Making Good on Issue 2

Ohioans’ approval of State Issue 2 in November, 2009 was a strong statement of support for having a broad and transparent discussion about animal care issues.

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, voters favored creating a Livestock Care Standards Board that, in conjunction with the Ohio General Assembly, will prescribe standards for farm animal care that also protect Ohio’s farmers, families and food supply.

The measure was strongly supported by Ohio’s farm community, which recognized that consumers increasingly want assurances that farm animals in Ohio are treated well. More than 500 state organizations and local leaders also backed the measure.

“Our bond between farmers and consumers is definitely strengthened by this activity,” said Keith Stimpert, Ohio Farm Bureau’s senior vice president of public policy.

The farm community felt that Ohio would be best served when animal care standards are established by knowledgeable Ohioans after a comprehensive, public discussion about all aspects of the issue, Stimpert explained. Compare this to out-of-state activist groups that have worked to push short-sighted, impractical and poorly thought out rules through multi-million dollar television campaigns that attack the integrity of farmers.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a Washington D.C.-based animal rights organization that is not the parent of local humane societies, is clearly upset that it may not get the final say about how farmers care for animals.

Rather than be part of the state’s comprehensive discussion on animal care standards, the group is expected to spend up to $10 million on a ballot initiative this year to counteract the wishes of Ohio voters so it can force its own narrow regulations onto Ohio farmers.

Stimpert said HSUS’ plans for a ballot initiative are ill-advised given the emphatic support that Ohioans gave to the establishment of a Livestock Care Standards Board that allows all stakeholders to contribute to the discussion.

“I think it’s important that the board be given a fair shot and time to serve the best interests of Ohioans,” he said.

Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards Board will be composed of family farmers, consumers, farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agricultural college, a food safety expert and a local humane society representative who will carefully deliberate on issues under the public eye.

But before the board can begin working, the legislature must write laws that spell out how it will operate, including the terms of service of the board members and their appropriate authority. Issue 2’s language as a constitutional amendment was intentionally broad in order to allow the details of the board to be established by legislators, who can update laws and regulations as needed.

Ohio Farm Bureau will be involved as this legislation is developed to ensure that the board lives up to its promises to both Ohio farmers and consumers.

After Issue 2 was passed, Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher sent a letter to major Ohio newspapers encouraging all Ohioans to remain involved in this public process.

“Engage with your state senators and representatives as they write the legislation that will determine the board’s functions and processes. Offer suggestions on qualified individuals whom the governor, House speaker and Senate president might consider for appointment to the board. Participate in the public dialogue that will help guide the board,” he said.

Fisher concluded that the Livestock Care Standards Board will be at its best “only with your engagement.”

Livestock care board FAQs
Who will be on the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board?
•    The director of the Department of Agriculture (chairman)
•    3 family farmers
•    2 veterinarians (including the state veterinarian)
•    2 consumers
•    2 representatives of statewide farm organizations
•    A food safety expert
•    The dean of an Ohio agricultural college
•    A local humane society representative

How will the board be appointed?
The governor, with Senate approval, will appoint 10 members. The House speaker and Senate president will each appoint a family farmer.

How long will board members serve? How will the board function and what will its authority be?

These issues are currently being discussed by the legislature and will be established via statute.