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Ohio Livestock Vote Simply Devilish

If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle thoughts are, what, the product of a devil’s advocate?

Maybe, but one election result from early November leaves plenty of room for thought, idle or otherwise.

On Nov. 3, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 2, a statehouse-directed ballot initiative to create a “Livestock Care Standards Board.” The 13-member, all-appointed board, according to its advocacy group, Ohioans for Livestock Care, was necessary because “out-of-state extremist groups” were licking their vegetarian lips to make Ohio the next California: greenie-weenies looking to ban “modern” livestock tools.

The group never said who the hog huggers were, but the implied target was the Humane Society of the U. S.

Thus, the pre-emptive campaign by Livestock Care: beat the weenies at their ballot game and ask voters to permit Ohio to name its own “farmers, veterinarians, scientists, consumers and food safety experts” to use “their best knowledge in making decisions affecting animal agriculture.”

Supporters lined up fast. They included the big farm and commodity groups, Gov. Ted Strickland, the state’s Catholic bishops and even eight county sheriffs. All intended to outorganize, outhustle, outspend and, if necessary, outlawyer opponents of their “we-know-best” plan.

And they did. Initiative 2 passed by a greenie-grinding 64 to 36 per cent.

Initiative 2’s biggest opponents, however, weren’t Al Gore acolytes. In fact, the biggest anti-2 group to emerge was a coalition that included the Ohio Farmers Union, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, the Ohio Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D. C. consumer rights group.

The group, naming itself Ohio Against Constitutional Takeover claimed the law would not protect small farmers and consumers. Instead, it warned, the law would “clear the way for factory-style animal operations to self-regulate” mega-livestock operations.

Not so, countered supporters. Ohioans want “safe, affordable, locally grown food” and the best way to assure this would be to keep the “extremists” – whose agenda “could lead to higher costs… put food safety at risk… (and) cause thousands of family farms to go out of business…” – at bay with Initiative 2.

Whoa. Given those dire consequences, even the devil himself would have voted for Initiative 2.

The agbiz gang bankrolled a high-dollar campaign.

Ag’s big boys contributed $2.7 million of the $4 million raised to support it. Ag’s biggest boys – just 12 of ‘em – dropped $1.4 million, or 35 per cent of all contributions, into the pot.

Those select few included the Ohio Farm Bureau which kicked $505,185 into the campaign, the National and Ohio Pork Producer councils gave $213,000 and the United Egg Producers and Ohio Poultry Association poured in $300,000.

And, not surprisingly, Initiative 2 passed without much discussion over the new panel’s authority, accountability, constitutionality or whether big ag’s big hand on the state’s livestock tiller is the right one for all Ohio’s farmers, consumers and environment. Time will have to tell.

Until then, however, we do know that the livestock model long advocated by Big Ag has, in just the last year, delivered tens of billions in red ink and hundreds of millions in taxpayer bailouts to the nation’s ever-shrinking number of beef, hog and dairy farmers.

But, hey, that’s just one devil’s advocate thoughts.

Alan Guebert is an award-winning freelance agricultural journalist

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