Tag Archives: Animals

Ohio Ag Law Blog–Ohio Legislation on the Move

Written by: Ellen Essman

We haven’t done a legislative update in a while—so what’s been going on in the Ohio General Assembly? Without further ado, here is an update on some notable ag-related bills that have recently passed one of the houses, been discussed in committee, or been introduced.

  • House Bill 7, “Create water quality protection and preservation”

This bill passed the House in June, but the Senate Finance Committee had a hearing on it just last month.  HB 7 would create both the H2Ohio Trust Fund and the H2Ohio Advisory Council.  To explain these entities in the simplest terms, the H2Ohio Advisory Council would decide how to spend the money in the H2Ohio Trust Fund.  The money could be used for grants, loans, and remediation projects to address water quality priorities in the state, to fund research concerning water quality, to encourage cooperation in addressing water quality problems among various groups, and for priorities identified by the Ohio Lake Erie commission.  The Council would be made up of the following: the directors of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) the executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie commission, one state senator from each party appointed by the President of the Senate, one state representative from each party appointed by the Speaker of the House, and appointees from the Governor to represent counties, municipal corporations, public health, business or tourism, agriculture, statewide environmental advocacy organizations, and institutions of higher education. Under HB 7, the ODA, OEPA, and ODNR would have to submit an annual plan to be accepted or rejected by the Council, which would detail how the agencies planned to use their money from the Fund. You can find the bill in its current form here.

  • House Bill 24, “Revise Humane Society law”

HB 24 passed the House unanimously on October 30, and has since been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources.  The bill would revise procedures for humane society operations and require humane society agents to successfully complete training in order to serve.  Importantly, HB 24 would allow law enforcement officers to seize and impound any animal the officer has probable cause to believe is the subject of an animal cruelty offense.  Currently, the ability to seize and impound only applies to companion animals such as dogs and cats.  You can read HB 24 here.

  • House Bill 160, “Revise alcoholic ice cream law”

Since our last legislative update, HB 160 has passed the House and is currently in Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee in the Senate.  At present, those wishing to sell ice cream containing alcohol must in Ohio obtain an A-5 liquor permit and can only sell the ice cream at the site of manufacture, and that site must be in an election precinct that allows for on- and off-premises consumption of alcohol.  This bill would allow the ice cream maker to sell to consumers for off-premises enjoyment and to retailers who are authorized to sell alcohol. To read the bill, click here.

  • House Bill 168, “Establish affirmative defense-certain hazardous substance release”

This bill was passed in the House back in May, but there have been several committee hearings on it this fall.  HB 168 would provide a bona fide prospective purchaser of a facility that was contaminated with hazardous substances before the purchase with immunity from liability to the state in a civil action.  In other words, the bona fide prospective purchaser would not have the responsibility of paying the state of Ohio for their investigations and remediation of the facility. In order to claim this immunity, the purchaser would have to show that they fall under the definition of a bona fide prospective purchaser, that the state’s cause of action rests upon the person’s status as an owner or operator of the facility, and that the person does not impede a response action or natural resource restoration at the facility. You can find the bill and related information here.

  • House Bill 183, “Allow tax credits to assist beginning farmers”

House Bill 183 was discussed in the House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee on November 12.  This bill would authorize a nonrefundable income tax credit for beginning farmers who attend a financial management program.  Another nonrefundable tax credit would be available for individuals or businesses that sell or rent farmland, livestock, buildings, or equipment to beginning farmers.  ODA would be in charge of certifying individuals as “beginning farmers” and approving eligible financial management programs. HB 183 is available here. A companion bill (SB 159) has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Ways & Means Committee, but no committee hearings have taken place.

  • House Bill 373, “Eliminate apprentice/special auctioneer licenses/other changes”

HB 373 was introduced on October 22, and the House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee held a hearing on it on November 12. This bill would make numerous changes to laws applicable to auctioneers.  For instance, it would eliminate the requirement that a person must serve as an apprentice auctioneer prior to becoming an auctioneer; instead, it would require applicants for an auctioneers’ license to pass a course. The bill would also require licensed auctioneers to complete eight continuing education hours prior to renewing their license.  HB 373 would give ODA the authority to regulate online auctions conducted by  a human licensed auctioneer, and would require people auctioning real or personal property on the internet to be licensed as an auctioneer. To read the bill in its entirety and see all the changes it would make, click here.

