Now that the Ohio legislature has enacted an implementation bill and Governor Strickland has announced board appointments, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board could soon begin developing standards for farm animal care in Ohio. Voters approved Issue 2, the constiututional amendment creating the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, in November of 2009.
Last week, the governor signed Issue 2′s implementation bill (House Bill 414) after legislators wrangled with two different implementation proposals for more than two months. A primary point of contention was funding–H.B. 414 originally proposed an increase of the commercial seed and feed inspection fee and allowed the transfer of at least $500,000 annually from the commercial seed and feed fund to the livestock care standards fund. A Senate proposed bill, S.B. 233, would have provided the livestock care standards fund with $162, 280 transferred from the School Employees Health Care Board. Neither provision survived in the final enacted law, which instead requires the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to rely on existing funds within the department until the legislature appropriates money for the livestock care standards fund.
The final approved bill also establishes board member terms and vacancies, allows board member travel reimbursements but does not allow compensation, and requires the board to meet at least three times per year. The law requires the director of ODA to assist the board by hiring employees, submitting the board’s proposed rules for approval, enforcing the rules and investigating potential rule violations. According to the law, the director must obtain permission to enter premises for inspection purposes.
Two provisions in the law address animal identification and organic production–these provisions were in the Senate’s version and were added to the final bill . The new law states that the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board may not establish a statewide animal identification system and clarifies that standards of the USDA’s national organic program will prevail if there is a conflict between the organic certification standards and the Ohio livestock care standards.
Despite recommendations to do so, the new law does not define the term ”family farmer,” but only reiterates the constitutional amendment’s requirement that three of the board members shall be “family farmers.” Nor does the legislature guide the board on the meaning of the “well-being” of livestock, which the board must address in its standards and rules. We hoped the new law would clarify whether “well-being” includes both physical and emotional well-being, an issue that could bring legal challenges in the future (see our earlier post on “Lessons from New Jersey”). The implementation law does define “livestock” as equine raised for any purpose and the following animals if raised for human food and fiber purposes: porcine (hogs), bovine (cattle, oxen, buffalo), caprine (goats), ovine (sheep), poultry, alpaca and llamas.
Soon after Govenor Strickland signed H.B. 414, he announced his appointments to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. Information on the board appointments is available here. Once the speaker of the house of representatives and president of the senate each make one of the two final board appointments, the board can begin its work of developing standards for the care and well-being of livestock in Ohio.
Meanwhile, proponents of a second ballot initiative on farm animal welfare are currently circulating around the state seeking signatures to place another proposal on the November general election ballot. The proponents hope to tell the board, through a second constitutional amendment, a few standards that it must adopt, which includes prohibitions on certain types of confinement, requirements for humane killing of cows and pigs and restrictions against the sale or transport of downer cows. See our earlier post on “Ohio may see a second constitutional amendment on farm animal welfare.”