COLUMBUS — The Humane Society of the United States launched a new enterprise in Ohio, the Ohio Agriculture Council, in an effort to “advance humane and sustainable agricultural practices in Ohio.”
The announcement was made April 24.
In a written release, the HSUS claims the Ohio Agriculture Council of the HSUS will work to connect livestock producers who manage their animals using higher animal welfare practices with consumers seeking higher welfare products and to help other farmers transition to more humane animal management.
The group will also showcase those farmers who are good stewards of their animals and the land. It says the council members will advise HSUS on issues affecting Ohio’s family farmers.
Ashtabula beef producer
Mardy Townsend, an Ashtabula County farmer who currently raises 125 head of black baldy crossbred grass-fed beef, is one of the council members. She said she is not a spokesperson for HSUS, but is participating on the council for her personal interest. She feels that by working with the HSUS, she will have more marketing opportunities for her grass-fed beef.
“It gives me the opportunities to work together to benefit me and HSUS members by educating them on where their meat comes from,” said Townsend.
Townsend said she is interested in working to develop a meat co-op and feels that by working with the HSUS, the co-op is a possibility. She said Ohioans need to develop a better way to get products to consumers.
“There is a misconception about what the HSUS is about in Ohio,” Townsend said.
She added that many people confuse HSUS with an animal rights group and instead it is a animal welfare group.
Townsend said she is proud of the way she takes care of her animals and wants to make a connection for people between the farm and food supply.
“Urban people don’t know where their food comes from, and our mission is to educate them, show them and explain what is being done,” said Townsend.
The founding members of the Ohio Agriculture Council are William Miller, an organic farmer from Butler County; Townsend; Bruce Rickard, of Fox Hollow Farms in Knox County; Joe Logan, an Ohio farmer who works with the Ohio Environmental Council; and Warren Taylor, co-owner of Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio.
Help direct policy. Karen Minton, Ohio state director for The HSUS, said there are a multitude of reasons for the development of the council, including helping to direct policy on issues such as livestock regulations and farmers market regulations.
Colorado, Nebraska and North Carolina have councils already in place helping to direct policy in those states.
She said the initiative is not designed to undermine the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, but to “help navigate the policy issues as they develop in Ohio.”
Minton said there are some criteria for joining the council. Members must use higher welfare environmental stewardship methods, must be in Ohio, cattlemen must be grass-fed beef producers and hog producers cannot use gestation crates.
She added that the group is open to any farmer who wants to join, but the farm would have to be reviewed by the group.
When asked if the council was limited to members with smaller operations, Minton said no.
“It’s not a size issue. It’s the practices that take place on the farm,” said Minton.
OFBF speaks out
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) issued the following statement following the council’s launch:
“We believe that the best way to make connections is to be inclusive. It appears HSUS’s plan intentionally excludes the majority of farmers and consumers who have differing views on food and farming. Both producers and consumers should have multiple choices in how food is grown and raised.
“Farm Bureau’s largest concern is that HSUS has chosen to ignore Ohio’s leadership in protecting the well-being of farm animals. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board was created by Ohio voters in 2009. Through it, all Ohioans have the ability to influence the rules that define acceptable farm animal care. HSUS is positioning its judgment as being superior to that of Ohio citizens.
“Ohio Farm Bureau remains committed to a dialogue with HSUS as well as other organizations and individuals who are interested in important questions about food and farming.”
It is important to note that the Ohio Agriculture Council created by the HSUS is not the same as the Ohio Agricultural Council.
The Ohio Agricultural Council includes organizations, companies and individuals who have an interest in the well-being and promotion of the agricultural industry in Ohio. OAC also sponsors the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame Awards at the Ohio State Fair.
After this story was published, the HSUS made some revisions to the name of the council:
SALEM, Ohio — The Humane Society of the United States is changing the name of the Ohio Agriculture Council, a new project launched in April. It will now be called the HSUS Agriculture Advisory Council for Ohio.As first reported last month, the HSUS Agriculture Advisory Council for Ohio will work to connect livestock producers who manage their animals using higher animal welfare practices with consumers seeking higher welfare products, and will help farmers transition to more humane animal management.
Additionally, the council will advise HSUS on issues affecting Ohio’s family farmers.