Idaho follows Ohio’s animal-care initiative

Gov. Ted Strickland recently announced the appointments to Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards Board, and now legislators in the Gem State are attempting to follow suit.

The Idaho Senate has approved S.B. 1330 (24-11), which establishes the Idaho Livestock Care Standards Board. Much like in Ohio, this board will set standards for the care and welfare of farm animals in Idaho. It would be similar in structure to Ohio’s 13-member board comprising the Ohio director of agriculture, a family farmer appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a family farmer appointed by the President of the Senate and other members knowledgeable about livestock animals.

The legislation was introduced as a pre-emptive measure to safeguard the state’s ag sector because of recent actions by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in other farm states.

“When the extreme activists come against the state of Idaho – when, not if – we will be prepared for them. We’re using the right measurements to come up with standards. This board will use science and not emotions or television,” said state Sen. Tim Corder, the bill’s sponsor.

If Idaho is looking to Ohio for guidance and direction, it should take note of Ohio’s decisive actions leading to the institution of its livestock care standards board.

Ohio’s ag-industry members raised awareness for and provided education about the accuracies of livestock and poultry-care practices using grassroots and social-media efforts. Members took advantage of speaking opportunities and were responsive without being domineering.

According to 2009 reports from the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), Idaho has 25,500 farms with 11.4 million acres of its land invested in farm production. It ranks 17th in the nation for the market value of its agricultural products. The value of its livestock and poultry was almost $3.4 million, with cattle being the state’s leading livestock commodity.

On March 1, the Idaho legislature deemed cockfighting operation punishable with up to five years in prison and $50,000 in fines. It would also boost fines for misdemeanor animal cruelty and torture to a maximum of one year in jail and $9,000 in fines. On the coattails of this legislation came the issue of animal-care oversight.

In a Feedstuff’s article, Corder said the board is needed in anticipation of egg producers relocating their operations from California, where conventional egg production will become illegal because of a 2008 HSUS ballot measure. Idaho has promoted the state to California egg producers, and Corder said Idaho needs to set standards before HSUS attempts to influence animal-welfare laws on the state.

"We'll see Idaho agriculture on the television at six o'clock," said Corder. "It's a lot more comfortable if we have this in place than six months from now when we have 10 million chickens and HSUS on television."

Lisa Kauffman, the Idaho director for the Humane Society, voiced her opposition to the proposed board in The Oregonian, "A livestock board is basically the fox watching the hen house," Kauffman said. "The bottom line is, the hens are the ones that are suffering."

According to Idaho Reporter, state Rep. Tom Loertscher is opposed to the bill because a portion of the money collected from offenders is allocated to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and local law enforcement.

“Loertscher said he agreed that fines for animal abuse should go up, but wanted to change what would be an incentive program to go after animal abusers. Loertscher said the livestock industry raised objects to parts of the changes to state law that might require animals to be tagged with radio frequency ID tags. Many ranchers prefer branding their animals. Loertscher also said some objected to language that would label not providing adequate medical care for animals as abuse. ‘That’s way too broad of a term to use in the livestock industry,’ he said.”

The bill still needs to be approved by the Idaho House to take effect. Other states with pending animal-care board legislation include Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.

Do you think Idaho is thinking strategically for the best interests of its ag community, or is Idaho “jumping on an ag-legislation bandwagon?” Do you think Idaho’s House of Representatives will approve the bill?

*Photo obtained from NASS.

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