Strickland shapes fate of ag sector

On June 30, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), announced a compromise affecting Ohio’s agricultural groups.

This agreement terminates HSUS’ initial plan to advocate for an amendment inclusion of animal-care practices in the Ohio Constitution.

HSUS began rallying support for a constitutional amendment to be included on the November ballot about a year ago. HSUS wanted the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt minimum standards that would, “end confinement of animals in cages so small they can't turn around or extend their limbs,” as well as “cruel methods of killing sick or injured animals—to prevent the inhumane treatment of farm animals, enhance food safety, protect the environment and strengthen Ohio family farms.”

This agreement was made a day prior to the planned presentation of 500,000 signatures representing opposition to stop factory farming, to the Ohio secretary of state by an advocacy group, Ohioans for Humane Farms.

Some believe this agreement is good for Ohio agriculture.

“This agreement represents a joint effort to find common ground. As a result, Ohio agriculture will remain strong and animals will be treated better,” Strickland said. “Instead of expending tens of millions of dollars and unproductive energy fighting an acrimonious campaign during the fall, both sides will be able to continue investing in our agricultural base and taking care of animals.”

The actual agreement includes:
  • A ban on veal crates by 2017, which is the same timing as the ballot measure.
  • A ban on new gestation crates in the state after Dec. 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years.
  • A moratorium about permits for new battery-cage confinement facilities for laying hens.
  • A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals.
  • A ban on the transport of downer cows for slaughter.
  • Enactment of legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cockfighters.
  • Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills.
  • Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

In a news release distributed by HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS stated:

"I'm grateful to Governor Strickland and his administration for their outstanding leadership on these issues. This agreement moves us forward on all of the components of the proposed ballot measure as well as other important advances for animals, too. I look forward to working with the legislature and the Livestock Care Board to see these reforms adopted."

OFBF supports the agreement as well. According to Fisher, this agreement helps farmers live up to the promises they made during the November 2009 Issue 2 campaign.

“One of animal agriculture’s most vocal critics has agreed that the Livestock Care Standards Board is the proper authority to handle difficult questions about farm-animal care,” said Fisher. “This is truly a milestone and confirms Ohio’s position as a national leader in farm-animal care.”

Others however, do not have the same enthusiasm as HSUS and OFBF about the agreement. A blog authored by Butch Hash in the Zanesville Times Recorder, mentions his disappointment — a “dark day” in agriculture is how Hash referred to it.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) states that “Ohio's agricultural leadership has succumbed to pressures from HSUS — and the only group to benefit from this agreement is HSUS,” claiming that Ohio family farms will suffer greatly because they do not have the capital to make the move to alternative systems required in the agreement.

The AAA contends that because of the cost of the new compliance, such as new gestation stalls for hogs and new conventional cages for chicken housing, Ohio consumers will face increased prices for local produce or will rely on conventionally produced foods imported from nearby states or elsewhere.

A part of the agreement includes a ban on veal crates — all veal calves in Ohio must be raised in group housing by the end of 2017. Robert Cochrell, president of Beth El Veal, Inc., isn’t sure about the new rules that were put in place by the agreement.

“One of the intended or unintended consequences for the independent veal farmers in Ohio is that they will have two choices: Either cease production and go out of business because of an unsustainable, unproven method of production, or turn to an integrator that will own the calves, pay or finance the conversion and pay the farmer for his investment in labor and facilities,” said Cochrell.

In a recent editorial for The Columbus Dispatch, Cochrell mentioned that studies comparing group housing for calves with individual stalls found that in group pens there was twice the sickness, twice the mortality, increased medication use and poorer growth performance (an indication of the animals ability to thrive) than in individual stalls.

In an article by Brownfield Ag News, Ken Anderson describes farmers as being “dismayed,” and “betrayed.” According to Anderson, farmers across the country agree that HSUS’ primary goal is to abolish animal agriculture.

“I could not agree more with those people,” said Joe Cornely, spokesman for OFBF. “We at Ohio Farm Bureau fully recognize and believe that it is the ultimate goal of the Humane Society of the United States—just as our ultimate goal is to not let that happen. We haven’t given up the battle—we’ve just changed the rules of engagement.”

Do you feel that the agreement made by Ohio agriculture and HSUS is a positive action for Ohio agriculture? Do you think there was another option for Ohio?

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