr. Joe Williams asked about Remington Park and the economy. Remington Park is one of the few in the nation that is actually making money. The stud farm is bringing in big money and the gaming also helps their revenue. John Cothren asked about the horse slaughter. Haley explained the Oklahoma bred program, which provides an incentives for Oklahoma born foal, mare, and stud, including “life after” their useful service.
Lunch at Oklahoma Farm Bureau
Lunch was provided, courtesy of Rose Rock-Union Ban and Wade Stewart, Class VII, at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau cafeteria in the basement of the Farm Bureau building.
Thursday, April 23, 2009 p.m.
Scribe: David McMullen
After lunch in the Okla. Farm Bureau cafeteria we gathered on the fifth floor of the Okla. Farm Bureau state office in the board room. Allen then introduced Mike Spradling president of Okla. Farm Bureau and alum of OALP class I. Mike started by thanking us by stepping up and meeting challenges and making the sacrifices to be a part of the Okla. Ag Leadership Program. He stated that the future of production agriculture is the most important thing right now and we as future leaders will play a tremendous role in that future. On behalf of the 186,000 OFB members, Mike welcomed us to the Farm Bureau office. Mike then introduced Matt Wilson the Executive Director of OFB. Matt started by telling us a little of his background. He started with Farm Bureau in 1977 in Kentucky and came to Oklahoma in 1990. Matt explained to us that Farm Bureau is the classic grassroots organization, there are 3,000 county Farm Bureau’s organized all over the United States. In Oklahoma there are 77 county Farm Bureau’s all having board of directors that meet every month, and hold an annual meeting each year. At each annual meeting is where Farm Bureau policy is originated. Each and every member has the ability to attend a meeting and submit his or hers ideas on policy. From these ideas the county will vote on each issue if it passes it becomes a resolution and goes on to the State Convention. All resolutions will be discussed and voted on at the State Convention each year in November. The resolutions that pass at the State Convention will become policy that governs how the OFB conducts business. Matt stated again that Farm Bureau is a classic grassroots organization and that he is very proud of the Farm Bureau organization. Matt then turned the floor back over to Mike Spradling. Mike began explaining how the national Farm Bureau process worked, as far as policy goes. There are 32 Farm Bureau presidents nationwide. A state must have so many members before it can have a president, so some states are combined. The process after each resolution leaves the state body is very similar to the process inside each state. Each and every resolution is looked at several times before being voted on at the national convention. If the resolution passes there it becomes national Farm Bureau policy. Farm Bureau has a tremendous role in watching over what is happening on agricultural issues on both the national and state levels.
Allen then introduced Senator Mike Schulz, OALP alum of class V. The Senator started by telling us after graduating from college all he wanted to do is go back home and farm. But it became very apparent to him that there are people in this world that wanted to tell him what to do and make decisions on his behalf. He said his eyes were really opened when he went through the OALP program. The Senator said he then realized a need to get involved, and he started his involvement at a more intense level with Farm Bureau. He came to work for OFB and ran his first political race in 2002. Even thou he lost that race by a narrow margin he began to set his sights on the 2006 race for state senate. The Senator then told us about the Farm Bureau campaign school which he attended. This school teaches the nuts and bolts of running a winning campaign he stated and told us the key ingredients of winning a race. First, you have to have a candidate that can win and second money. The Senator went on to say that it usually takes $125,000 to run an effective campaign. He also talked about all the hard work that it takes and that it is not all glamour’s, and that it takes a total family commitment. With that the Senator turned the floor over to Rep. Eddie Fields who is also OALP alum of Class X. Rep Fields shared with us about campaigning in 2006 in a race which he lost, and running again in 2008 in a race which he won. He said that the main key ingredient for him was getting out there and making connections. He credits a lot of his success to those connections with key people, stating that every person you come in contact with knows other people and people share information. He also gives a great deal of credit to his wife and kids, and other family members. He also talked about being able to sale yourself, you have to have a good product you must be consistent in what your message is. The Rep. also said that he was raised to give something back to his community, state and country. Both Senator Schulz and Rep. Fields agreed that if your family is not committed to the race then it is not worth running. They also discussed campaign contributions and both agreed that they didn’t mind the big contributors but really wanted the smaller contributors more. They stated that the smaller ones are the ones at the coffee shops and talking to their family and neighbors about supporting you as a candidate. They briefly talked about using their own money in their campaigns. Senator Schulz doesn’t do that and Rep. Fields stated that he has used his own money in his campaign. Then they opened up the floor for questions. Mary asked what their view was on term limits. The Senator said he thought they were a good thing for our state and that it weeded out the people that were working the system. He also added that those were the people that were against term limits. Rep. Fields agreed that term limits were good, but that he hated seeing all the history leave with all the older delegation. Jared asked about their compensation. Rep. Fields shared that their pay was the same $38,400 a year plus benefits. They also receive a per diem of $135.00 a day and mileage (federal standard) from their homes to the capitol. They were both quick to point out that you don’t do this for the money. Senator Schulz added that he went to work for OFB to support his farming habit, now he farms to support his political habit. Scott N. asked about their time commitments during the summer. Senator Schulz said that he tries to make it to everything he can as long as it doesn’t interfere with family and harvest. Rep. Fields has some interim studies this summer and some commitments in Stillwater as well, and will also balance those activities between family and other commitments at home. Dana asked how they kept up with all the different issues. Both said that you build relationships with fellow members who have expertise in different areas and even lobbyist. You have to rely on people that have the knowledge in those other areas. Both Senator Schulz and Rep. Fields thanked us for our involvement with OALP, because they know what a commitment it takes for us as well as our families.