  • Senate Bill 2, “Create watershed planning structure”

Since our last legislative post, SB 2 has passed the Senate and is now in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. If passed, this bill would do four main things. First, it would create the Statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program, which would be tasked with improving and protecting the watersheds in the state, and would be administered by the ODA director.  Under this program, the director of ODA would have to categorize watersheds in Ohio and appoint watershed planning and management coordinators in each watershed region.  The coordinators would work with soil and water conservation districts to identify water quality impairment, and to gather information on conservation practices.  Second, the bill states the General Assembly’s intent to work with agricultural, conservation, and environmental organizations and universities to create a certification program for farmers, where the farmers would use practices meant to minimize negative water quality impacts. Third, SB 2 charges ODA, with help from the Lake Erie Commission and the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, to start a watershed pilot program that would help farmers, agricultural retailers, and soil and water conservation districts in reducing phosphorus.  Finally, the bill would allow regional water and sewer districts to make loans and grants and to enter into cooperative agreements with any person or corporation, and would allow districts to offer discounted rentals or charges to people with low or moderate incomes, as well as to people who qualify for the homestead exemption. The text of SB 2 is available here.

  • Senate Bill 234, “Regards regulation of wind farms and wind turbine setbacks”

Senate Bill 234 was just introduced on November 6, 2019.  The bill would give voters in the unincorporated areas of townships the power to have a referendum vote on certificates or amendments to economically significant and large wind farms issued by the Ohio Power and Siting Board. The voters could approve or reject the certificate for a new wind farm or an amendment to an existing certificate by majority vote.  The bill would also change minimum setback distances for wind farms might be measured.  SB 234 is available here.  A companion bill was also recently introduced in the House.  HB 401 can be found here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Business and Financial, Conservation Programs, Environmental, Food, Property, Renewable Energy, Uncategorized, Water

Iowa tries work-around on “ag-gag” law ruling

Written by Ellen Essman, Senior Research Associate, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

In January, we wrote about state “ag-gag” laws and the trend of federal courts overturning such laws nationwide.  “Ag-gag” is the term for fraud and trespass laws that aim to prevent undercover journalists, investigators, animal rights advocates, and other whistleblowers from secretly filming or recording at agricultural production facilities. We specifically discussed a case in Iowa, where the state’s “agricultural production facility fraud law” was found to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds in the federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.  In response to that ruling, the legislature modified the law, but a group made up of animal rights, community, and food safety organizations has again sued the state.  The plaintiffs contend that the new law still violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

Iowa law: current and former

Shortly following the aforementioned district court decision, Iowa passed a new ag-gag law with slightly different language.  The new Iowa law changes the crime from “agricultural production facility fraud” to “agricultural production facility trespass.” The legislature also changed the language from outlawing false statements or pretenses to outlawing deception.  Another important change is the focus in the new statutory language on the “intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury” to the farm.

The new law reads:

717A.3B Agricultural production facility trespass.

  1. A person commits agricultural production facility trespass if the person does any of the following:

    • Uses deception as described in section 702.9, subsection 1 or 2, on a matter that would reasonably result in a denial of access to an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, and, through such deception, gains access to the agricultural production facility, with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury to the agricultural production facility’s operations, agricultural animals, crop, owner, personnel, equipment, building, premises, business interest, or customer.

    • Uses deception as described in section 702.9, subsection 1 or 2, on a matter that would reasonably result in a denial of an opportunity to be employed at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, and, through such deception, is so employed, with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury to the agricultural production facility’s operations, agricultural animals, crop, owner, personnel, equipment, building, premises, business interest, or customer.

 

Iowa law defines “deception,” in part, as “knowingly…[c]reating or confirming another’s belief or impression as to the existence or nonexistence of a fact or condition which is false and which the actor does not believe to be true,” or “[f]ailing to correct a false belief or impression as to the existence or nonexistence of a fact or condition which the actor previously has created or confirmed.”

The previous Iowa law, which was struck down in a district court decision, is currently still available on the Iowa Legislature’s website.  The old law made it illegal to gain access to a facility through false pretenses and to make a “false statement or representation” in order to be employed by an agricultural production facility.  Note that the former law did not use the word “deception,” or touch on injury to the farm.

In the district court decision overturning the previous law, Judge Gritzner agreed with the plaintiffs that the language of the law violated the First Amendment right to free speech because it was content-based, viewpoint based, and overbroad. He decided that even though the law banned false statements, such false statements are still protected under the First Amendment.  In other words, just because Iowa livestock operators do not like the speech of the activists and whistleblowers trying to gain access to their farms, it does not mean that the speech should be infringed upon.

