OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee on Wednesday heard three interim studies.
A combined study by State Reps. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee, and Garry Mize, R-Guthrie, looked at redefining and updating the Home Bakers Act, Farm-to-Table and other similar laws, as well as examining state and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspection practices.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting impact on the food supply chain has demonstrated a need for further examination of opening the market to include home-based food producers, farmers markets and food trucks,” Mize said. “Oklahoma’s cottage laws currently limit access to a variety of food suppliers, which in turn can prevent our most vulnerable citizens from obtaining healthful and nutritious foods.”
In the afternoon, Kerbs held a separate study on poultry management guidelines. Kerbs, who serves as chair of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, said he received a lot of questions on the subject during session and wanted to take time during the interim to address them.
“As government officials, it’s important that we regularly take a look at guidelines within various industries to ensure we are not placing unnecessary burdens on Oklahoma’s businesses while protecting the public,” Kerbs said. “Interim studies give us the opportunity to examine these guidelines in close detail and consider possible changes we could make to improve the market and provide Oklahomans with more choices, and that’s exactly what we accomplished today.”
State Reps. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita, and Ty Burns, R-Morrison, ended the day with a study that examined potentially adding more meat inspectors within the state given the addition of CARES Act funding to reopen and expand meat processing plants.
Cornwell said, “With the addition of $10 million in CARES Act funding to go toward much-needed expansion of meat processing plants, our next step must be to follow up with having enough meat inspectors to ensure a safe product.”
He and Burns are looking at the most economical short-term fix for the state by proposing the state consider veterinarian and veterinarian medical students from Oklahoma State University to see if some of those might be interested in helping fill this void.
“COVID-19 caused a shortage in the food supply chain and a long backlog in meat processing,” Burns said. “It exposed the need for us to be more self-reliant as a state. These changes will help us feed Oklahomans while keeping our food costs low.”
The studies were the first of more than 70 interim studies to be held in the House through Oct. 29. Interim studies give lawmakers the opportunity to meet, gather data and speak with experts on matters important to the state and that could potentially result in changes to existing legislation or new state law.