AFR members to discuss critical issues during annual convention
Water, school consolidation and property taxes headline the list of issues to be discussed by Oklahoma agricultural leaders attending the annual American Farmers & Ranchers convention Feb. 19-21, Embassy Suites Hotel, Norman, Okla.
“We have always been concerned about water supplies, movement and control of water,” said AFR President Terry Detrick. “Voting delegates at last year’s annual convention made it clear we oppose the sale of Oklahoma water out-of-state without meeting the needs of the state and local area and encourage federally recognized Indian tribes to do likewise,” Detrick said.
There has been speculation the state may attempt to fill budget holes with revenue from out-of-state water sales.
“Some people believe the state is missing an opportunity by allowing excess water to leave the state,” Detrick said. “In wet years, such as 2015, the state may indeed have more than adequate water supplies, but many years that would not be accurate. As any Oklahoma farmer knows, rainfall is unpredictable and often falls short of our needs. I would not want to sign a contract obligating Oklahoma to sell water to out of state interests while Oklahomans go without water,” Detrick said.
The farm group is also closely watching school consolidation discussions.
“We oppose consolidation solely based on student enrollment,” Detrick says. “Schools are the heart of rural communities and consolidation would destroy small communities while not leading to major budget savings.”
Rural school districts and other vital services are primarily funded by property taxes. AFR members are concerned state officials will target property taxes to fill the projected budget deficit.
“We do not support an increase in ad valorem taxes as a means to solve a state revenue shortfall,” Detrick said.
For more on AFR’s current policies and convention schedule go to www.iafr.com