New changes in agriculture often bring new standards and new regulations. But sometimes these regulations can have unintended consequences, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Leah C. Dorman, the organization's director of food programs, said there is a fine balance between the needs of the animals and the needs of the humans who farm them.
“As you increase the regulations on a farmer, there will be some folks who will go out of business because they can't afford it or they don't want to deal with it,” she said last week after giving a speech on the subject to a forum sponsored by the Agricultural Incubator Foundation in Bowling Green.
“When you talk about changing production methods or housing, no one wants
to think about how that is going to affect the farmers,” she said.
Although agriculture is the biggest industry in Ohio, only 2 percent of the state's population now works on farms, she said. If some of these farmers go out of business, the food they produce will become less available and more expensive.
“It is important we have the ability to feed ourselves and feed the world,” Ms. Dorman said.
Some animal rights organizations apply political pressure on regulators to consider only the comfort and welfare of farm livestock and poultry, she said. And animal welfare is important, said Ms. Dorman, who is a veterinarian.
But it is equally important for farms to be economical and efficient, she said.
Caught in the middle is the Livestock Care Standards Board, which was established this year after voters authorized its creation in the 2009 election. The 13-member board has the job of establishing a uniform set of standards for the care and well-being of livestock.
Among other concerns, the board must consider food safety practices, the prevention of disease among the animals, affordable food supplies for consumers, veterinary practices, and ethical considerations. And their policies will affect everyone from a family with two chickens in the backyard to ega-farms with millions of chickens in multi-tier coops.
“This board has a very difficult job. They're going to have to weigh what is best for Ohio when they begin to change these things — I call them revolutionary changes. They can have unintended consequences,” she said.
These consequences could change the animals' behavior or affect the ecology, she said, as well as hurting the agriculture industry.
“When we get down to it, where would we be without agriculture? And the answer is: naked and hungry,” she said.
Contact Daniel Neman