Last week’s Drovers Alert carried a story about the upcoming vote on Ohio’s controversial Issue 2, which would amend the state constitution to create an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish standards for the care and well-being of livestock and poultry. One of the goals of such standards is “the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers,” according to the resolution.
Ohio farmers who placed Issue 2 on the ballot claim they are trying to head off attempts by radical animal-rights activists to legislate how food animals are raised. Animal-rights organizations, led by the Humane Society of the United States, claim supporters of Issue 2 want to preserve cruel treatment of animals for the state’s “factory farmers.”
In editor’s comments following the story, it was noted that as America’s seventh most populous state, Ohio is also a major producer of agriculture products, and how voters view animal-welfare issues there may provide a barometer for how other states may decide future issues.
Issue 2 has significant support from agriculture groups, including the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and the Ohio Farm Bureau. Those groups are concerned that animal-welfare regulations could cripple the state’s ag industry. Currently, one of every seven jobs in Ohio is related to agriculture.
However, the comments following the story also noted strong opposition to Issue 2 in Ohio, specifically because Issue 2 would amend the state constitution to prevent potential onerous animal-welfare laws. Editorials from three of the state’s leading newspapers were cited as evidence that Issue 2 has its detractors. The Columbus Dispatch opined: “…government’s agricultural policies should be set by statute, where they can be debated and changed relatively easily through the normal legislative process. Changing the constitution requires a statewide vote of the people, making it an unwieldy tool for day-to-day regulation.”
Our story, and the comments that followed it, drew the ire of some Ohioans and prompted the following letter to Drovers from the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association.
Dear Drovers Editor:
I am very disappointed in the article titled “Ohio Issue 2 criticized as wrong approach” (10/21).
You would think that as “the nation’s oldest livestock publication,” Drovers would realize the importance of State Issue 2 to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and recognize it as an approach that makes sense for all Ohioans. Further, as a publication with the mission of encouraging modern production and business practices for the beef cattle industry, it seems shortsighted for Drovers to so quickly dismiss what is such a critical measure for the future of livestock farmers — and their best modern farm management practices — in Ohio.
The Board would look at all factors impacting farm animal care — from housing to disease prevention, from food safety to biosecurity. Setting standards that are consistent across the state is a much more meaningful and effective way — unlike out-of-state activists’ extremist approaches that are narrowly focused — to ensure the excellent care of Ohio’s livestock and poultry, while also assuring a safe, affordable, locally grown food supply in Ohio.
In addition, including the Board in the state constitution is not allowing the “fox to guard the henhouse.” The Board is designed to work with Ohioans to serve in their best interest. Members elected to the Board will determine how it functions and processes through implementing legislation, which makes the Board even more accountable to Ohio voters. Additionally, the Board will be fully accountable to voters through our elected governor and legislative leaders who will be making the appointments to the Board.
It is for these reasons that a diverse group of Ohio groups and individuals have given their full support to the passage of Issue 2. Our supporters include hunger-relief providers; veterinarians; businesses; members of the farm community; national, state and local elected officials from both political parties; grocers; restaurants; local humane societies; and allied agriculture companies.
Drovers purports to be about connecting with consumers, and in much the same way, these groups with their endorsement have recognized the need to maintain consumer confidence in how food gets from farm to plate. Passage of Issue 2 is an essential part of making that connection.
Issue 2 will benefit all Ohioans — whether farmers or not — because it will ensure that decisions about farm animal care are made by Ohioans, in Ohio. Vote YES for Issue 2.
Ohio Cattlemen’s Association