Buckeye Farm News
“A very historic occasion,” is how Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs described the first official meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
The 13 members of the board, which was established by voters in November, took an oath to serve Ohio and started developing an approach to set standards for livestock care.
Finding Common Ground
After briefings on how they will comply with Ohio’s rule-making process, ethics and public records laws, as well as the open meetings act, the diverse group looked to build upon initial areas of agreement.
Board members discussed factors they must consider when developing standards and started looking into livestock care standards already put in place by other organizations. According to Executive Director Mike Bailey, this step is a starting point for information gathering and research.
Boggs, also serving as the board chairman, cautioned that the board “will not get too far into standards until we hear the public’s say.”
The board has scheduled several public listening sessions around Ohio, the first of which took place in Geauga County earlier this month. More than 100 people showed up to offer opinions on livestock care standards.
“It was a really diverse group, and it did give people an opportunity to share any concerns they had,” said Leah Dorman, director of food programs for Ohio Farm Bureau’s Center for Food and Animal Issues.
The audience included large farmers, small farmers, conventional and organic farmers as well as consumers. Find dates and locations of additional listening sessions.
The board will also have a website with a component for submitting public comment and the ability for Ohioans to sign up for electronic updates on any rules being considered. A representative from the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management will serve as an impartial third-party facilitator of board discussions to ensure an unbiased approach to carrying out the board’s mission.
Plan of Action
During its first meeting, the board developed a general timeline with a goal of recommending standards in the fall and having a prioritized set of species-specific standards approved by the end of 2010.
A framework for technical advisory subcommittees to be set up by Vice Chair Tony Forshey, Ohio’s state veterinarian, was approved by the board. These will serve as the initial work force to compile scientific data and research on animal care and well-being.
Regularly scheduled board meetings will be held every two weeks during the summer beginning June 1.
No standards set by the board will go into place until approved through the formal JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review) rules process.
Boggs said he will seek the approval of $354,187 in Fiscal Year 2010 and 2011 to fund the board (from already existing ODA funds). He said he will also request funding for additional staff to enforce standards in the next biennial budget if necessary. In addition, documentation of all sources of funding and where it’s being directed will be provided.
In response to concerns about a provision allowing the board to receive donations, Boggs made it clear he has no intention of accepting donations from entities regulated by the board or from any organization with members regulated by the board. This decision was formally supported by board members.
Progress on Priorities
Acknowledging the pressures put on the board by outside animal rights activists and a possible ballot initiative affecting the board in the fall, Boggs said it has a “need to show voters of Ohio some progress in a quick amount of time.” Members discussed which issues they considered the most pressing for the public and possibly prioritizing work on standards to reflect this.