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Rural Oklahomans concerned about state’s budget, taxes and the farm economy

The state’s continuing budget woes, proposed tax increases and a depressed farm economy were among the critical issues discussed during a series of issue discussion barbecues held across Oklahoma in late August. The meetings were sponsored by American Farmers & Ranchers.

“People are worried how the legislators will balance the budget,” Terry Detrick, AFR president, said. “Will lawmakers increase fuel taxes, take away agriculture’s sales tax exemption, or increase property taxes.  With many of our farm commodity prices in the tank, we just have a lot of unsettled worry in the country.”

Detrick said many of the more than 250 people attending the informal meetings questioned whether or not the legislature should increase revenue or better prioritize the money currently available.  Among the most acceptable ideas to raise revenue, were an income tax and gross production tax on oil and gas production.  The AFR members said increases in fuel and property taxes were not agreeable.

Other issues discussed during the meetings included rural priorities versus urban voters.

“Our members discussed the best way to educate urban legislators and advocate for agriculture and agribusiness,” Detrick said. 

The AFR President said he was most pleased with how the participants joined in the discussion.

“We basically fed them barbecue, introduced our staff and then let them visit with us about the key issues,” Detrick said.  “Neighbors visiting with a neighbor, that’s what it is all about.  These are the people we serve and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them.”

Detrick added, the issues discussed at the meetings will surface again at many of the county AFR annual meetings this fall and will then be used to formulate AFR policy at the group’s annual convention in February.

The meetings were held Aug. 21-29 in five locations around the state, including Guthrie, Woodward, Hugo, Medicine Park and Wagoner.