For board action from this same meeting, click here.
REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Only a couple board members spoke during the final comment period before adjournment of the Jan. 18 meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
But their message was clear: Ohio needs affordable food, and any new standards should not compromise that affordability.
Board member Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, of Reynoldsburg, asked the board to keep in mind more than 1.9 million Ohioans had to turn to a food pantry the last quarter of 2010. And, one in seven Ohioans relies on the food stamp program.
“Affordability is key,” she said, especially in an economy with “growing food deserts.”
Hamler-Fugitt is executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. She previously served as public policy director and statewide food and nutrition program coordinator for the Ohio Hunger Task Force.
She was not the only one concerned. Dominic Marchese, of Farmdale, said he’s followed some of the interviews with Temple Grandin, animal welfare guru and professor.
Even though Grandin and others would like to see chickens not raised in close confinement, a growing world population makes it necessary, according to Marchese.
“Even she says we would not be able to provide for the low income without (current facilities),” he said.
He produces organic eggs, a product that carries a strong demand, but he admitted, they can cost twice as much as eggs from caged hens, and not everyone can afford the higher premium.
At one point during the meeting, board members debated whether to allow existing battery cage-based farms to expand. The current draft of standards allows for such expansions.
Jeff Wuebker, a swine farmer from Versailles in western Ohio, said the state is already a mess economically, and warned the board about passing anything that would make it worse.
He knows of at least one large producer who cannot come into the state, because of existing regulations. He invited the board to western Ohio, where he lives, to see the competition with neighboring states, especially Indiana.
“They’re (producers) going to choose to go elsewhere, because of the current state of Ohio,” Wuebker said.
Newly appointed Ohio Agriculture Director James Zehringer said the regulations being considered provide stability for Ohio’s agriculture and poultry producers.
To not allow current facilities to expand current practices would have grave consequences.
“The industry would leave the state of Ohio,” Zehringer said.