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Take Care: Farmers say proposed livestock board is good for ag & consumers
Buckeye Farm News
As Ohio faces the question of how to set standards for farm animal treatment, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) is supporting an effort that would ensure all sides of the issue are heard.
The House voted 83-16 and the Senate 31-1 to put a measure on the November ballot that will create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. The board will oversee decisions on how farm animals are treated.
It will comprise a broad base of Ohioans knowledgeable in livestock and poultry care, including family farmers, veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and members representing Ohio consumers.
OFBF and commodity organizations believe the creation of the board is better public policy than the efforts of activists who have launched several expensive campaigns to illegalize specific farm practices one by one.
In testimony to House lawmakers, Kim Davis, a Carroll County farmer and OFBF trustee, said the board would “help Ohio farmers continue to provide excellent care for our animals, while also ensuring safe, affordable and locally raised food.”
In a Senate committee hearing, Fayette County farmer and OFBF Trustee Bob Peterson said animal care is a top priority for Ohio farmers.
“It’s the right thing to do and it keeps our animals safe, healthy and disease-free,” he said.
The only opponent testimony came from a representative of the Humane Society of the United States, a Washington-based animal rights group that has said it wants to launch a campaign in Ohio to ban common farm practices.
The group backed a nearly $10 million initiative in California last year that effectively outlawed chicken cages and individual stalls for sows and veal calves.
Luther Tweeten, an Ohio State University agricultural economist, said if a similar proposal was enacted in Ohio, the state’s egg industry “would be decimated.”
Those hit hardest by these restrictions would be laborers and livestock and crop producers, according to a report by Tweeten. Nearly 8,000 Ohio jobs and associated income could be lost, the report said.
Tweeten noted that food prices for consumers may not rise as surrounding states provide Ohioans with low-cost animal products. However “other states would gain jobs and income at Ohio’s expense as animal products consumed in Ohio would be produced elsewhere."
Chuck Wildman, a seventh generation Clark County grain and hog producer, is one of many farmers whose current animal housing system would be made illegal under a California-type proposal.
He doesn’t like that activists would be pushing Ohioans to vote one time on one day to forever take away everyone’s right to certain foods.
“The Livestock Care Standards Board allows the consumer to say ‘Hey, these issues are being looked at by professionals, they’re being looked at by experts,’” he said. “Isn’t this a more reasonable way to approach the issue?”
Broad efforts support animal care issues
In addition to backing the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, OFBF is working to reach out to consumers on issues of animal care.
On July 20, farmers will unveil a program offering consumers statewide an opportunity to win free groceries for a year. The promotion will feature a Web site that will allow consumers to interact directly with Ohio farmers, virtually tour their farms and learn how they produce safe, nutritious and affordable food.
The promotion is supported by OFBF as well as the Ohio Livestock Coalition, the Ohio Pork Producers, Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Beef Council, Ohio Soybean Council and the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association. It is coordinated through the Center for Food Integrity.
OFBF also collaborated with the Ohio Livestock Coalition, the Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences and Ohio State Extension to help those who have animal projects through 4-H or FFA address the public’s questions about livestock care.
More than 100,000 guides on animal welfare for fairs and exhibitions were distributed to youths throughout Ohio. Included are talking points on numerous animal care issues.
Other efforts involve farmers working to support their local humane societies. In Wayne County, law enforcement and humane officers were trained on proper livestock husbandry practices. Farmers also were active in a recent fund-raiser for the Crawford County Humane Society.
OFBF thanks the following individuals for leading the effort in support of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board: Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland), House Speaker Armond Budish (D-Beachwood), Senate Agriculture Chair Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair John Domenick (D-Smithfield), Senate resolution sponsor Bob Gibbs (R- Lakeville), House resolution sponsor Allan Sayre (D-Dover), Rep. Margaret Ruhl (R-Mt. Vernon), Sen. Jason Wilson (D-Columbiana), Rep. Jim Zehringer (R-Ft. Recovery), and Gov. Ted Strickland