OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislation aimed at protecting farmer's rights in the midst of big business mergers and alliances is set to be introduced when session starts in a few weeks, according to Senator Paul Muegge, D-Tonkawa and Representative Kenneth Corn, D-Howe.
Oklahoma is joining several other states, including Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Wyoming in its endorsement of the model legislation assembled in August of 2000 by Attorneys General Thomas Miller of Iowa and Heidi Heikamp of North Dakota.
The campaign to help establish rights for contract farmers is expected to attract attention in states across the nation as legislatures convene this year.
Senator Muegge referred to a statement recently released by Iowa's Attorney General Miller, where he pinpointed some of the issues of concern, including the huge disparity in bargaining power between farm families and large corporations.
Farmers are often given contracts that are subjected to risks so deeply buried that they are often missed. Furthermore, the producer is forced to abide by the take-it-or-leave-it policy of contracting corporations and could be legally bound from discussing the agreement terms with anyone else.
Many also expresses concern that the concentration of economic power could lead to anti-competitive practices, thus adversely affecting the prices paid to farmers for commodities, as well as the prices paid by consumers for food.
"There are so many valid reasons why family farmers need contracts in their business, but the current practice of strong-arming the farmer into signing a contract without being given time to review and compare contracts just isn't a fair business tactic," said Muegge. "At the very least, our producers deserve a set of fair, basic rights where their family's livelihood is concerned, and right now, they don't even have that."
According to Muegge and Corn, Senate Bill 162 will include at least five components.
" Our legislation allows family farms to be treated fairly in a business world in which they make their livelihood and feed the world," said Representative Corn. "It is imperative that our family farmers be treated fairly and given protection from an increasingly hostile corporate take over of agriculture."