Friday, January 07, 2005

Drew Edmondson and the Poultry Industry of Oklahoma

A couple of days ago, I saw an advertisement on television. It involved a man dressed in typical farm attire, standing in front of a fence surrounding a picturesque farm. He began by describing how he and his family have been poultry farmers for years. I expected it to be a commercial pushing chicken products. However, the man went on to say that he and the other poultry farmers had been doing the best they could to comply with the laws of Oklahoma, but that their efforts were not good enough for the Attorney General of Oklahoma, who was, according to the man, about to bring suit against the poultry industry. The man then urged his listeners to write to our congressman and to Drew Edmondson to prevent this lawsuit.
As a result of this advertisement and other actions by the industry, Edmondson canceled next week's negotiations with the poultry industry on a water quality agreement. The Attorney General accused the industry of "delay and deceit." Edmondson said that he was not unwilling to talk to the industry, but that "we do not intend to fall victim to stall tactics while the industry and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau are tainting the potential jury pool with advertising and preparing to attack us in the Oklahoma Legislature." He went on to say that "the Farm Bureau represents the big companies first, the farmers second and the environment somewhere after last."
I don't know how much jury tainting is necessary given that the priorities of many Oklahomans mirror those of the Farm Bureau (if you believe Edmondson's description). Two incredible factors are at odds here: (1)the vital need to prevent pollution to Oklahoma's water systems; and (2) an industry that employs over 12,000 Oklahomans. It will be interesting to see which wins out.


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