Photo: Veal farmer David Troyer speaks to the care board alongside his sons at the April 5 meeting.
Note: To read more about the vote, see our first story by clicking here.
REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — A Sugarcreek veal farmer and his sons are among a host of farmers in Ohio who will be spending the next few months figuring out what new regulations mean for their farm.
The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board voted unanimously at its April 5 meeting to allow veal calves of all ages to be able to turn around after 2017.
It will mean a new system for farmers like David Troyer and his sons, who currently use conventional, non-turn-around stalls.
“The way we’ve got the calves right now, in individual stalls, is the best way to raise the veal,” he said. “It’s better for the calves and it’s more profitable for us.”
Troyer, his wife, and two of his sons attended the meeting in Reynoldsburg and asked the board to take its time making decisions, and be mindful of how new regulations will impact Ohio family farms.
His sons are the sixth generation of family farmers, and he’d like to see more.
“We’d like to stay in this state,” he said, “(but) if there are too many regulations put on us, I’ll let the boys or the next generation decide what they want to do.”
Troyer is not the only farmer who faces change. A petition presented during a February meeting showed more than 30 veal farmers were faced with ending production, or moving to another state, if the care board enacts the standards it’s considering.
The signees reportedly represent half of Ohio’s veal production.
At the recent meeting, board member Dominic Marchese moved to extend the turn-around requirement to June 30, 2020, giving veal farmers 30 additional months to adjust to the new system. He argued that other species were given more time for their phaseout, and veal should be, too.
The phaseout dates were determined by the dates found in the agreement Ohio’s farm groups made with Humane Society of the United States. But Marchese said veal farmers, unlike poultry, swine and dairy, were not included when it was made.
“We’re not really helping these family farm veal producers,” he said after the meeting. “The larger veal producers, (some) not even residing or living on the farm will end up controlling the market when these smaller people give it up.”
Board member Jerry Lahmers, a farmer and veterinarian, was the only other member to support the extension.
“Tethering and narrow stalls are not the culprit some people tend to make them out to be,” he said, further adding that the 2017 date was a “recommendation” of American Veal Association, not a legal requirement.
In contrast, standards set by the Ohio care board “are required,” he said.
“I feel that we need to give them a little more time in the state of Ohio,” Lahmers said. “They (AVA) saw fit to give them 10 years back in 2007; why can’t we see fit to give them nearly 10 years in 2011.”
Loss of individually owned and operated veal farms has been a major concern among producers, especially those who signed the petition. Many of them attended the March 1 meeting to express concerns over converting existing barns, or going out of business.
With the turn-around language reinserted, Marchese supported adding a little more time so farmers could adjust.
“What was it going to hurt, if we can safeguard a farm from going out of business,” he said.
What stood to be hurt, he explained, were the terms of the agreement with HSUS, and the 2017 recommendation by AVA. He argued the board should have done what was best for veal farmers, and not for the politics of the agreement.
Noticeably absent from the call for more time was the voice of the veal subcommittee chairman, Gaylord Barkman.
He said all along that he and his producers are successful with group housing. There’s definitely a cost to convert, and production costs go up, he explained. But he views turn-around housing as veal’s future, if it’s going to have one.
“If we can have a positive model for the consumer to put out and be more proactive, we can engage the consumer,” he said. “We just have a hard time getting a positive message out with a chain around their (calves’) neck.”
Barkman said it takes time and understanding to adjust to a new system, but he feels more producers and the care board are seeing it as the way forward.
Farmers thinking about moving to other states should first look where they’re going, and whether it will be any better.
“Look on both sides of Ohio’s borders,” he said, because he sees turn-around housing becoming the reality.
Board member Leon Weaver suggested someone conduct an economic study documenting the changes in veal housing in Ohio and surrounding states.
“Citizens, consumers and producers of Ohio and calves in Ohio will not have benefited one iota,” he said, and “some will be harmed,” if calves end up being moved to non-turn-around stalls in another state.