PARKMAN, Ohio — Opinions wide and varied were shared at the first public session held by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board in Geauga County May 6.
The meeting began with two break-out sessions focusing on how agriculture is a part of the state’s economy, animal behavior and biosecurity concerns on farms.
State veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey addressed the group in a breakout session after some in the public began questioning the board’s intentions on creating regulations.
“This board doesn’t want to over-regulate. All that will do is shoot up food costs. That is not our goal,” said Forshey.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs reiterated the same sentiment in opening the public session of the meeting.
The board did not answer questions or give opinions during the meeting. Boggs told the crowded room of more than 100 people that they were there to listen to the public, then take that information gathered and create the regulations.
The one concern shared by several people in the audience is the fear that officials will be able to come on their farms, violating the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches.
It was clear many will not be comfortable with public officials entering their property without permission.
And at times, someone from the public would remind attendees the intention of the public session and said the board was not created to cause problems or to be the bad guy in the fight.
“They are here to work for all sides: farmer and consumer. This board is a resource for everyone in Ohio, here to do what is right for everybody,” said Tim Walsh, a resident of Talmadge, Ohio, and Ohio Farm Bureau member.
Loren Ring, of Monroe Township in Ashtabula County, also spoke at the meeting about his dairy farm. He said his family milks 300 Jersey cattle now but it started 50 years ago with 23 Holsteins.
He reminded the board that some regulations will have to be detailed because what works on one farming operation doesn’t work on another.
Ring talked about the tunnel ventilation his dairy facility has, which means a 5 mph wind is constantly running through the barn. This is important to note because he said he supports tail docking in the right environment.
He added the tails on his cattle are docked because it helps to produce a safer milk supply by creating a more sanitary environment. However, he adds his cattle are in the barn with the constant wind, which allows constant ventilation and eliminates the need for a tail to remove flies.
He added, however, tails are needed on dairy cattle in a pasture operation.
“When you have one regulation, you have to keep in mind, it might not work for everyone,” Ring said.
Kevin Fowler, of Rock Creek, Ohio, also addressed the board. He said he has a master’s in ag economics from Ohio State University and has a family farm.
He addressed three problems he sees with livestock regulations and the marketplace.
The first one was that food costs will increase because of regulations the farmer will have to include in costs. The second was the effect of a minimum standard.
Fowler said setting a minimum standard will eliminate livestock that fall below the minimums. However, it will also eliminate the livestock above the standards, because it will no longer be economically beneficial to produce it.
Fowler’s third concern is the effect on consumer choice. The standards will limit the choices available.
Chuck Lausin, a dairy farmer in Thompson Township in Geauga County and member of the Ohio Farm Bureau’s board of trustees, agreed with many in the room that he doesn’t want someone without farm experience coming on his farm and telling him what he can or cannot do with his herd.
He said diversity in the agriculture is a good thing, but farmers must stick together on this issue and find a common ground.
“We in agriculture can’t splinter now when have the biggest threat we have ever had coming at us,” Lausin said.
Jim Comp, a dairy farmer in Dorset Township in Ashtabula County, said his major concern, like many in the audience, was over-regulation.
Comp told the group that his farm operates on a mission statement that says they will take care of every cow, calf and heifer every day. That includes all of their needs, whether it be nutrition, health or the environment.
He added his operation produces a semi-load of milk a day and it is in any farm’s best interest to produce the safest food supply possible because if they don’t, it will simply put them out of business.
Linda Rosen, a resident of Trumbull County, also addressed the group and reminded them that sometimes things happen on a farm and decisions have to be made for the best interest of the animal and the human handling it and that needs to be respected.
Rosen added human life is more valuable than an animal’s life and a farmer can’t be forced to make decisions on the farm during an emergency and worry about the potential fines or consequences, if they are found to not follow regulations of the board.
She told the group instead of educating farmers and producers about how to do their job, the focus should be on consumers.
“Educate the consumers on how food is produced and what goes on at a farm, instead of educating farmers and splintering the community,” Rosen said.