To review what members of the board had to say, prior to public comment, click here.
REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Passionate testimony was heard by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board during the public comment period of the July 27 meeting, concerning the recent agreement between the Humane Society of the United States, and Ohio’s agriculture leaders.
Proponents and opponents spoke their minds, with views ranging from complete understanding and agreement to complete frustration and disagreement.
David Hutchins, a long-time Ohio livestock producer, scrutinized the decision for failing to include more public input. He blamed Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, for handing down a decision that will affect the whole state, and future generations.
“I am somewhat furious in feeling the citizens of Ohio were betrayed by Governor Strickland in brokering a compromise with just one person (Pacelle) who isn’t even, to my knowledge, a resident of the state of Ohio,” Hutchins said. “Has he (Pacelle) ever presented any research or facts to this board to support his convictions? Is he here today? No. I am, as a citizen of the state of Ohio.”
Dick Isler, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, clarified that the governor only was a facilitator for the compromise, and did not have a role in the decision making.
Isler also said it was a broader agreement than just Ohio Farm Bureau, or just the governor’s office. Parties included Ohio Pork Producers Council, and representatives from the poultry, cattle, corn and soybean commodities, as well as Farm Bureau and HSUS.
“It certainly wasn’t the governor and Wayne Pacelle that made these decisions,” he said. “It was Ohio agriculture sitting down with Wayne Pacelle to discuss if there was an alternative (to a ballot measure).”
The discussions were not easy, but necessary, Isler said.
“What we were faced with (was) potentially a very costly ballot initiative,” he said. “If that was passed it would have — I think — have devastated the pork and poultry industry in Ohio by setting rules that would be in our consitution (forever).”
But some producers insisted their industries already will be devastated, due to the agreement.
“I really shouldn’t even be here,” said a frustrated Larry Queen, a third-generation crop and cattle farmer from Ohio’s Morrow County. “I can’t believe we are negotioating with a bogus (organization). We didn’t research this organization (HSUS) enough, and here my future, my son’s future and his childrens’ future, is being jeopardized.”
Queen said state Issue 2, which was passed last fall to create the livestock care standards board, told everyone it would support, “safe, local food,” a concept no one could be against, but that misinformed a lot of voters.
He called it “a misconception put on by the major commodity groups right here representing us,” apologizing for being blunt, but inisting that producers were not fairly represented by the closed-door agreement.
“I won’t just stand back and let somebody take me over and this is what’s happening right here,” he said. “We are not working in a democratic process by the way it’s being shaped up.”
Fred Voge, of Ohio’s Preble County, said he doesn’t yet know whether the agreement will be good or bad, but expressed dismay that very few Ohio producers knew about it, until it was already decided for them.
“I want to caution you people as a board that there is a disconnect between mainstream agriculture and our commodity groups here in Ohio at present,” Voge said. “I don’t feel that you’re getting a true representation of Ohio agriculture when you hear from these groups.”
Isler said he understands how some Ohioans are upset, but said it’s mostly those who are not directly affected. He said there was only a short period of time to meet with Pacelle and talk about the agreement, which is part of the reason it was not announced to the public.
The other concern was what would happen if it was announced, and how it would be received.
“Once it got out into the public, it could have blown up,” Isler said.
Jack Fisher, executive vice president of OFBF, said a ballot initiative would have been costly in terms of financial expense, bad publicity and the consumption of valuable time.
“Still, the decision to talk (with HSUS) was difficult and uncomfortable,” Fisher said.
He reminded the board the agreement is a recommendation, based on the findings of a diverse group of industry representatives. Ultimately, it will still be the work of the board to decide what it will adopt as standards.
“A recommendation is just that,” he said. “No more, no less.”