REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will begin today what its members hope will be an effective communications effort to educate producers and consumers about the newly adopted standards of animal care.
At a midsummer meeting July 19, the board noted that all of its standards except veal and poultry have cleared the rule making process and are a few weeks from becoming effective rules.
New rules proposed in Ohio must first be approved by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review — a committee comprised of state legislators who decide, based on set criteria, whether a new rule is acceptable and if there are any conflicts with other state rules.
The veal and poultry documents had been temporarily pulled from JCARR consideration in the last couple weeks for further review, but both were expected to have been fully re-submitted within a few days.
Today, Ohio Department of Agriculture staff will facilitate invitation-only webinars designed to instruct the major farm organizations and suppliers of farm information, on how to best educate the public and farmers about the new rules.
ODA Communications Director Andy Ware said the webinars are intended for “key resource people” in the farm community, including outreach programs like Ohio State University Extension.
Beginning in August, ODA staff will hold five public informational sessions related to the new standards for farmers, veterinarians and livestock haulers. The sessions all run from 6-8 p.m. and will be held in Allen, Highland, Mercer, Muskingum, and Wayne counties.
ODA staff also is planning to have a presence at the Ohio State Fair and Farm Science Review, where information about the new standards will be available.
The new standards will apply to more than just farmers and farm businesses.
“Ohio’s livestock care standards affect all persons raising or caring for one or more head of livestock raised for human food or fiber, and anyone raising or caring for equine animals in the state,” according to an ODA release.
The poultry layer standards were pulled and reviewed at a July 6 subcommittee meeting, due to some concern over the definition of an “existing farm.” The layer subcommittee and the board approved new language on July 19, clarifying that existing poultry farms can add on, remodel or rebuild, but the project must be on the same farm acreage, or contiguous land to the existing operation.
Board member Jeff Wuebker discussed the importance of allowing existing operations to make repairs and improvements, especially following fire or other unforeseen events.
“(The amendment) adds clarity to what we had before and it allows an existing farm to do what it needs to do in the future,” he said.
The board cast unanimous approval to refile the layer standards with JCARR. The layer standards are expected to be on the August JCARR agenda could become effective as early as Sept. 1.
Comments were briefly made about a recent poultry agreement between United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States to recommend to the federal legislature, policy that would require a nationwide phaseout of close confinement cages, and a shift to enriched cages.
Ohio Agriculture Director James Zehringer and a representative of the poultry subcommittee, said they’re aware of the agreement, but will continue to focus on state issues.
“Many of the provisions in that particular agreement we’ve already developed into our standards, so we’re going to continue on with what we do here in Ohio and if something happens nationally we’ll deal with that later,” Zehringer told the board.
Veal standards were pulled at the July 11 JCARR hearing to address additional questions and concerns of JCARR members. Those standards were resubmitted July 13.
“The veal housing rules were withdrawn briefly at JCARR so the ODA officials could provide additional information to JCARR,” said Bill Hopper, chief legal counsel for ODA.
Veal subcommittee member Bob Cochrell had raised concerns during the July 11 JCARR hearing, alleging that several of the rule-making criteria were violated with regards to the current proposal for veal standards.
Cochrell was not present at the July 19 board meeting, but Mercy for Animals activist Corey Roscoe encouraged the board to keep with the unanimous decision it reached April 5, to allow veal calves to be able to turn around.
The veal standards are expected to reappear on the JCARR agenda during an Aug. 1 hearing.