Legislative update: Rural health care, taxes and private property rights
In the first month of the legislative session, Oklahoma Farm Bureau has seen movement on a number of issues important to members including legislation on rural healthcare, the agriculture sales tax exemption and ad valorem taxes.
Rural health care
To help increase health care access for Oklahomans who live outside the major metro areas, OKFB has voiced its support for legislation that would remove the physician supervision requirements for certified registered nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners.
As Farm Bureau members are well aware, Oklahoma is facing a healthcare crisis that is impacting rural areas. Hospitals are shutting down. Physicians are retiring or moving away. In some cases, patients must drive hours for basic medical services. The legislation is a priority for Farm Bureau members, and public policy staff are hopeful it will become law.
Maintaining the agriculture sales tax exemption also is a priority for Farm Bureau members. The exemption, similar to the manufacturers exemption, guarantees agricultural commodities are taxed only at the final point of sale. The exemption is vital to ensuring Oklahoma farmers and ranchers can compete with producers in surrounding states who also receive a sales tax exemption on agriculture inputs.
OKFB is following legislation that would modify the state sales tax exemption on agriculture production inputs. Rather than renewing every three years, the bill would require producers to renew annually. Producers also would have to verify they have reported income from farming to receive an agriculture sales tax exemption permit. Otherwise, producers would have to file for a sales tax refund annually with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Recently, a House committee advanced legislation that would allow municipalities to create public safety districts funded by ad valorem taxes. OKFB policy strongly opposes any increases in ad valorem taxes, as they disproportionately affect farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods rely on owning large pieces of land and equipment. While agricultural land is exempted in the bill, we oppose the legislation because of the precedent it sets.
Though public policy staff are closely watching legislation on the ag sales tax exemption and ad valorem taxes, Farm Bureau members should be prepared to contact legislators to urge a no vote on both bills.
Private property rights
Hand-in-hand with other agriculture organizations including American Farmers & Ranchers and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, OKFB is working to protect private property rights by ensuring oil and gas companies receive landowner consent and provide compensation when running permanent or temporary pipelines in the right-of-way along highways and roads.
Oil and gas companies place a burden on landowners when transporting oil, gas or produced water in pipelines along the right-of-way. Farm Bureau members believe property owners should receive notice and compensation from companies when eminent domain is used to run pipelines.
As always, the success of OKFB at the state Capitol is dependent on the engagement and involvement of our members. We appreciate the members who worked to develop and strengthen relationships with state lawmakers during the recent OKFB Leadership Conference and the OKFB Women’s Leadership Committee Farm City Festival. County Farm Bureau members also are encouraged to schedule a visit to the state Capitol to further build relationships with state legislators.
For more information on OKFB’s work at the state Capitol, please contact the OKFB public policy department at (405) 530-2681.