Ohio studies livestock care ballot initiative

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SALEM, Ohio — Lawmakers are considering an amendment to Ohio’s constitution that will create and enforce guidelines for proper care of livestock and poultry.

A joint resolution between the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives — which has the support of most major agricultural organizations in Ohio — would authorize language on the ballot this November and, if passed, would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, a 13-member board responsible for implementing proper guidelines. Votes could come as early as this week.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has already announced his support of the amendment.

“This effort will help further the mission of Ohio farmers to provide high-quality, locally grown food,” Strickland said.

“The board will ensure that Ohioans continue to have access to a safe and affordable local food supply and will make our state a national leader in the level of animal care and responsibility.”

“This amendment is about the agricultural industry taking a proactive stance about a safe, high-quality food supply,” said Ohio Sen. Bob Gibbs of the 22nd District, who first introduced the legislation.

Gibbs, along with Sen. Jason Wilson of the 30th District, will attempt to pass the amendment through the Senate either this week or next.

The amendment must be passed by a three-fifths majority of the House and the Senate. If it does, it will then be submitted on the Nov. 3 ballot to Ohio voters.

About the board

The 13 members of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board would include the Ohio director of agriculture, a family farmer appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a family farmer appointed by the President of the Senate.

The remaining 10 members, to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, would include a member representing family farms, a member with knowledge of Ohio food safety, two members representing a statewide farm organization, a veterinarian licensed in Ohio, the Department of Agriculture’s State Veterinarian, the dean of agriculture at an Ohio college or university, two members representing Ohio consumers and one member representing a county humane society.

The board would be charged with establishing and implementing livestock and poultry care standards, with enforcement by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Support

Along with Gov. Strickland, many agricultural organizations have announced their support of this legislation.

“We applaud [those] supporting this measure because it underscores what we already know — caring for our birds keeps them healthy, keeps our food safe and keeps nutritious eggs and poultry foods affordable for consumers,” said Jim Chakeres, executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association.

Those making similar public statements include Thomas Fleming of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Elizabeth Harsh of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, and Dick Isler of the Ohio Pork Producers Council.

Sandy Kuhn, executive director of the Ohio Livestock Coalition, said the proposal would protect Ohio’s family farms.

“A board of experts in farming, animal care, food safety and animal science is the right body to make Ohio-based decisions that affect our farms and our ability to continue producing safe, local food for Ohioans,” she said.

Opposition

Despite the overwhelming support from the agricultural industry, one group opposes the amendment — the Humane Society of the United States.

“This is very much a ‘fox guarding the hen house’ situation,” said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign.

“Because of the proposed industry-dominated board, it is poor public policy, and we believe voters should not support the amendment.”

Shapiro said other states have dealt with similar matters through statues, and he regards Ohio’s attempt to amend the state constitution as unnecessary and said it contains hidden motives.

“It’s essentially a hand-out to big agribusinesses,” he said.

Earlier this year, representatives from the Humane Society of the United States, including CEO Wayne Pacelle, met with Ohio’s agricultural industry leaders. The HSUS representatives explained they wanted to eliminate poultry cages, veal crates and gestation stalls and that they were willing to take the issue to the ballot.

Upon hearing Gov. Strickland’s support of the legislation, Pacelle issued a statement, explaining his disapproval of the legislation.

Pacelle said Ohio Farm Bureau had refused to respond to the society’s initial proposal and are now implementing a “favored oversight system” into the state constitution.

“If Ohio agribusiness groups do not agree to some restrictions, the HSUS is prepared to launch a statewide ballot initiative campaign for November 2010 to ensure that animals on factory farms are given enough room to turn around and extend their limbs,” he said.

Different approach

Ohio Farm Bureau Senior Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert said the proposed amendment is the collaborative, widespread effort of many Ohio agricultural organizations.

“We think it’s proactive and positive and all interests will be served,” he said. “This is a straightforward proposal, opening up the floor for open and transparent discussion about agricultural practices today.”

Although Ohio Farm Bureau’s new Center for Food and Animal Issues was not directly involved in the development of the legislation, Stimpert is hopeful the center will be able to educate consumers and increase consumer confidence without the need for an expensive campaign.

