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Ohio Farm Bureau Details Pro-active Effort on Animal Care

SEATTLE, January 10, 2010 – Fresh from an Election Day victory, the Ohio Farm Bureau shared with farmers and ranchers from around the country its pro-active strategy to take ownership of the farm animal care issue and knock down an attempt from an out-of-state activist group to impose its agenda on the state’s livestock and poultry growers.

Speaking at a conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91st annual meeting, Brent Porteus, OFB president, explained how the state’s farmers and ranchers didn’t miss a beat last February when Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS) let them in on its plans to compel the state’s producers to change animal husbandry practices by one of two ways, ballot initiative or legislation.

“In our opinion, HSUS’ goals did not have Ohio farmers, Ohio consumers and perhaps even Ohio animals’ best interests at heart,” said Porteus.

OFB and a broad coalition of state agriculture groups beat HSUS to the punch, supporting legislation for a ballot measure that would create a 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

Passed by the General Assembly and then by the voters on Nov. 3, Issue 2, as the ballot initiative came to be known, created a board tasked with overseeing standards for how farm animals are treated. It will include Ohioans knowledgeable in livestock and poultry care, including family farmers, veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, representatives from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and members representing Ohio consumers.

The ballot measure was very specific about who would be on the board, how they would be appointed, what their terms of service would be, the board’s relationship with the General Assembly, the implementing legislation and guidelines for the board’s decisions, explained Adam Sharp, OFB senior director of legislative and regulatory policy.

“There are a lot of criteria for the board members to consider in setting standards,” he said. “We didn’t want to give them a blank slate.”

Both Sharp and Jack Fisher, OFB executive vice president, stressed the importance of the unity of the agriculture community in passing the ballot measure. Agriculture also gained support on both sides of the political aisle, with state Democrat and Republican parties on board.

Ohio farmers’ all-out effort to pass Issue 2 was spearheaded by the Ohioans for Livestock Care Political Action Committee. OFB served on the steering committee. The group reached out to the state’s voters in every way possible, including automated phone calls, direct mail, television radio and online advertising, social media, yard signs and billboards.

Sharp recalled, “People said to me, ‘You know, HSUS is portraying this as a big farmer/little farmer issue, but I look to in one direction and farmer Becky and farmer John have [Vote YES on 2] yard signs and in the other direction farmer Dave has the same sign. I’m going to stick with them.’”

And for the most part, voters did, passing Issue 2 with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Voters also took to OFB’s messages about the value of safe, high-quality locally grown food; farmers’ pride in the care they take of their animals, the importance of maintaining the state’s farms and the need to keep Ohioans in charge.

“Ohio consumers didn’t want someone from Washington, D.C., telling them what to do,” said Sharp.

OFB and Ohioans for Livestock Care waited fewer than 24 hours after Election Day to begin planning for 2010.

“We moved right on,” Sharp said. “This is a long-term campaign.”

First on the group’s agenda is getting the implementation legislation passed. Sharp said they hope to have that bill moving quickly through the General Assembly.

Fisher, cautioning that producers’ involvement on the animal care issue doesn’t end with food animals, left the group with a task.

“Do something,” he said. “You heard about our way in Ohio. Figure out what works in your state, what works for your farmers and ranchers.”

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Contacts: Tracy Taylor Grondine
(202) 316-6377
tracyg@fb.org
Mace Thornton
(540) 846-0263
macet@fb.org