SEATTLE (OFBF) – American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman told Farm Bureau members at the organization’s 91st annual meeting that Ohio Farm Bureau’s Issue 2 success was an example of “a new attitude” to be assumed in agriculture. Later that afternoon, OFBF leaders and staff critical to Issue 2’s success explained how others can follow in the state’s footsteps.
Through what OFBF President Brent Porteus termed an “atypical and proactive approach,” Ohio agriculture groups successfully stood up to animal rights activists in the first round of what he believes will be a long-term battle to determine the care of livestock in the state. Porteus said Issue 2, which creates the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to determine how livestock and poultry in the state are raised, was a “pivotal moment for Ohio agriculture,” and that agriculture unity was the key to its success.
“When you get farmers wound up, it’s amazing what we can do and the energy you can generate,” said OFBF Senior Director of Legislative Policy Adam Sharp, who explained that Ohio consumers weren’t too keen on “out-of-state activists coming into the state and trying to tell Ohioans what to do.”
Sharp said farmers used up their allotment of 50,000 yard signs, made their own creative signs and volunteered to walk city streets to hand out literature and discuss the issue with consumers during a strong grassroots campaign. “It made a big difference for consumers to hear from a real farmer instead of a hired college kid” in a campaign such as Issue 2, he said. He said because farmers were able to take control of the animal care message, it forced Issue 2 opposition to have a different approach than what has been successful for them before, creating a message that didn’t resonate as well with Ohio consumers.
Despite the victory, Sharp said OFBF didn’t take much time to celebrate. Because Issue 2 does not block animal rights groups trying to change animal care standards in the state, he expects them to return this year, specifically the Humane Society of the United States. “We started planning for the next year less than 24 hours after Issue 2 passed,” he said. “This is a long-term commitment.”
OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher told Farm Bureau members that now is the time to do something in regards to animal care in their states, and that it is time to take a national proactive approach to the issue.
“It is our responsibility to speak up and help consumers understand the animal rights mission,” he said. “It’s our challenge to listen, engage and respect the animal rights movement and consumers, then go ahead with our messages.”
Fisher suggested agricultural groups in states have discussions and come to conclusions about the issue to find out what methods work best for them.
Again, he stressed the importance of all of agriculture being on the same page. “It’s agriculture’s collective challenge to work together. Animal rights groups are most successful when they divide us,” he said.
Porteus urged farmers to seize the chances before them. “We have an opportunity to take ownership of the animal care debate and to take away the one-sided debate of the issue.”
Implementing legislation to set specifics of the Livestock Care Standards Board is currently being drafted and should be introduced quickly, said Sharp.
Additional Annual Meeting Coverage
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