If the measure reaches the Nov. 3 ballot and a majority of voters approves the proposal, it would take effect immediately.

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

6 Comments

  1. Former Ag Teacher says:

    Of course Pacelle and Shapiro oppose this ballot initiative. It does everything they hate.

    The initiative would allow farmers the freedom to practice science based animal husbandry.

    It would put experienced and knowlegable (instead of emotion driven)people in charge of setting animal care standards.

    The initiative would thwart the unholy HSUS goal of giving animals status equal to humans.

    But worst of all for Pacelle and Shapiro, the initiative would marginalize their disengenuous clammoring for heavy handed, ill-advised laws. And that would kill fund raising for HSUS.

    Good job Ohio legislators.

  2. meat eater says:

    “Wayne” and “Ingrid” will oppose any laws until there aren’t any domestic animals left.
    They’d rather have you eat veggies that have been sprayed with pestizides than drinking any milk or eating any meat.
    They won’t stop before they’ve taken over the government. Bye bye Mr. Obama eating burgers in the future.
    Great job Ohio, I wish other States would not be intimidated by HSUS and PeTA.
    And let them spend the 10 mio. campaign, less money in their pockets, way to go.

  3. maggie b says:

    If HSUS is against it, I’m for it! We are heart and soul for animal agriculture, farmers, hunters and dog breeders!

  4. Don Neeper says:

    My concern with this proposed “Livestock Care Standards Board” is that it will have the authority to mandate any kind of new administrative rules concerning livestock or poultry, which will then be enforced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. I am a shareholder in a small dairy herd managed by a family that employs traditional agricultural practices – radical notions like letting cows eat grass and allowing chickens to roam freely over their pastures. They purchased a number of old school and church busses on eBay, converted them into mobile chicken coops and now haul them around the farm to allow the chickens to clean up the pastures once the cows have finished grazing. While my farmer is now able to make a very decent living through his herdshare and local food co-operative, he isn’t swimming in money by any means and often has to take creative and unusual approaches to solving farm & business problems. My fear is that this proposed board can easily become dominated by members representing large conventional confinement dairies or large-scale growers, who can then mandate business practices and require specific infrastructure and equipment that is un-affordable to true small family farms.

    My point is that our Ohio small family farmers have already come up with best practices that work for each of them, and those of us urbanites who are involved in the local food movement know our farms and only purchase from those that do employ humane and traditional practices. A “one size fits all” approach that will be inevitably applied by a state governing board over time will always tend to favor the large producers who have the most political clout and will hurt the true small family farms it is charged with protecting.

  5. Bernice S. says:

    Emily- After getting news from a fellow 4-H adviser of this issue I was thankful that you had information to help me better understand the stance of HSUS-Humane Society of the United States and their apparent opposition to this up-coming joint resolution.

    Having children in 4-H, who enjoy producing live stock projects, it concerns me that HSUS non-understanding of Genesis 1:26b may affect how the 4-H kids are allowed to complete their yearly live stock projects on the family farms across Ohio. It does not sound like the HSUS will be benefiting the nutritional needs of Ohio families and based on your article they don’t seem concerned about safety issues that are raised when you have live stock running around without boundaries. – Bernice

    P.S. Did you know the HSUS has won over, formal extreme animal cruelty expert, Michal Vick as one of their spokes persons.

  6. Bill Hoag says:

    In terms of livestock producers, if these producers know how to raise and care for their livestock,what’s the need to change the Constitution?? I haven’t ever seen a veternarian in this State who knows livestock, they are dead, retired or went to the dogs and cats literaly. My point there’s a shortage and this shortage will grow. Whoare the experts? tThe producers are the experts. Continue regulating livestock production in this state, producer will liquidate,just like they have in New York and Pennsylvania, particularly dairy operations. Ohio legislators should spend more time working on balancing this almost bankrupt state’s budget then changing the constitution and listening to lobbyists that have the interests of a few instead of the majority. Can’t wait until the next election to vote these legislators out.

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