(I hope) there’s an ag activist in all of us

My friend Callie and her husband, Sam, never thought they’d be on first-name basis with folks at the Ohio EPA. But they and their neighbors also never thought they’d be battling a poorly managed construction debris landfill sited on a former strip-mining operation near their farms and homes.

Their multi-year fight counts as a win for the little guy, as nuisance odors and numerous operating violations finally caused the director of the Ohio EPA to deny the landfill an operating permit, effectively closing the facility.

“I never thought I’d become an activist,” Callie told me, “but when something hits close to home …”

I thought of Callie this week as we learned the Ohio legislature will be deciding whether or not to put an initiative on the November ballot, amending the Ohio Constitution to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
(Update, the Ohio House approved the resolution June 24 by a vote of 84-13.)

A constitutional amendment is a big step — no one likes to alter something as major as our state constitution unless it’s really necessary. And everything in my conservative being screams that this might not be a great idea.

But it is necessary. Extremely necessary.

The Humane Society of the United States visited Ohio ag industry representatives in February, trying to solicit support for animal welfare legislation in Ohio. More specifically, legislating a ban on the use of poultry cages, veal crates, gestation stalls and other confinement housing, much like Proposition 2 that passed in California last November.

“They said they will legislate or take the issue to the ballot,” Ohio Farm Bureau’s Joe Cornely told Farm and Dairy reporter Andrea Zippay.

The current joint resolution being considered in the Ohio General Assembly is a pre-emptive strike against an HSUS-language ballot initiative that was sure to come in 2010. In fact, after hearing of the current Ohio proposal, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle released a statement that said if Ohio “agribusiness groups do not agree to some restrictions, the HSUS is prepared to launch a statewide ballot initiative campaign for November 2010…” — a campaign that HSUS said it is prepared to spend $10 million upon.

As I’ve written before, I want to be very clear: Responsible animal care is essential to the success of any livestock farm. Irresponsible care and abuse should not be tolerated within the ag community. But, as I’ve also written before, the goal of HSUS is not responsible livestock care. “… the reduction of meat consumption is one of the best things we can do for the planet… ” Pacelle wrote in his blog June 19.

Yes, the creation of an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will mean the implementation of standards governing livestock and poultry production. But I would rather have those standards created by a body that understands production livestock agriculture than an entity that would like to abolish animal agriculture.

This is huge — whether you raise a hundred head of cattle or a single 4-H market hog, or even if you raise only crops.

If Ohio lawmakers haven’t voted by the time you read this (it was on the fast track for either the week of June 22 or June 29), contact your senator and representative and encourage them to support the S.J.R. 6 and H.J.R. 2. If the ballot initiative has been approved, get ready to become an activist for the next four months.

This hits close to home.

——

By Susan Crowell

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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