Issue Two is a proposed Constitutional amendment to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which will prescribe standards for animal care and well-being. This Board would perform these functions to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food and protect Ohio farms and families.
The Board would establish standards after considering agricultural best management practices, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity/mortality data, food safety practices, and the protection of local, affordable food supplies.
The bi-partisan Board would be comprised of 13 members with expertise in farming, animal care, and food safety issues, and chaired by the director of the state department that regulates agriculture. The Governor would appoint ten members of the Board, as follows:
- One representing family farmers
- One knowledgeable about food safety in Ohio
- Two representing Ohio farming organizations
- One who is a veterinarian
- The State Veterinarian
- The dean of the agriculture department of an Ohio college or university
- One representing a county humane society in Ohio
- Two representing Ohio's consumers
The Leaders of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate would then each appoint a family farmer to the Board. It is stipulated that no more than seven members of the board can be of the same political affiliation.
Dave Ernest and his son Troy own and operate County Line Pork, Inc., which is a 1,200 sow operation just west of the Hardin-Allen County Line on State Route 81. The Ernest family are supporters of Issue Two, raised by the fear that out-of-state groups will try to regulate the practices of Ohio producers. Dave Ernest likened these groups to be extremists, with long-term goals of "knocking out any kind of meat production." He said that such groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have already had impact on the raising of livestock in California. "They have a lot of money and a lot of power. If we don't do something, we will see these groups...come in," Dave noted.
Troy Ernest added that Ohio is ranked number nine in the nation for pork production and is number two in egg production. Since Proposition Two passed in California and certain kinds of crates for laying hens were outlawed, he feels that California's egg industry will be virtually eliminated, and the same could happen in Ohio if animal rights groups gain control of regulating the industry.
He also explained that there is a group called the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is not the same agency as the Humane Society, known to many as an advocate for family pets. Troy and his father are concerned that the public does not understand that there is a difference between the two. The HSUS are opposed to the utilization of animals altogether, and being based in Washington, D.C., are at the heart of this issue.
Dave explained that Ohio does have state commodity boards, for pork producers, cattlemen, those who raise poultry and even grain, but the new board "will have representatives from all boards so it's not loaded with one special interest group." Dave noted that both the consumer and the meat packers demand quality, and the producers want to continue performing good animal husbandry practices to provide the best quality products.
Troy, who is president of both the Allen County Pork Producers and the Allen County Farm Bureau, noted that "our elected officials...realize that this is a threat to Ohio agriculture." Both the Ohio House and Senate worked together to put the issue on the ballot, he said. The Pork Producers and the Farm Bureau are in favor of passing Issue Two to keep control local, "guaranteeing safe and low-cost food to Ohio consumers," according to Troy.
If this measure DOES NOT pass, new regulations could come about from out of state pressure, making animal production less cost-efficient, and the producers would have to pass that cost on to the consumer, making grocery bills higher. If meat production ceases, the importation of meat from other countries could be risky, as their standards aren't as high as the US Department of Agriculture.
Troy noted that the impact of NOT passing Issue 2, would also affect the grain farmers, since 60 percent of the grain that is raised in Ohio is used for livestock feed. If there isn't any livestock production, then that grain market would dry up and prices would drop.
The biggest complaint of the animal rights organizations are that animals are confined to crates, unable to turn around. Dave says that yes, they use gestation crates for their sows, but also says that these animals are "confined but content and well-fed. We're careful and watch their weight." He said that sows are monitored more than some parents watch their own children's diets.
"A lot of people think (this issue) it's about saving factory farms, but it's about all productions, large and small," concluded Troy Ernest. He offered the website www.ohiolivestockcare.com for more information.
The County Line Pork business operates a farrow to feeder program, where piglets are raised up to two sizes: 13 pounds and 60 pounds. Essentially a middle man, these pigs are shipped out to other pork producers to be raised to full size. Dave said they ship out between 25-30,000 pigs a year.