Without Issue 2, emotionally-driven regulations loom over all farmers

Buckeye Farm News

The applause that followed punctuated the launch of perhaps the most important grassroots campaign Ohio farmers have ever undertaken as they seek to pass Issue 2 this November.

At stake: Who will decide what farmers can and can’t do as they care for their animals? And how will these standards be determined?

Criticism is being heaped onto farmers from all directions. A recent Time magazine cover story described it this way: “The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans.”

With high-profile criticism, regulations are sure to follow.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal rights group, has already said it will push to illegalize chicken cages and stalls for sows and veal calves in Ohio. But many doubt they will stop there.

HSUS heavily promotes vegetarianism as it criticizes farmers’ approach to nearly all sectors of livestock farming, any of which could be the next target of emotionally-driven regulations.

“I will always ask the question, do you really want to leave this debate to be decided piece by piece at the ballot box and at the mercy of 15 second sound bytes and horrific pictures of our worst mistakes,” said OFBF President Brent Porteus, a Coshocton County grain and cattle farmer.

Particularly alarming is the impact that poorly thought out regulations would have on smaller farms  that are unable to absorb new costs. And those who say the resulting higher food prices should be tolerated seem to ignore harsh facts such as 500,000 children in Ohio are currently hungry or at-risk of hunger.

Porteus said many common practices could be questionable to consumers whose only interaction with animals is a family pet. He suggested that cattle farmers may one day face a requirement that all beef calves must be born in a warm, dry environment, or dairy farmers may be criticized for taking a calf away from its mother and diverting its natural food source.

With a more than $100 million budget, HSUS is well-positioned to run effective campaigns that misrepresent farmers and exploit voters’ good intentions.

“Unchecked and unchallenged it will change our opportunity to provide meat, milk and eggs and safe affordable nutrition for our community and our country, and the opportunity for our kids and their kids to do the same,” Porteus said.

Farmers say Issue 2 will inject balance and reason into the debate. The measure ensures that animal care standards would be established by Ohioans who are knowledgeable about livestock farming and who will consider all aspects of the issue, such as animal well-being, food safety, food prices and the impact on farmers and consumers. This would be done through a 13-member Livestock Care Standards Board that includes farmers, veterinarians, a food safety expert, the dean of an agricultural college, consumers and a local humane society representative.

But HSUS has refused to accept any outcome in which farmers fail to bow to their demands.

“Nobody else is allowed to have a say in this issue. (Animal rights groups) want to be the only spokespersons,” said Keith Stimpert, OFBF senior vice president of public policy. “But that’s very frustrating. In the pluralistic society that we live in, everybody needs to be at the table.”

Stimpert said that’s what Issue 2 will accomplish.

Vote Yes of Issue 2

Take action to support the campaign

The campaign to support Issue 2 will gather momentum as Election Day approaches, but grassroots efforts are already under way. Here’s how to get involved.

Issue 2 Action Checklist:

  • Tell five people to vote “Yes” on Issue 2 because it will ensure safe, quality, locally grown food for Ohioans, strong family farms in Ohio and excellent care for animals.
  • Register to vote, vote early and encourage others to do the same. In Ohio, voters can cast absentee ballots from Sept. 29 through Election Day on Nov. 3. During last year’s presidential election, nearly 1.5 million Ohioans signed up to take advantage of Ohio’s early voting opportunity. It’s important that these voters say “Yes” to Issue 2, so get the word out now and secure as many “Yes” votes as possible before Election Day.
  • Visit the campaign Web site www.ohiolivestockcare.com and sign up for the campaign newsletter for updates on campaign activities. Visit the “Resources” section for fact sheets, talking points and other materials.
  • Support the Ohioans for Livestock Care Political Action Committee by donating on the campaign Web site or sending a check to Ohioans for Livestock Care, 280 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio, 43215.
  • Contact your county Farm Bureau to see how you can get involved in local outreach efforts.
  • Be creative. Paint “Yes on Issue 2” on your barn. Carve it into a cornfield. Share your pictures and stories of how you plan to support Issue 2 with other farmers from around Ohio at www.facebook.com/ohiofarmbureau.

In the coming weeks, regional rallies will be held throughout Ohio in support of Issue 2. Check the campaign Web site for dates and locations.

Paid for by Ohioans for Livestock Care PAC, John C. Fisher, Treasurer, 280 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215.

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