REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the July 27 meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board spent considerable time addressing the recently formed agreement in Ohio that recommends certain livestock care practices be adopted.
The agreement, which was signed by Ohio’s major agriculture groups, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle, outlines a number of negotiated reforms and ultimately prevents a contentious ballot initiative from appearing on the fall ballot.
The board began the meeting with member input, most of whom spoke favorably of the provisions, clearly stating, however, that they maintain their own governance and independence from the bargaining that went on.
“When this first came out, there was a lot of different interpretations and reactions to this,” said Ohio Director of Agriculture Robert Boggs, who also is chairman of the livestock care board. “We (the board) were not part of this agreement, we did not participate in this agreement and in no way is our authority undermined by the agreement.”
Still, many board members expressed they’re content with the agreement, and what it accomplished for the state.
“My initial reaction was that the rug had been pulled from underneath us,” said Robert Cole, board member from Gahanna. “But as I look at it now, I think it’s a blessing in disguise.”
A blessing, he said, because it takes some pressure off the board, prevents a ballot initiative and gains the support of HSUS, for the work of the care standards board.
Board member Jeff Wuebker, a swine farmer from Versailles, said he’s talked to poultry producers and consumers who support the agreement, because it gives them better sight into where the industry is headed.
“They feel this allows them to move forward and plan accordingly,” he said, adding that construction projects and five-year plans can now be completed — the same with pork farms. “I think it can set Ohio up as a leader, I think it will.”
Bobby Moser, agriculture dean for the Ohio State University, said he welcomes additional research that will likely be done as a result of the agreement.
“The research may reveal something that’s much different or much better,” he said.
Jerry Lahmers, board member from Newcomerstown, reminded the board of its separation from the agreement, even though the recommendations others agreed to are being considered.
“We are still a separate entity and our integrity is intact and we are not mandated to do anything (with this). But in the same process we need to remember the eight things that were in the ballot initiative that were in House Bill 414,” he said. “Those are the things that we’re mandated to operate on.”
Midway through the meeting, Boggs announced breaking news that all parties had officially signed the agreement, which is not legally binding, but provides good faith promises by the signees.
The board raised multiple questions about the proposals, including the timeline to enact some regulations by the close of the year. Boggs said it would ultimately be up to those on the agreement as to what they will accept, but said the board will make good-faith efforts to consider the recommendations in a timely manner.
Other questions dealt with definitions, such as what a “battery cage” really is, and how cages such as the larger, “enriched cage” may be viewed.
No votes were taken on the recommendations, but the board indicated it will use the recommendations in evaluating its own drafts of animal care standards.
“These recommendations will be looked at as other recommendations are looked at,” said State Veterinarian Tony Forshey, who currently is working with the board and its subcommittees to develop standards on euthanasia and downer animals.