Okla. House OKs Bill to Protect Farmers, Ranchers from Frivolous Suits

April 17, 2007

The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would protect Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers from frivolous lawsuits claiming animal manure is toxic waste.

Under Senate Bill 709, by state Sen. Ron Justice (R-Chickasha) and state Rep. Terry Hyman (D-Leon), manure would not be considered hazardous waste under state law.

“The passage of Senate Bill 709 means Oklahoma’s 83,000 agricultural producers can do what they do best: produce food and fiber without fear of unwanted litigation,” said Hyman. “This bill sends a message that Oklahoma values the agriculture industry and is taking a common-sense approach toward its protection.”

Supporters of the bill noted that environmental extremists have begun using regulatory harassment and the threat of expensive lawsuits to destroy family farms. Without passage of Senate Bill 709, they warned that most farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma could face bankrupting lawsuits claiming animal manure is toxic waste.

“This legislation will protect farmers and ranchers from people who can’t tell the difference between a barnyard and Chernobyl,” Hyman said. “Some individuals would like to see our 5.4 million head of cattle declared ‘hazardous waste generators’ and Oklahoma’s 83,000 farms ‘toxic waste sites.’ They do not realize or care about the economic impact it would have on rural Oklahoma.”

Without the common-sense protections provided by Senate Bill 709, Hyman noted that the state could also lose several major tourist attractions, such as the annual American Quarter Horse Association show, which contributes $180 million to Oklahoma City’s economy each year.

Senate Bill 709 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 85-14 vote. It now goes to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.

Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives

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