Legislative Update: School Lunch Program, Virtual Meat Inspection, Medical Marijuana Fees

Both chambers kicked off this week as attention focused on committee work, as the deadline for most bills to receive approval from the committee opposite their home chamber is Thursday, April 14. .

SB 1624 by Senator Adam Pugh and Representative Dell Curbs sought to transfer the school lunch program from the State Department of Education to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry. The goal of the transfer was to house the school lunch program within a department already focused on feeding Oklahomans and to open up new ways for schools to partner with local producers. Following concerns from committee members, the bill did not receive the necessary votes to move to the House floor. The committee now retains ownership of the bill, and it could receive a second hearing next week before Thursday’s deadline.

The House Agriculture Committee heard SB 1110 from Sen. David Bullard and Rep. Justin Humphrey that would ask the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to seek a waiver from the Department of United States Agriculture to authorize a remote meat inspection pilot program. If approved, state-inspected meat processors would be allowed to have their meat inspected remotely by a certified inspector using streaming viewing technologies. The pilot program would only be used for intrastate meat sales. Following many questions about what such a program might mean for food safety, the bill was introduced in hopes of addressing committee members’ concerns. It will be available for review again next week.

HB 2179 by Rep. Scott Fetgatter and Senator Jessica Garvin received approval from the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee on April 7. HB 2179 would implement a tiered application fee system for producers of medical marijuana. The bill establishes three categories of growers – indoor, outdoor and greenhouse – and each category has eight levels based on the square footage of the growing area. Base fees start at $2,500 for producers 1,667 square feet or less, regardless of which category they are in. HB 2179 has yet to receive approval from the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee. While most bills require committee approval by April 14, bills assigned to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee have an extended April 22 deadline.

For an update on weekly events on Capitol Hill and a preview of what’s to come, be sure to tune in to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s weekly public policy update every Friday at noon via Zoom.

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