(note: This article was updated 11/6 with information about the HSUS ballot initiative.)
SALEM, Ohio — In the Nov. 3 election, Ohio voters gave their approval to Issue 2, the ballot measure to amend the state constitution and create a livestock care standards board.
Ohio voters convincingly supported Issue 2, as 63.66% (or 1,959,669 people) voted to pass the measure, while 36.34% or 1,118,805 individuals, voted “no.”
Athens County was the lone county with a majority of voters opposing Issue 2.
The constitutional amendment will create a state Livestock Care Standards Board. The 13-member board, comprised mostly of farmers, veterinarians and agricultural industry leaders, will create and implement livestock care guidelines. (Click here for a .pdf of the constitutional amendment.)
The next step is for the Ohio General Assembly to create enabling legislation and the board appointments to be made.
Following the election, the Humane Society of the United States indicated it wants to move from Issue 2 to “real reform.”
“Now that the Issue 2 campaign is over, we can get on with such real reform — a measure to phase out the extreme confinement of animals in veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages,” Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said in a statement released after polls closed.
In his blog Nov. 4, Pacelle said the animal rights group would launch a ballot initiative in Ohio and will be starting its efforts to gather the necessary 400,000 signatures. He did not say what the initiative would seek, other than declaring the need to “reach voters in Ohio with our message of sound science and basic values.”
The recommended signature filing deadline for a statute on the November 2010 ballot is Dec. 23, 2009.
Paul Shapiro, senior director of HSUS’ factory farming campaign, also would not elaborate further, but said, “Issue 2 does not guarantee humane treatment of animals. It is more likely to codify the status quo, rather than to see continuous improvement in animal welfare.”
“What was happening yesterday before Issue 2 passed is happening today to animals,” Shapiro said.
The ballot measure was triggered by conversations between the Humane Society of the United States and Ohio ag leaders last February, in which the HSUS hoped to carve out a working relationship to develop livestock care standards like those negotiated in Colorado (and most recently in Michigan this fall). More specifically, HSUS said it wanted to ban the use of poultry cages, veal crates and gestation stalls in the Buckeye State.
If Ohio ag groups chose not to work with the HSUS, the activist group leaders said they would take the battle to legislators or work to pass a ballot initiative in 2010.
Ohio ag leaders, however, quickly moved to push the idea of a constitutional amendment to create the livestock care standards board, feeling the proactive approach would have a stronger ag foundation than that pushed by the Humane Society of the United States.
Ohio Sen. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, said he was excited about the margin of approval, calling it a sign that Ohioans believe in what the board will provide.
“I think the people of Ohio want to support family farms and agriculture and that’s great.”
Gibbs was the Senate’s lead sponsor of the bill, when the ballot initiative was moving through the legislature.
“As strong as this thing passed yesterday, I think consumers are showing they want to make sure we have locally grown food and the animals are cared for.”
Following the election, the Humane Society of the United States indicated it wants to move from Issue 2 to “real reform,” but did not specify what it’s next action will be.
“Now that the Issue 2 campaign is over, we can get on with such real reform — a measure to phase out the extreme confinement of animals in veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages,” Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said in the statement released Tuesday night.
Paul Shapiro, senior director of HSUS’ factory farming campaign, said the organization is keeping all of its options open and would not elaborate as to what the next plan of action is for the group.
“Issue 2 does not guarantee humane treatment of animals. It is more likely to codify the status quo, rather than to see continuous improvement in animal welfare,” Shapiro said.
“What was happening yesterday before Issue 2 passed is happening today to animals.”
With what could be the Ohio Farm Bureau’s largest political campaign now a part of history, OFB Director of Communications Joe Cornely figures it has helped increase public awareness of what farmers do, and why.
“It has made the public aware that farmers are passionate about their industry and that it’s not just a job, it’s a calling,” he said. “They want the public to understand how they approach the business of feeding the world.”
Those are some of the goals that went into Ohio Farm Bureau’s decision to form the Center for Food and Animal Issues, which was launched in the spring to help farmers and consumers reach conclusions about animals’ role in society and food production.
Mike Bumgarner, vice president of the center, said the center is actually bigger than just Issue 2, but “Issue 2 is really the first step in trying to regain the public confidence” in production agriculture.
“Our hope is that it’s made people more aware of what production agriculture is all about and what we do,” he said.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which also opposed Issue 2, is disappointed, but not surprised by the passage of Issue 2.
However, Carol Goland, executive director for OEFFA, said the organization was mainly against the issue because it amends the state constitution.
“Our hope is that we (Ohio voters) didn’t establish a precedent where agriculture is regulated by popular vote and constitutional amendments,” Goland said.
She’s also concerned that the issue has divided Ohio agriculture.
“We have heard from a lot of farmers about questions they have about the board,” Goland said.
Although the bill progressed strategically and met the November election deadlines, Sen. Bob Gibbs said it improved along the way, including the addition of some checks and balances. For example, board appointees will need the state Senate’s confirmation, and actions of the board will still be subject to the authority of the Ohio General Assembly, he said.
It upsets him that some have called the board a bureaucracy.
“This board is not bureaucrats. Their stake is in the industry; their livelihoods are on the line,” he said.
Ohio Farm Bureau’s Cornely said he’d like to think animal rights organizations, such as Humane Society of the United States, will be satisfied with the reform the board brings about. But he’s prepared for the possibility they may not.
Cornely said it’s probable there will be some who try to “tear the board apart” for whatever it does.
“The facts are not going to get in the way of the opposition’s approach to this,” he said.
(Editor Susan Crowell, and reporters Chris Kick and Kristy Foster, all contributed to this report.)