Ohio Legislature Passes Bill to Implement Issue 2

Update Mar. 26: Just as Issue 2 passed quickly in the legislature with no debate before it was presented to voters, the implementing legislation, H.B. 414, has also passed in record time.

The final version did not include any specific humane standards for farm animals.

The bill also failed to exclude dogs and cats from the jurisdiction of the Livestock Care Standards Board such as those kept or bred by commercial breeders, or other animals kept as pets. That means it could be difficult to impose restrictions on puppy and cat mills through the legislature if the Board decides to control standards for care and treatment of these animals as it now will for horses and farm animals. 

Update Mar. 5, 2010: After 6 hearings, the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee has passed H.B. 414, legislation to implement Issue 2. 

(Issue 2 was the November, 2009 ballot initiative approved by voters that amended the state constitution to allow a Livestock Care Standards Board made up largely of agri-business interests to determine, among other issues, the standards for care and treatment of farm animals.)

Under the final bill passed by the Committee, the funding for the Board was reduced from $500,000 to $150,000 and instead of paying for the LCSB thru a fee tacked onto animal feed, the state Dept. of Agriculture will provide the funding. In other words, the LCSB will be paid for by taxpayers instead of the agri-business interests it was intended to benefit.

H.B. 414 contains no minimum humane care standards for farm animals as recommended by Animal Law Coalition, Ohio League of Humane Voters and other humane and environmental groups. The final committee version would subject all equines to the Board’s regulations for care and treatment. Also, the bill does not exclude dogs or other pets, meaning the LCSB may well decided to assume jurisdiction over the numerous commercial dog breeders in the state, stripping citizens of the right to try to regulate dog and other companion animal breeders through the legislature. 

A virtually identical senate version, S.B. 233, has been introduced by Ohio state Sen. Bob Gibbs and is basically the same but would provide $162,280 to fund the LCSB. These funds would come from education. Nice, huh? Education of Ohioans sacrificed for greedy agri-business and their CAFOs.

For more on H.B. 414 including information about the first public hearing on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below. The Legislature will continue to consider H.B. 414 and S.B. 233. Please take action as described below to urge the committee and Ohio legislators to adopt the alternative to H.B. 414/S.B. 233 that Animal Law Coalition helped draft. In the meantime, Ohioans for Humane Farms has launched a ballot initiative to amend the state’s constitution to require humane standards for farm animals. 

Update Feb. 5, 2010: On Wed., Feb. 3, the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony about legislation, H.B. 414,  to implement Issue 2. 

As Mary O’Connor Shaver, founder and exeuctive director of Columbus Top Dogs, put it, "Members of [the Committee]… found themselves in the midst of a legislative food fight …as opponents lined up to criticize" the implementing legislation for Issue 2 that will govern the operations of the Livestock Care Standards Board. 

Carol Goland, executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, and Joe Logan from the, Ohio Environmental Council, urged lawmakers to exempt organic farmers who are concerned the LCSB will adopt regulations that conflict with federal law and programs. As an example, Ms. Goland explained,  "Perhaps the board will determine that for their own welfare, birds should be de-toed. This is expressly prohibited by the National Organic Program standards….Organic producers need protection from the very real possibility that Ohio will enact standards that conflict with the National Organic Program standards."

O’Connor-Shaver reports, "Trevor Stover, a Lexington cattle producer, raised concerns about the scope of Issue 2, saying Ohio voters were ‘ambushed‘ by a ‘campaign of fear and deception.’"

Gary Cox, an Ohio attorney, described Issue 2 and H.B. 414 as a "bill of goods". He urged lawmakers to consider the alternative to H.B. 414 as described below including provisions to encourage local farming, exemptions for dogs and humane standards for farm animals.  Cox urged the committee to mandate inspections to enforce the LCSB’s regulations and open its operations to the public.

