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Ohioans have spoken
Buckeye Farm News
Passage of Issue 2 is a landmark step in farmers’ partnership with consumers
“Truly overwhelming” was how Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) Senior Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert described the grassroots activity that supported the Issue 2 campaign.
“This really stands out as one of the high points for grassroots involvement on a political issue,” he said.
Whether it was calling radio stations, posting yard signs or speaking to civic clubs, Stimpert said farmers and their allies were heavily engaged to let consumers know the importance of creating a Livestock Care Standards Board that will provide a comprehensive approach to addressing animal care issues.
Due largely to the local efforts of farmers, Issue 2, which established the board, had majority support in 87 counties and passed by a nearly 2 to 1 margin overall.
Stimpert said Ohio is now at a different place regarding how the state views agriculture.
“Our bond between farmers and consumers is definitely strengthened by this activity,” he said.
Now the work will begin in addressing many of the questions related to how the board will operate including the terms of service of the board members and the scope of its enforcement authority. Issue 2 was intentionally broad in order to allow the specific details of the board to be established via statute, where they can be updated as needed.
OFBF will be working closely with other farm organizations, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, legislators and others to continue the discussion of how the livestock care board should function, Stimpert said. Legislation that contains these details will be passed before the board will begin operating.
Ignoring the wishes of Ohio voters, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal rights organization, has indicated that it must be either its way or no way on issues of animal care in Ohio.
Rather than be part of a comprehensive discussion on livestock care, the Washington, D.C.-based organization announced its plans to force its own restrictive regulations onto farmers via a ballot initiative in 2010. The measure will be similar to the 2008 campaign HSUS successfully pushed in California. It is expected that HSUS will spend as much as $10 million on a smear campaign against Ohio farmers that will bombard voters with horrific images of animal mistreatment in the run-up to the election.
Stimpert called HSUS’ plans ill-advised given the emphatic support that voters gave to creating the Livestock Care Standards Board to oversee animal care policies.
“I think that it’s important that the board be given a fair shot and a time to work and to serve the best interests of Ohioans,” he said.
Stimpert noted that Issue 2 was so successful because it carried an important message to Ohioans.
“Folks got the message of balancing livestock care, an affordable food supply and a safe, local food supply. And we have to think through all of those aspects as we put forth the standards for livestock care,” he said.
While it was unusual for farmers to ask for more oversight, many see the action they took as a model for other states that want to ensure animal well-being while avoiding emotionally driven, inflexible and unreasonable regulations.
“Clearly, Ohio has blazed a bold new trail for other states to follow on the issue of livestock care and well-being,” said Bob Stallman, president of American Farm Bureau Federation. “It is clear that voters in that state know farmers and ranchers share their values regarding the care of farm animals.”
Vote of Confidence:
Nearly 64 percent of voters or about 2 million Ohioans supported Issue 2. The measure passed in 87 counties. The high margin of victory follows a groundswell of grassroots support by farmers who worked hard to engage Ohio consumers.
The Next Step:
Issue 2 established a comprehensive process by which Ohioans will address livestock care issues. Legislation must now be written that details the terms and scope of authority of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board before it can operate.
The Washington D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States is expected to unleash its war chest in a vicious campaign targeting Ohio farmers. The group is seeking to have the final say on how Ohio farmers care for their animals.
Caption: (Left) Delaware County farmer Trish Cunningham drops off an Issue 2 pamphlet at a suburban home. The local, grassroots efforts of farmers played a major role in getting Issue 2 passed. (Right) Ohio State University students hoped Issue 2 would help them have a future in agriculture as they rallied at the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.