Michigan next for livestock standards

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SALEM, Ohio — Ohio legislators aren’t the only ones taking action regarding livestock care standards this summer. Michigan state Reps. Mike Simpson and Jeff Mayes introduced a package of bills June 19 to standardize livestock care requirements.

The bills, H.B. 5127 and H.B. 5128, would have the following impact:

* Establish that the Department of Agriculture and the Agriculture Commission is the sole authority in the regulation of livestock health and welfare

* Implement science-based standards for animal care that farmers must implement by 2020

* Create an Animal Care Advisory Council that will make recommendations for changes to existing standards

* Create a third-party auditing system to oversee the program

Meanwhile, Sens. Van Woerkom and Wayne Kuipers introduced a package of bills June 23. These bills, S.B. 654 and S.B. 655, are identical to the Michigan House bills and were referred to the Senate Agriculture and Bioeconomy Committee.

Although all four bills are still in committee, the legislators are hopeful others will share their enthusiasm.

“Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Michigan and the men and women employed by this industry deserve our support,” Mayes said.

“These new standards will ensure that when people think of Michigan agriculture, they think of quality products.”

Opposing side

Animal rights organizations like Farm Sanctuary feel these standards would be detrimental to Michigan livestock for a number of reasons.

“This legislation would create a council dominated by the agricultural industry,” said Delcianna Winders, Farm Sanctuary’s director of legal campaigns.

“It would also codify the procedures that our organization believes are inhumane, such as animals being able to stand up, lie down and turn around.”

The creation of the council would also strip power from local enforcement and concerned consumers, Winders said.

Proponents of the legislation say the standards are based on scientific research rather than emotion.

In order to ensure legislators and voters hear Farm Sanctuary’s opinions of the new bills, Winders said the organization is taking a number of steps.

“We’re reaching out to our members — both in Michigan and in other states,” she said. “We’ve also submitted written testimony for the legislators to read.”

Winders said Farm Sanctuary will likely work alongside the Humane Society of the United States, similar to their efforts for Proposition 2 in California in 2008.

Winders said the organizations are planning to take advantage of the legislation’s current two-week hiatus to reach out to representatives and senators.

“We believe this legislation will have negative implications, and we’re asking people to oppose it,” she said.

These groups may have their work cut out for them, as this legislation has the support of more than 15 agricultural organizations, including the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“The intent of this legislation is sound, and that’s to guarantee the continued care and ethical treatment of all animals in the food chain,” said Michigan Farm Bureau President Wayne Wood.

“These bills provide a holistic, balanced approach that is good for animals, people, rural communities and our state.”

About the Author

Emily Caldwell of Beaver Falls, Pa., serves as the 2009 Farm and Dairy editorial intern. She is a graduate of Penn State University, where she studied agribusiness and agricultural communications. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emily718. More Stories by Emily Caldwell

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