Sunday, November 8, 2009

President's Editorial

Ohio Voters Endorse Livestock Board
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau

Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure this week creating a livestock care standards board. This victory for livestock interests slams the door on efforts of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) to regulate agricultural practices through voter initiative and may be a wise strategy for other states to follow.

HSUS has already backed ballot measures regulating livestock production that have passed in Florida, California, Colorado and Arizona. Those measures outlaw the use of hog gestation crates, veal production crates and battery cages for laying hens. HSUS is masterful at appealing to the emotions of voters and convincing them that these tools of livestock husbandry are inhumane, when in fact they are scientifically proven methods that increase production and keep food costs low.

After HSUS rolled through California last year easily passing Proposition 2, many in the agricultural sector began to wonder which state they would pick off next. Ohio Farm Bureau and its Buckeye State allies decided to take a proactive approach by creating this livestock regulatory board intended to head off efforts by activist groups that want to impose their agendas on agriculture. And it’s good news that they won by a resounding margin of 64 to 36 percent. But it doesn’t mean HSUS is going away and that’s important for Idaho to keep in mind.

“We believe Ohioans should be in control of Ohio,” said Joe Cornely of the Ohio Farm Bureau. “They (HSUS) are not bashful about dictating from DC. We believe in consumer choice on meat milk and eggs, they advocate veganism.”

Voters should understand that HSUS is not the good folks taking care of stray pets down at the local animal shelter. HSUS is a powerful organization with a vegetarian agenda. Most of their funding is used for political activities while only a small percentage is passed along to animal shelters.

HSUS-backed initiatives have caused livestock production to shift out of states where livestock production restrictions were enacted. That’s unfortunate and we don’t wish added regulations on any state, but Idaho’s economy has benefitted from this action with the establishment of a Hy-Line International chicken production plant in Cassia County. Poultry restrictions in California are likely to continue to entice private companies to move egg, broiler and possibly hog production into other states. With an ample land base and feed production capabilities, Idaho is a prime state for these companies to relocate to. This would bring many opportunities for Idaho farms as well as jobs, tax revenue and diversity to Idaho’s agriculture base.

Ohio voters made a solid statement that acknowledged the role farmers play in caring for farm animals and providing a safe and quality food supply. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is charged with maintaining food safety, encouraging locally grown and raised food and protecting farms and families. The board is made up of 13 members including the director of the state department of agriculture as chairman, and others appointed by the governor to include the state veterinarian, dean of a state university agriculture department, two consumer representatives, one member of a county humane society, one licensed veterinarian, two farm organization representatives and four other appointees. No more than seven members of the board can come from the same political party. The board will establish standards subject to the authority of the state legislature.

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