Hog and chicken producers should be required to foot the bill for the cost of regulating their respective industries, according to the Senate author of the two main bills addressing the issue. Senator Paul Muegge is preparing to add fee schedules to SB 1175 and SB 1170 to accomplish that goal.
"The people who profit from these industries should be the ones who pick up the tab for their regulation. If they want to do business in Oklahoma, they should pay the cost of keeping our air and water clean. Taxpayers shouldn't be saddled with that responsibility," said Senator Muegge, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The total annual cost of administering new regulations on the hog and poultry industries should come to approximately $2 million, according to the Tonkawa legislator. The fees on the individual hog and chicken operators will be minimal.
"We're really talking about a drop in the bucket for these operators. I think it's a small price for them to pay to be good corporate citizens who are helping protect Oklahoma's environment," said Senator Muegge.
Two separate fee schedules would be applied to hog operations or confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) and so-called chicken "integrators," the corporate processing facilities that contract with smaller growers around the state.Operations Capacity Fee Amount (Annual)
Under 250 Animal Units$ 15.00 250 to 500 $ 37.50 500 to 1,000 $ 75.00 Over 1,000 $100.00
"We're really talking about some very modest fees that won't be a hardship on the industries who pay them. I don't think anyone is going to go out of business paying a half-cent on every chicken or about 15 cents on every hog they produce," noted Senator Muegge.
"We've tried to structure the fees so everyone will pay their share with the bigger operations picking up an appropriate, larger proportion of the cost. It's a case where if everyone pitches in and does their small part, the state of Oklahoma and the industries themselves will benefit."
The legislator indicated he has talked to officials in the Governor's office about the proposed fee schedule and they were supportive of requiring industry to pay the bill for their regulation. He said most lawmakers and industry leaders have also been supportive.
"I think it's really a common sense solution that Oklahoma citizens and the industry leaders will embrace. If you have a potential problem, you go to the source and ask them to help out. That's what we're trying to do with the fees. We certainly don't want to push this off on Oklahoma taxpayers when they're not the ones causing the potential problems," said Senator Muegge.
The proposed fee schedules will be added the respective hog and chicken regulation bills in conference committee.