WOOSTER, Ohio — On the same day Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed the state’s livestock care standard board into law, dairy producers from across the state were reminded of the important work that remains to be done, and the looming threat of animal rights activist groups.
“It’s really important for us as an organization to prepare for and make sure that when we’re called upon as the dairy industry, to talk about what standards we feel are reasonable and acceptable, and things that we know would build confidence in our consumers,” said Scott Higgins, chief executive officer of American Dairy Association Mideast and Ohio Dairy Producers Association.
His comments came during the Ohio Dairy Forum, held March 31 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Higgins reminded producers that the dairy producers association has been involved with the pursuit of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board since the beginning, because dairy is an important part of the livestock sector.
“We decided it was smart for us to lock arms with our other livestock friends, as well as our grain (community), and work hard to set up a system where Ohio could set the pace and set the standards for how we operate … rather than having extremists from other states come in and tell us how it’s going to be done,” he said.
Higgins talked about the Meet Ohio Dairy Farmers campaign — an effort to educate consumers about what goes on at a dairy farm and how products that are sent to grocery stores are made.
The campaign explains facts about Ohio’s dairy industry — including its 3,300 dairy farms and 276,000 dairy cows, and No. 1 national ranking for Swiss cheese.
Midway through the conference, one of many promotional videos was shown, featuring individual Ohio dairy producers and their reasons for producing milk. The video was a project of the association and American Dairy Association Mideast.
Higgins reminded farmers to use the various forms of media, including social media like Facebook, to share their message, because anti-farm groups are using media to share their own.
He also encouraged producers to become involved with, and make suggestions, for candidates they feel should be represented on the livestock care standards board.
In addition to the state board, which ODPA supports, the association also has established its own “cow care committee.” The committee will help form a unified set of dairy standards for the dairy industry, to recommend to the state’s livestock care board.
Its ultimate goal is to “assure consumers that Ohio’s dairy farmers take excellent care of their cows so they can produce safe, high quality, affordable milk and dairy foods.”
The committee includes dairy farmers who represent small, mid and large size farms, various breeds, different styles of management, cooperative members and independent producers.
It also includes practicing veterinarians, academia, allied industry, food services and a dairy processor/manufacturer.
Higgins reiterated the importance of bringing the livestock board together quickly, and effectively.
“We’ve got folks out there that are trying to set up another ballot initiative to come in and predetermine what the outcome of the Ohio care standards board should be,” he said.
“That’s like letting setting a jury trial in motion and then telling the jury what the verdict shall be.”