COLUMBUS - Despite arguments it was moving too quickly, the Ohio House yesterday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would beat a Washington animal-rights group to the punch in addressing livestock confinement conditions.
The Senate is expected to act on a separate but identical resolution today, virtually assuring that the question will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Sen. Bob Gibbs (R., Lakeville), sponsor of the Senate resolution, said lawmakers had to "take the bull by the horns" to address the issue before the Humane Society of the United States could put its own issue on the ballot.
"Ohio consumers can be assured that Ohio agriculture will not tolerate those farms that are not willing to follow commonly accepted best management practices," he said.
Rep. Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood) accused his House colleagues of moving at "lightning" speed to promote a "broad" and "overreaching" constitutional amendment that he suggested they may regret. The resolution was introduced last Thursday, had a single House hearing yesterday, and was voted out the door hours later.
"We are creating a fourth branch of government that is not elected, that does not have adequate checks and balances, which under the constitutional provisions completely divest the Ohio General Assembly from its legislative powers relating to the care and well-bring of livestock, poultry, and food safety," he said.
Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) joined him in opposing the bill in the final 84-8 tally.
Voters will be asked to approve creation of a
13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to develop best-practice standards for the confinement of animals in food production. The state director of agriculture would be the chairman of the panel, and his department would enforce the resulting standards.
The governor would appoint 10 members - a family farmer, a food-safety expert, a veterinarian, the state veterinarian, a college agricultural dean, a county humane society member, two representatives of statewide farming organizations, and two consumer group representatives. The House and Senate each would add a family farmer.
The move, endorsed by most state agricultural organizations and Gov. Ted Strickland, is designed to head off an attempt by the humane society to add Ohio to the list of states where it has succeeded in passing laws affecting animal confinement either through legislation or the ballot box.
The society has accused lawmakers of seeking to stack this board to maintain agricultural practices.
It is considering a 2010 ballot issue targeting the confinement of calves for veal, breeding hogs, and laying hens.
It proposes a requirement that those animals have enough room to stand, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs in their cages or pens.
"It's not often that the agricultural community requests additional regulation over the way we conduct our businesses," said Mark Watchman, a Napoleon farmer and president of the Ohio Wheat Growers Association.
"So it should be obvious to this [Senate Agriculture] committee, the Ohio Senate, and Ohio consumers that agriculture is confident in the way we raise livestock, and we invite this board of Ohio experts to be the check and balance on behalf of Ohio consumers," he said.
Contact Jim Provance at:
or 614-221-0496.39.96196 -83.00298 Despite arguments it was moving too quickly, the Ohio House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would beat a Washington animal-rights group to the punch in addressing livestock confinement conditions.