The state’s dire budget situation and need for revenue dominated policy discussion during the business session of the annual convention of the American Farmers & Ranchers, Feb. 16-17 in Norman, Okla.
A proposed 6 cent per gallon fuel tax attracted much of the delegate’s attention. The farm organization, consisting of mostly rural residents, has traditionally been opposed to fuel tax increases because of the long distances many of them must travel for business and personal use. However, the group has possibly eased their opposition to such a tax.
“We are seeing a possible softening of our fuel tax opposition,” said Terry Detrick, AFR president, “as a way to open the door to common sense ways to raise revenue.”
“Our members want to try to figure out a way to help the state pay for all their needs, including rural infrastructure and teacher pay raises,” Detrick said.
The AFR leader said many of the delegates questioned how state revenue is being raised today.
“They have seen so much in the news media about the various energy sectors arguing over who pays their share of the taxes,” Detrick said. “There is just a great deal of uncertainty out there and we want to take a cautious approach to make sure everyone is treated equally.”
The farm group reaffirmed its position on a comprehensive overhaul of the federal immigration system in order to safeguard the multi-billion dollar American agriculture industry.
Other issues drawing support included:
- Decreasing the constitutional requirement for revenue raising measures in the legislature to 60 percent.
- Increased education on the proper usage of the herbicide dicamba
- More aggressive state and federal efforts to help control feral hogs.
- Higher priority for funding to eliminate cedar trees in Oklahoma.
AFR members re-enforced support for the agriculture mediation program, as they requested inclusion of guaranteed funding for the program in the next farm bill.
More than 900 voting delegates were registered for the AFR convention, making it one of the larger contingencies showing support for rural and agriculture issues.