ASHLAND, Ohio — Farmers from Ashland County and across Ohio are preparing themselves and their friends for a “yes” vote on Ohio’s Issue 2, which will be before voters during the Nov. 3 general election.
On Oct. 8, a group of farmers, lawmakers and representatives from the area gathered at Ashland High School to rally support for an issue they say is detrimental to preserving livestock agriculture.
At stake is an issue to form a livestock care standards board, to enforce uniform livestock standards across the state.
The issue is being viewed as a preemptive move against activist organizations that want to establish their own standards.
State senator Bill Harris, R-19th, said campaigns against Issue 2 will soon appear, and reminded those in attendance to be ready.
“Be prepared that it’s going to make you look like villains,” he said. “You’ve got to suck it up and get every vote you can to make sure that this Issue 2 passes.”
Scott Higgins, chief executive officer of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association, was the featured speaker. He said support from organizations like Farm Bureau, the state legislature and grain and livestock farmers provides a “united front” that brings farmers together.
“They value the economic engine of this state and they value and believe in agriculture and what we do on our farms,” he said. “But I think what’s more important is they value Ohioans to make the right choice.”
A consistent theme throughout the night was the possibility outside organizations and voices could “dictate” Ohio agriculture, if Ohioans fail to regulate it themselves.
“The last thing we need are for individual organizations to come in here and to tell Ohioans how we’re going to raise our products and how we’re going to provide that product,” Higgins said.
Following him was State Rep. Dave Hall, R-97th, who said for his first year in the Statehouse, he was surprised at the “arrogance” he saw when dealing with Humane Society of the United States.
“Being a first-year representative in Columbus, it was amazing seeing the Humane Society of the United States and their arrogance of how they were going to dictate to you, how things are going to be done,” he said.
Hall said Issue 2 “puts the power into your (producers)’ hands. There’s nothing worse than having someone from outside Ohio dictate how it’s done.”
John Fitzpatrick, organizational director for Farm Bureau in Ashland, Wayne and Medina counties, said producers and consumers should both be concerned.
“Some regulation is coming,” he said. “It’s probably better that we set it, rather than someone else. They (activists) may be after the veal farmers, and the swine farmers and the layers, but they’re coming for all of us and we all need to care about each other.”
A couple farmers talked about possible threats to their own operations.
Todd Fike, a Crawford County grain farmer , said organizations like HSUS threaten to take away consumers’ “choice” of food, a concept that will hurt more than just livestock farmers.
“We recognize as grain producers to the livestock industry, how detrimental things could be, should we change the face of livestock and how we do things,” he said.
“As farmers, we provide the most choice of any industry in the state or any industry in the country,” he continued. “If you want meat, you can buy meat any way you want it, you can find organics, you can find the stuff virtually anywhere, any shape or form you want.”
The evening closed with comments by Steve Caminati of Ohioans for Livestock Care, who said many farmers and people in rural communities already support Issue 2, but now the focus is on urban and metropolitan areas.
“We’ve been preaching to the choir … we’ve got to shift that strategy and we’ve now got to start singing to the congregation,” he said.
Caminati said he’s heard criticism that the issue should not be in the state’s constitution. But looking at the many farms spread across the state, that’s exactly where it should be, he said.
“It’s pretty simple — agriculture is the fabric of Ohio’s identity and I can’t think of something or someone that deserves more protection in the Ohio constitution than agriculture,” he said.