 

Animal rights groups and others challenge the new law

On April 22, 2019, shortly after the passage of Iowa’s new law, plaintiffs filed suit against the state once again in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.  Plaintiffs include Animal Legal Defense Fund, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., and the Center for Food Safety.  In their complaint against the state of Iowa, plaintiffs contend that the new law still violates the Constitution, saying that “the only difference” between the two laws is that the new law “targets a slightly different form of speech.”  In other words, Iowa has changed its law from outlawing false statements or pretenses to outlawing deception, but the plaintiffs believe the new law basically ends up doing the same thing as the old, overturned ag-gag law; it prevents their speech based on content and viewpoint. Plaintiffs rely on the following arguments to illustrate their reasoning:

  • Iowa’s new law bans any negative speech about the agricultural industry, which creates a preference for speech favorable to the industry.

  • Whistleblowing is not criminalized in other Iowa industries.

  • Iowa statutes already outlaw fraud, trespass, and adulteration of food products, as well as the theft of trade secrets, so agriculture already has adequate protection from economic harm.

  • Outlawing deception “with the intent to cause…other injury” is too vague; it is not easily discernable what other kinds of speech or actions might be illegal under the statute.

As such, the plaintiffs allege that the Iowa law violates freedom of speech under the First Amendment because it is overbroad, viewpoint-based discrimination, and because it is vaguely written under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, plaintiffs contend that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause because it “substantially burdens” their exercise of free speech.  The court must determine whether or not they agree with this assessment.

Many “ag-gag” statutes struck down as unconstitutional, but many more decisions to go

As was mentioned in our January blog post, there is ongoing ag-gag litigation outside of Iowa, as well.  Kansas and North Carolina have both been sued for their ag-gag statutes, and both cases are still pending.  Will the federal courts find laws in Iowa, Kansas and North Carolina unconstitutional like they have previously in Iowa, as well as in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, or will they find that they do not violate freedom of speech and due process?  Will lawsuits challenge the remaining ag-gag laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota? The answers may take a while to sort out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals

New Animal Disease Traceability Rule Announced by USDA

A new rule establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving between states became final on December 20, 2012 and will become effective on March 11, 2013.  The USDA has established the animal disease traceability rule to help target when and where animal disease occurs and to facilitate a rapid response that should reduce the number of animals involved in a disease investigation.  According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, “The United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses. The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.”

The animal disease traceability rule differs from the National Animal Identification System launched by the USDA in 2006 and later discontinued for lack of voluntary participation by producers.   An important guiding principle for the new rule is that it is state-driven. The traceability framework will be owned, led and administered by the States and Tribal Nations with federal support. The rule proposes to provide maximum flexibility for the States, Tribal Nations and producers to work together to find identification solutions that meet their local needs and to maintain traceability data at their discretion. The intent of the rule is to address only those animals moving interstate and to encourage the use of low-cost technology.

We will take a closer look at the rule in the next few months, but for now will share a few important notes about the rule:

  • Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.
  • The use of brands, tattoos and brand registration will be accepted as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes.
  • Backtags remain an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moving directly to slaughter.
  • All livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.
  • Chicks moved interstate from a hatchery are exempt from the official identification requirements.
  • Unless moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, beef cattle under 18 months of age are exempt from the official identification requirement (traceability requirements for this group will be addressed in separate rulemaking)

USDA will work with states to implement the rule in the coming months.  For more information on the new rule, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals

Legislature agrees on changes to Ohio Livestock Environmental Permitting Program

Bill establishes time limits for township and county infrastructure review

A bill approved by the Ohio General Assembly proposes limiting the amount of time county and township officials have for recommending local infrastructure needs for the operation or expansion of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Facility (CAFF).  Both the House and Senate have approved H.B. 22, sponsored by Rep. Buchy (R-77).  The bill now awaits action by Governor Kasich.

Recently introduced on May 17, 2011, H.B. 22 proposes a 75 day time limit for county commissioners and township trustees to provide final recommendations for improvements to local infrastructure that are needed to accomodate a CAFF.   Notification by the CAFF to the county and township is a required step in the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) permit application process.  Information on anticipated traffic routes and number and weights of vehicles must accompany the notification.  Under current law, the county and township must next provide initial recomendations to the CAFF for needed infrastructure improvements.  The CAFF may accept the recommendations or may propose an alternative, and the county and township must then render written final recommendations for infrastructure improvements.  The CAFF must submit the county and township’s final recommendations in its LEPP permit application.