O’Connor-Shaver further reports, "John Sproat, of the League of Humane Voters, criticized the legislation’s complaint-driven inspection regimen and said mandatory inspections were the only way to ensure a safe food supply.

cows restingHe said ‘[a]nimal abuse in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) may never be discovered since the only way problems would be reported is through self-reporting or whistle-blower complaints from employees….’It’s a loose system, it can’t be enforced that way. You don’t know if the animals are getting excellent care.’" Sproat also urged the committee to accept the alternative to H.B. 414 with its basic requirement for humane standards and inspections.

A number of farmers complained about the fees to be imposed on animal feed to fund the LCSB.

Original report: One Ohio citizen who declined to be identified said, "I really believe in giving up their rights to vote on how farm animals should be treated, that people believed they were voting for excellent care by farmers. They were not endorsing factory farming."

Let’s hope so. The legislation to implement Issue 2 is H.B. 414 introduced by state Reps. Allan R. Sayre and Linda S. Bolon. This bill would establish requirements and responsibilities of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and the Director of Agriculture in administering and enforcing the rules adopted by the Board with respect to the "care and well-being of livestock" in Ohio.

The bill sets out the procedure for the organization and operation of the OLCSB to be made up of  the director of agriculture and 10 persons appointed by the governor and approved by the state senate: a "family farm" representative, Ohio food safety expert, 2 Farm Bureau representatives, a veterinarian, the state veterinarian, dean of an Ohio college or university agriculture department, 2 consumer representatives, and 1 humane society representative. The Board would have broad rulemaking, investigative, education and enforcement authority. Inspections would be authorized but not required. The Board would be required to rely on the following factors in issuing regulations:

(1) Best management practices for the care and well-being of livestock;

(2) Biosecurity. The rules shall not create a statewide animal identification system.

(3) The prevention of disease;

(4) Animal morbidity and mortality data;

(5) Food safety practices;

(6) The protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers;

(7) Generally accepted veterinary medical practices, livestock practice standards, and ethical standards established by the American veterinary medical association;

(8) Any other factors that the board considers necessary for the proper care and well-being of livestock in this state.

Very broad power given to an unelected Board. Power to determine treatment and care of Ohioans’ livestock animals, power to determine food safety, food supplies and even food choices.  Also, though the Farm Bureau told voters the cost of implementing this LCSB would be $160,000, the price tag has jumped to $500,000.

pigsAn Alternative to H.B. 414

Animal Law Coalition has been working with Ohio organizations and attorneys to draft an alternative to H.B. 414 that would implement Issue 2 and also

(1) maintain and promote food safety;

(2) promote locally grown and raised food;

(3) protect Ohio consumers and family farmers;

(4) ensure the humane care and well-being of livestock and the protection of livestock from unnecessary or unjustifiable pain.

Animal Law Coalition has proposed the following humane standards that are already accepted by Ohio farming organizations:  

(a) Food, water and care necessary to protect the health and welfare of the animals.

(b) A safe and healthy environment for animals that is clean, well-ventilated and provides ample space.

(c) A well-planned veterinary care program to protect the health of the animals and avoid pain and suffering.

(d) Humane and sanitary methods of slaughter or for disposal of animals when they become non-ambulatory disabled or are suffering irremediable pain.

(e) Proper handling techniques to eliminate any undue stress, mutilation or injury to the animals.

cowsAnimal Law Coalition drafted language that would make sure humane agents and the LCSB must still enforce the Ohio anti-cruelty laws that apply to farm animals, Ohio Rev. Code §959.13. Also, under this proposed alternative to H.B. 414, LCSB would have no jurisdiction over "dogs and cats regardless of the purpose for which they are owned or kept, and any other animal that is kept by the owner as a pet".  In other words, the LCSB could not regulate puppy or cat mills. Citizens would still have the right to regulate those businesses through the legislature.  The definition of "livestock" would be limited to exclude equines not used for food.

The proposed alternative legislation would require at least 2 inspections each year which can be unannounced or not, to enforce the LCSB regulations. The alternative to H.B. 414 also proposes a right of citizens to enforce violations. There is a scheme for civil and criminal penalties as well.

The definition of "family farmer" would be limited to mean families engaged in farming and not agri-businesses. The proposed alternative promotes locally grown or raised food and sustainable farming.