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Plan would strengthen food safety in Ohio

The General Assembly, Governor Strickland and several key members of Ohio’s agriculture community came together this past week to endorse an important proposal which seeks to protect the future of Ohio’s family farmers, preserve the availability of safe, affordable, locally-raised food for Ohio families and ensure the long-term success of our state’s multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.

On June 25, my colleagues and I in the Senate unanimously approved Senate Joint Resolution 6, a proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2009 ballot, which would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish and implement guidelines for the care of livestock and poultry in the state.

The House passed a similar measure the day before — House Joint Resolution 2.

The amendment is also supported by the Governor, the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Pork Producers Council and Ohio Poultry Association, as well as individual farmers and other stakeholders.

The Livestock Care Standards Board would be comprised of 13 members with a broad background of experience in animal care and food safety, including three family farmers, two veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two members representing Ohio consumers.

The Ohio Director of Agriculture would serve ex officio as the 13th member and as chair of the board. In developing standards for the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in the state, board members would study agriculture best management practices, biosecurity, disease prevention and food safety practices.

SJR 6 and HJR 2 are also a response to concerns from Ohio farmers about radical campaigns in several states to outlaw current farming practices.

Last year, California voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative backed by the Humane Society of the United States, which, beginning in 2015, would make it a criminal offense if farmers in the state do not follow certain rules for confining pigs, calves and hens.

Scientists at the University of California-Davis concluded that under Prop 2, the cost of production for eggs in California would jump by at least 20 percent.

HSUS, which is separate from our local humane societies, has worked to pass similar proposals in Oregon, Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Florida, and the group is targeting Ohio for the 2010 ballot.

If successful, this effort could dramatically increase costs for Ohio farmers, reduce the availability of locally-produced food and have a detrimental effect on the future of our agriculture industry and the state’s economy.

I think it is safe to say that most everyone in the agriculture community supports the humane treatment of livestock, poultry and other farm animals.

Healthy, happy animals are better for production, which helps farmers’ bottom line. With that said, efforts to regulate animal care must be responsibly-balanced with the needs of Ohio farmers, consumers and our state’s agriculture industry.

SJR 6 and HJR 2 would ensure that future decisions about livestock and poultry care in Ohio are made by an experienced group of veterinarians, food safety experts and agriculture professionals from Ohio, as opposed to an out-of-state organization with a narrow agenda and little knowledge of our state’s agriculture industry.

This common-sense, collaborative approach would help promote responsible farming, protect local food supplies for Ohio consumers and encourage agriculture production in the state for years to come.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.