Under the language agreed to by the legislature in H.B. 22, if the county or township fails to provide the written final recommendations in 75 days, the CAFF may proceed with the permit application by submiting an affidavit in lieu of the written final recommendations.  The affidavit must state that the CAFF provided the required notification but did not receive written final recommendations from the county or township within 75 days of giving the notification.

The legislature’s approval of H.B. 22 comes in the wake of a controversial denial of a LEPP permit application by Hi-Q for an egg laying facility in Union County.  ODA Director Zehringer denied Hi-Q’s application because it did not contain the required final infrastructure recommendations from county and township officials.  Hi-Q and Union County had reached an impasse on infrastructure issues, and Hi-Q submitted the permit without any final recommendations by the county.  (See our earlier post on the Director’s decision.)  Under H.B. 22’s language, Hi-Q could have submitted an affidavit instead of the written final recommendations because more than 75 days had passed since Hi-Q’s original notification to the county and township.    The Director thus would not have had to deny the permit application for lack of county and township written final recommendations for infrastructure improvements.

H.B. 22 also proposes changing LEPP from a program to a Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, and contains a number of other revisions to ODA programs and regulations.  See the analysis of H.B. 22 on the Ohio Legislature’s website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Environmental

ODA Denies Egg Farm Permit as Legislation Proposes Change to Permit Program

Current bill in House would yield different outcome for Hi-Q CAFF permit

In a unique and controversial case, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has denied an application under its Livestock Environmental Permitting Program for Hi-Q Egg Products, LLC to establish an egg laying facility in Union County.   In denying the application, ODA Director Zehringer followed the recommendations made in April 2011 by the ODA hearing officer who reviewed the permit application (see our earlier post).  The hearing officer had recommended denial on the basis of an incomplete application, because  Hi-Q’s application did not include a written statement from local officials certifying that final recommendations had been made for local infrastructure improvements and costs, as required by program regulations (OAC 901:10-1-02(A)(6)).  Hi-Q claimed that the county and township failed to provide the recommendations, while the county and township argued that there were no final recommendations because  Hi-Q refused to discuss an alternative transportation route.  In agreeing that the recommendations were not included in the application, Director Zehringer stated that there was “no other viable option but to deny the [permit] due to an incomplete application.” 

Ohio’s  Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) regulates the installation and operation of  large Confined Animal Feeding Facilities (CAFFs).  Critics have long complained that the program fails to consider the potential impacts of CAFF development  upon the local community.  Those concerned about local impacts have used the public hearing process to voice opposition to CAFF permits, but have never successfully prevented approval of a permit.  Until now, the program’s obscure requirement for county and township approval of infrastructure improvements has gone unnoticed as a prevention mechanism by such opponents.   

While the Hi-Q denial is a first, opponents of large livestock operations won’t have cause to celebrate the decision for long if a current legislative proposal meets with success.  H.B. 229, introduced May 17, 2011 by Rep. Buchy, will place a time limit on the county and township officials who must consider local infrastructure improvements needed for a CAFF permit application.  According to the proposal,  local officials would have 75 days after receiving notice of the proposed facility to render a written statement on local infrastructure improvements and costs.  After 75 days, the permit applicant may submit a notarized affidavit stating that it had provided local officials with notice but did not receive any written final recommendations from the local government within the required timeframe.  Under the law as proposed by H.B. 229, ODA could not deny a permit application that lacks the written statement from local officials as long as 75 days have passed after giving notice and the permit applicant submits the notarized affidavit rather than the written statement from local officials. 

H.B. 229 is currently before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.  Visit this link to view H.B. 229 and here for Director Zehringer’s press release on the Hi-Q permit.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Environmental

Ohio Governor Issues Emergency Rule on Ownership of Wild Animals

In an attempt to satisfy the animal welfare agreement negotiated last year with the Humane Society of the United States and various agricultural interests, Governor Strickland yesterday authorized an emergency rule that restricts the possession, sale and transfer of certain wild animals in Ohio.  The controversial animal welfare agreement, designed to prevent another Ohio ballot initiative on farm animal welfare,  provided that “[t]he Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will coordinate and take action on wild and dangerous animals including the prohibition of the sale and/or possession of big cates, bears, primates, large constricting and venomous snakes and alligators and crocodiles.  Existing owners will be grandfathered in, but they could not breed or obtain new animals.”  The Governor’s action, however, is a week shy of the December 31, 2010 deadline included in the agreement, which stated that failure to implement the wild and dangerous animals provision by such date could void  the agreement. 

