Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Statehouse Solution to Low Energy, Farm Prices Doubted

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Statehouse Solution to Low Energy, Farm Prices Doubted

Article excerpt

Oil and agriculture prices are at historic lows in Oklahoma, and most legislators feel helpless about finding long-term solutions.

House and Senate members responding to an Associated Press survey had lots of ideas about aiding the oil and farm industries, collectively the backbone of the Oklahoma economy.

But they generally said action by the federal government is needed to protect farmers from bankruptcies and the oil industry from laying off thousands during bad times. "Unfortunately, the Oklahoma Legislature cannot control the price of oil, gas or agricultural products, nor the natural disasters affecting agriculture," said Rep. Dale Wells, D-Cushing. "It is hard for the (state) government to correct or hold harmless any industry from market forces," said Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa. "Most of our efforts are more symbolic than effective." "The worldwide depression has definitely had an effect on the agriculture business in Oklahoma, decreasing our market base and income," said Rep. Susan Winchester, R-Chickasha. Winchester, Wells and Roach were among the 85 House members who voted during a special session for a three-tiered tax-cut plan that will lower the gross production tax on oil from 7 percent to 1 percent when the price per barrel dips below $14. The tax break, designed to give a temporary lift, topped the list for House and Senate members looking for ways to ease the effect of the price crunch. Many said Congress must act to ensure price stability in the future, both for agriculture and oil. "Oklahoma doesn't have the resources to put a safety net under agriculture, or oil for that matter," said Rep. Clay Pope, a farmer- legislator from Loyal. "Were going to do what we can, but until the federal government comes to the table in both industries, its going to be tough." Pope has two bills that would provide additional temporary relief up for consideration in the regular session of the Legislature, which starts today. …

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