As Nov. 3 approaches, advocates and opponents of Ohio’s State Issue 2 are campaigning to promote their beliefs about the proposed constitutional amendment to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
The 13-member board, comprising three farmers, two veterinarians (including the state veterinarian), a food-safety expert, a local humane-society expert, two statewide farm-organization members, an Ohio agricultural-college dean, two Ohio consumers and the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, will create and regulate standards regarding:
- Agricultural best management practices
- Disease prevention
- Animal morbidity/mortality data
- Food-safety practices
- The protection of local, affordable food supplies
Gov. Ted Strickland will appoint all board members except two family farmers, who will be elected by leaders of the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate.
The amendment originated as a response to threats from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to initiate legislation in the Ohio Constitution similar to California’s Proposition 2 last November, which banned animal confinement.
According to the HSUS Web site, “Issue 2 is little more than a power grab by Ohio’s agribusiness lobby. The industry-dominated ‘animal care’ council proposed by Issue 2 is really intended to thwart meaningful improvements in how the millions of farm animals in Ohio are treated on large factory farms.”
Many farmers and agribusinesses throughout the state have rallied, using mass-media and grassroots efforts, for the amendment, angered by blanket statements that all farmers mistreat their livestock and by attempts from the out-of-state activist organization (HSUS) to establish laws within their industry.
“The Livestock Care Standards Board will have the best interest of Ohio agriculture and consumers in mind, “ said Brenda Hastings, a Geauga County dairy farmer, “as opposed to special interest groups such as HSUS who are motivated by promoting their agendas of a vegetarian/vegan society.”
Gov. Strickland, Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee and many agricultural groups, including Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Growers Association, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Pork Producers Council, Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio Wheat Growers Association, endorse its passage.
Some opponents consider the amendment a dangerous precedent because, in their opinion, it concedes to the influence of special interests in the Constitution. Others believe it is masking agribusinesses in the guise of impartial counsel.
At Columbus Underground.com, one citizen blogger wrote:
“One of the common objections is adding another layer of government control over our lives. This is valid, but the alternative of activist control from Washington DC seems worse. Issue 2 is real simple; do you want Local Control or Washington Control. Control seems inevitable. Pick the lesser of two evils. A vote Yes will establish welfare and food safety rules based on research and data; a vote No will be a YES vote to activist control next year with no research or data as backing.”
As the days draw near, editorial after editorial can be found within Ohio’s largest daily newspapers, with farmers, consumers and editorial boards giving their two cents about the subject.
“HSUS, PETA and MERCY have chased pork productions out of three states and have Ohio in their sights. That makes a campaign and a ballot issue “necessary” to spread good, accurate information,” said Ralph Dull in a Dayton Daily News letter to the editor.
On Election Day, voters will have the opportunity to influence the mechanics of their food system. A “yes” vote for Issue 2 gives regulatory and oversight control of Ohio’s food supply to representatives with the education and history necessary to carry out such responsibility. A “no” vote may make Ohio’s farmers vulnerable to HSUS-invoked legislation that will significantly affect their ability to produce an abundant, affordable food supply.
Be informed before casting your ballot. Ask questions and take time to learn about what’s at stake for Ohio’s largest industry.