This past week House Joint Resolution 2 (Sayre, Ruhl) and Senate Joint Resolution 6 (Gibbs, Wilson) passed in their respective chambers. HJR 2 passed 84 – 13 in the House of Representatives while SJR 6 passed unanimously in the Senate 32 – 0. Both cleared their respective committees on Wednesday unanimously.
This brings Ohio one step closer to a Livestock Care Standards Board ballot initiative, which would allow voters the choice of changing the Ohio Constitution in November. The proposed constitutional amendment, if passed in November, would create a 13-member Livestock Care Standards Board. Between now and the end of the week Ohio lawmakers will be meeting to finalize which version (House or Senate) of the ballot proposal will move forward.
Along with opposition from animal rights groups, the committees heard from various agricultural organizations and Ohio farmers in support of the resolution, with a strong stamp of approval from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF). OFBF board members Kim Davis and Bob Peterson testified before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and Senate Agriculture Committee, respectively. Mike Schumm, also an OFBF board member, submitted written testimony to both committees.
“The importance of agriculture is evident – it is Ohio’s number one industry and contributes over $98 billion to the Ohio economy,” said Adam Ward, acting deputy director of ODA. “A constitutional amendment creating the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is precisely what is necessary to ensure that Ohio voters will get the opportunity to show their support for the care and well-being of food animals produced in Ohio.”
Members of the Board, ten of whom would be appointed by the governor, include the director of the Department of Agriculture and the department’s head veterinarian, family farmers, an agriculture department dean of an in-state college or university, a food safety expert, and others. No more than seven members could be of the same political party.
Other states have implemented constitutional amendments dealing with the treatment of food-producing animals. In the future Ohio will not be able to ensure that locally grown and safely raised food will be available to Ohioans without the opportunity to vote this fall.