Ohio seeks bids to sell prison farm beef cattle, farm equipment

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Beef cattle at prison farm.
Beef cattle at an Ohio prison farm.

MANSFIELD, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is seeking bids for an auctioneer to sell 415 head of beef cattle and farming equipment, from the Mansfield prison farm.

Known as the Mansfield Correctional Institution, it is one of about 10 locations the state announced it will close in an April 12 decision, that calls for the closure and sale of Ohio’s prison farms.

Bids to sell the cattle and farm equipment will be opened July 29, according to documents provided by the Ohio Office of Procurement Services. The auction would take place Oct. 28-29, at the Mansfield prison farm.

The herd consists of registered Angus cattle, including breeding stock, some which were shown at the Ohio Beef Expo in Columbus.

Deciding to sell

The Kasich administration determined that not enough inmates were going into farming after leaving prison, and that the prison farms were being used by inmates to bring contraband inside prison walls.

They reasoned the money could better be spent for other forms of rehabilitation.

Prior to the decision, the state owned about 12,500 acres of farmland, 2,300 head of beef cattle and 1,000 dairy cows, and supplied the corrections department most its food needs.

The state is expected to continue operating its meat processing plant, at the Pickaway Correctional Institution, according to The Associated Press.

Dairy cows

The dairy cows were sold in May and June, and netted $1.3 million for the prison system. Sale-related expenses, including the cost to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, for handling the sale, were a little more than $300,000.

Without its cows, the state will need about $2.6 million a year to provide milk for its various correctional facilities, which were previously supplied by state-owned cows.

The cost of buying milk, however, is likely less than the cost of producing it, according to supporters of the deal.

The corrections department also plans to sell or lease most of its farmland, but will need legislative approval to proceed.

Some controversy

The corrections department, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are also the center of a Franklin County lawsuit by the state’s labor union, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which alleges that state employees were not afforded their bargaining rights, and that selling the livestock will disrupt their jobs.

The decision to sell the farms came at a time when the state was in the finishing stages of a $9 million renovation at two of the farms, which included new dairy and beef facilities, and a new dairy milking parlor.

Officials for the state said they have halted those installations, and the farm buildings are being repurposed for other uses within the prison system.

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