Some thoughts on Issue 2

Issue 2 would “require the state to create the Livestock Care Standards Board to prescribe standards for animal care and well-being that endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect Ohio farms and families.”I don’t comment much on politics, since the Neighborhood Notes are meant for all readers, whether they agree with me or not. But a friend asked me recently what I felt about Issue 2 (the proposal to establish a state board to set livestock-rearing standards) and I had to reply that I knew pretty much nothing about it; neither side has been very talkative. Then I read my favorite column in the Jefferson Gazette (by a retired farmer who gets very crotchety with people who worry about growth hormones in their milk) which restated his frequent assurance that Ohio farmers are dedicated to producing the best and purest food, and went on to declare that the Humane Society of the United States has a concealed agenda of ending animal agriculture and closing down zoos. Which struck me as a bit extreme – and when someone becomes extreme, he becomes less trustworthy..Then I got an email listing the organizations that oppose Issue 2: Ohio Farmers Union, the Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance, League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio League of Humane Voters, and the Ohio Sierra Club, as well as the editorial boards of the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, and Dayton Daily News.To be fair to the other side, the board is to comprise 13 Ohio residents, including representatives of Ohio family farms, farming organizations, food safety experts, veterinarians, consumers, the dean of the agriculture department at an Ohio college or university and a county humane society representative. (Bear in mind that family farms may be of several thousand acres; bear in mind also that not all big farmers keep their chickens in cages “the size of a piece of paper.”)

A retired food animal veterinarian, now farming beef and grain in Tuscarawas County, describes the board’s mission as ”setting standards that will assure Ohio consumers that food grown in Ohio is safe, nutritious, abundant, affordable and raised with excellent livestock care standards.” And it’s supported, according to a presumably accurate Web site, by Governor Ted Strickland, Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland), House Speaker Armond Budish (D-Beachwood), and elected officials and organizations across Ohio.

On the other hand, it’s opposed by the groups I mentioned earlier, of whom the League of Women  Voters would seem the least likely to be biased; Googling the Ohio Farmers’ Union, I learned that they oppose making livestock care a ballot issue on the grounds that it’s expensive and divisive; they’d prefer both sides to come to the table and negotiate. Sounds good to me. So I’m going to vote against Issue 2, because it requires an amendment to the state constitution, which seems a bit of a hammer-to-kill-a-fly; I’m unhappy about the extra antibiotics needed by animals raised in the crowded barns that are needed to maintain the low cost of the American food supply; and I do spare a thought for poor little veal calves. And I don’t see either cattle farms or zoos being closed down any time soon.

You can find lots on both sides by Googling “Ohio Issue 2.” The Secretary of State’s Ballot Board site is particularly useful --

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Volume 1, Issue 3, Posted 4:31 PM, 10.16.2009