 “This action fulfills my responsibilities within the agreement that will keep Ohio’s vital agriculture industry profitable while appropriately updating animal care standards,” said Governor Strickland.  The Governor also cited public safety reasons for the new regulation, stating that “[t]his rule will help protect Ohioans from deaths and serious injuries caused by attacks from dangerous wild animals held in private ownership.”

The Governor’s Executive Order suspended the regular rulemaking process and allowed the immediate adoption of Rule 1501:31-19-05 by the Department of Natural Resources Divison of Wildlife.  The new rule, which became effective January 6, 2011, does the following:

  • Prohibits the possession, sale and transport of “restricted species,”  which includes coyotes, timber and gray wolves, lions, tigers, jaguars, panthers, leopards, cheetahs, bobcats, lunx, cougars, pumas, mountain lions, bears, all primates except humans, alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials and numerous snake species, including pythons, cobras and rattlesnakes.
  • Creates an exception from the regulation for persons who possessed a restricted species prior to January 6, 2011, if the person meets all of the following criteria:
    • Does not acquire any new restricted species through purchase, gift, trade, barter, donation or breeding;
    • Has not been convicted of animal abuse or neglect;
    • Has not had any type of animal license or permit revoked or suspended;
    • Registers the animal by May 1, 2011 with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and maintains the registration annually;
    • Does not allow the public to come into physical contact with the animal;
    • Does not sell or transfer the animal to anyone other than an accredited zoo or institution, a wildlife sanctuary, a family member approved by the division chief, or an out-of-state facility (until January 1, 2016) and notifies the division chief of the new recipient of the animal at least 72 hours prior to transfer.
    • Maintains a permanent transponder implant on the animal.
  • Creates an exception from the rule for certain facilities and organizations:
    • Institutions accredited by the association of zoos and aquariums and facilities under active contract for a species survival plan under the Endangered Species Act;
    • Circuses licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that are in the state less than 45 days per year and do not allow the public to come into physical contact with the restricted species;
    • Institutions operating a mascot program licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
    • Non-profit wildlife sanctuaries that do not use restricted species for commercial or entertainment purposes, do not allow the public to come into contacted with the species, and do not breed the species.
    • Wildlife rehabilitation facilities engaged in the rehabilitation and reintroduction of native species and permitted by the division chief;
    • Education, research and scientific institutions or projects permitted by the division chief;
    • A person transporting a legally owned restricted animal through the state for less than 48 hours who does not exhibit the animal, keeps the animal enclosed and does not allow public contact with the animal.
  • Requires a person who possesses a restricted species to notify the division of wildlife if the animal escapes, in addition to complying with other reporting requirements in ORC 2927.21.

Emergency rules remain in effect in Ohio for 90 days, which should provide the agency sufficient time to extend the life of the rule through the regular rulemaking process.  Given the upcoming change of leadership in Ohio,  it will be interesting to see if the new administration follows Governor Strickland’s lead and makes the new regulation permanent.

View the Governor’s Executive Order and the new rule.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals

Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board Proposes Civil Penalty Provisions

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board has proposed civil penalty provisions for violations of the livestock care standards currently under development by the Board.  The proposal addresses notification procedures for the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), the agency responsible for enforcing the standards, and establishes two types of violations of the livestock care standards:  minor violations and major violations.

 A minor violation is one which violates the standards due to neglect or unintentional acts of substandard practices, but which does not place an animal’s life in imminent peril or cause protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a limb or bodily function.  For a minor violation, the ODA may fine the offender up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for a subsequent offense committed within 60 days of a previous offense. 

A major violation is one which does place an animal’s life in imminent peril or cause protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a limb or bodily function, or a violation that results in unjustifiable infliction of pain due to reckless or intentional acts.   The ODA may issue a penalty between $1,000 and $5,000 for a first major violation and between $5,000 and $10,000 for repeat violations committed within 60 days of a prior offense.    For major violations, the department may assist with the provision of care services for the animals and may assess the violator for the costs of providing proper care to the animals.

For both minor and major violations, the department may also seek recovery costs for investigations that result in penalties, including salary costs for employees directly involved in the investigation.  The rule also states that a violation affecting more than one animal may be considered one offense of the standards.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture has posted the proposed civil penalty provisions for public comment on ODA’s website.  The comment period runs until November 2.

1 Comment

Filed under Animals