Allen then introduced Lori Peterson V.P. of Public Policy, Okla. Farm Bureau. Lori talked about being a lobbyist and how she made the transition from a corporate lawyer to coming to work for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. She stated that lobbyists are a resource for law makers and that a lobbyist word is all that they have. If you are not truthful about what you tell them, then you are ruined. She also talked about the Farm Bureaus Ag fund, which allows members to contribute to a fund that is used to help candidates run for office. The ok Ag fund is one of the grassroots ideas that came from the bottom up as a resolution and was voted on by members at the state convention. She also acknowledges the fact that all candidates supported from this fund had a 90% success rate of winning their race. Lori also talked about the legislative process. Bills start out in their respective chambers, house bills in the house, and senate bills in the senate. Bills will be assigned to a committee and be heard there. After the bill comes out of committee and passes its respective chamber it will move to the opposite chamber to be heard. If any changes have been made to the bill the author has the right to accept or decline the change. If they accept it goes on to the governor’s desk. If they decline the change it goes to a conference committee. The bill then requires a majority of signatures from the respective chamber, if required number of signatures are acquired then the bill moves on. Lori closed by stating that she is proud of the fact that they are watching out for all interests that Farm Bureau members have and those issues that affect rural Oklahoma.
We then moved across Lincoln Blvd. to the main office of the Okla. Dept. of Agriculture. Allen introduced Steve Thompson Associate Commissioner of the Dept. and Charles Rohla’s best man at his wedding. Steve welcomed us to the Dept. of Ag and apologized for all of the construction and problems parking. He continued by saying they are 90% complete and will have an open house next week, and that he would introduce three speakers today that would talk about some of the more intriguing things that go on at the ODAFF. With that Steve introduced Capt. Jerry Flowers of the Investigative Services Unit. Jerry started by telling us that the investigative service is the law enforcement segment of the ODAFF. Any criminal act that involves the agricultural industry can be investigated by this unit. All officers are cleat certified and recognized as state law enforcement officers. This unit investigates livestock theft, timber theft, wildfires, heavy equipment theft, and are able to specialize specifically for the farmers and ranchers. Capt. Flowers stated that it is such a pleasure to work for and help people that work for a living. The unit is on call 24/7/365 days a year, and have agents all over the state. They work closely with local law enforcement agencies and try not to interfere with their investigations but are there to assist in any way possible. Mary asked if we should just call them if we need them. Capt. Flowers stated that you should call your local Sherriff’s office first for a quicker response time, but then call them and they would get there as soon as possible.
Next Steve introduced Dr. Becky Brewer of the animal industries division ODAFF. Dr. Brewer started with the statement that we feed the world and provide the most abundant, safest, and affordable food source in the world. She then went into telling us that the main mission of animal industries was to protect and monitor our states animal herd and flock health, and keep track of animals and their place of origin. She continued by saying this is hard to do without a mandatory animal identification system. Dr. Brewer spoke about the North American Viral Influenza (aka swine flu). She said that there are no known pigs in the state or the U.S. that has this strain of influenza. And that none of the people that had the influenza had been in contact with any swine. However, they are stepping up their surveillance measures and alerting all large animal veterinarians in the state as a precaution. She also talked about a sexually transmitted disease that has affected over 800 horses throughout the U.S. and that the source of the disease has still not been identified. She told us these things to give us a better understanding of what they do at animal industries. She also said there are four veterinarians in the office and two field veterinarians and if we ever needed there help to call, or if we needed any of them to come and give a public speaking engagement. Gary asked about some of the legislation that has been introduced regarding veterinarians practices. Dr. Brewer was quick to point out that the Dept. does not legislate they regulate. She was happy to commit on the puppy mill legislation and stated that we needed it. Oklahoma is the second largest distributor of puppies and kittens in the U.S. and that it needed to be regulated, but they would have to be funded to do it. Dr. Brewer closed by saying that we need mandatory ID for our animal industry because some day we will have a tremendous wreck in our industry and with ID we could possibly head off a total disaster.
Steve then introduced Kevin Grant director of Wildlife Services Division. Kevin started by telling us the mission of the division was to protect animal agriculture, property, humans, and natural resources from wildlife damage. The division has been in service since 1915 when their first priority was to eradicate wolfs from Oklahoma. He said that they deal with both predators and rodents, Coyotes, Beaver, and Wild Hogs are what they have been mainly working on the past 30 years. He also mentioned that on the horizon Geese will probably become a problem. He added that to date the only thing they have found that Geese understand and don’t like is shooting at them, but also added that they are working on a control method for them. Skipper asked about the Wild Hog problem and if Wildlife Service’s was the ones in that came with a helicopter, and what they did with the hogs they shot. Kevin’s answer was yes that was them in the helicopter and said at first they tried to give away the meat to help feed the hungry but no one would take it. So they work with the landowners and try to bury them in most cases. He also explained that they take samples from the hogs for the USDA so they can monitor the health status of the herds. One complex thing about the hogs is that some people want them and some people don’t. He also added that the division would not come to help unless you call and ask them too. John L. asked what the difference was between this department and the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife. Kevin explained that the ODWC was a regulatory agency (which enforces the gaming laws) and this division is a non-regulatory agency. He also added that the ODWC does not want the damage aspect of wildlife it would be too burdensome for that Dept.
With that Dr. Joe introduced the OALP alum that were in the room with us and provided the snacks and water for us. THANK YOU! They were Jamie Allen class 11, Julie Fitzgerald class 13, and Jason Hardy class 11. We were able to tour the new laboratory facility that was just completed at the ODAFF, and see all the new technology the department has now. We adjourned for the day, and what an afternoon it has been.