On Nov. 3, Ohioans showed their overwhelming support for local farmers and food safety by voting in support of Issue 2. The proposed Livestock Care Standards Board passed with more than 63 percent of the vote thanks to an inspiring grassroots effort by farmers and ranchers, agriculture organizations, veterinarians and consumers to protect Ohio's agriculture industry.
Issue 2 was designed to prevent activist groups from dictating how food is produced in Ohio. Animal rights groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have worked to pass new regulations for the confinement of farm animals in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon.
Members of Ohio's agriculture community worried if similar measures were enacted in the state, it would cause the cost of food to rise for consumers, increase costs for farmers and reduce the availability of locally raised products. The 13-member board will include three family farmers, two veterinarians (one of whom is the state veterinarian), a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two members representing Ohio consumers.
While this may be a win for agriculture, the battle is far from over. HSUS has already committed to bringing an initiative against modern farming practices to Ohio in 2010. By opposing a multi-disciplined board setting animal care standards and threatening their own ballot initiative to circumvent the board in the future, it's apparent that animal rights groups are more interested in the elimination of animal agriculture than improving animal care. Because Ohio's newly approved farm animal welfare board does not fulfill their political agenda, these activists plan to return with a multi-million-dollar campaign designed to drive producers out of business.
Issue 2 has allowed for meaningful conversations about agriculture to begin between farmers and consumers. This dialogue must continue in order to protect the livelihood of today's farm families. Agriculturists across the country will be watching closely as the new regulatory panel is put to work. Although Ohio has set a new precedent, state agriculture leaders should show caution before using the new board as a model because the needs and political atmosphere of each state vary widely. There may be other effective ways to counter attacks from activists that should be explored.
Reprinted in part from Animal Agriculture Alliance