November 3rd voters in Ohio will decide whether to amend the state constitution to set up a an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to set state policy on livestock handling, farm management, and food safety practices.

If the measure passes, the board would be appointed by the governor and legislature. The panel of 13 would include family farmers, veterinarians, a food safety expert, a local humane society expert, representatives from statewide farm organizations, the dean of a local agriculture college and two consumers, the state agriculture director would lead the panel. 

Proponents of Issue 2, as the measure is known, say it will foster common sense animal handling and food safety policies in lieu of stricter animal care standards advocated by the Human Society and others.

Opponents of the measure see it as a roadblock to fair and humane animal handling regulations.

“It’s an attempt to forestall meaningful animal-welfare reforms in agriculture. It is designed to lock in cruel and inhumane treatment of animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive director of the national Humane Society. 

In their campaign against the ballot measure, the Humane Society points to food safety concerns in addition to its ethical complaints.

“Cramming tens of thousands of animals into tiny changes fosters the spread of animal diseases that may affect people,” said the group, pointing out that a recent American Journal of Epidemiology report showed that eggs from confined cages are 250% more likely to contract Salmonella.

Other opponents simply disagree with creating such a powerful commission to set agricultural standards.

“We should not be amending our constitution to put in a board or commission,” state Rep. J. Skindell (D) told The Columbus Dispatch. “There are only two boards in the Ohio Constitution–the State Board of Education and the Bureau of Workers Compensation.”

Many Ohioans in the agriculture sector, however, see the panel Issue 2 would create as a more sensible approach to food and agriculture regulations.

“We are committed to the best care for our herds. Issue 2 is Ohio’s best plan to maintain excellent care for Ohio’s livestock industry while maintaining a safe, affordable food supply that is locally grown,” said Kathy Heimeri, a farmer, livestock producer, and advocate for the measure. 

“Unwise regulation will drive agriculture from Ohio, putting thousands of farmers out of business, reducing our food supply, increasing food costs to you the consumer and forcing reliance on unsafe, imported foods,” adds Heimeri.

Ohio voters will decide Issue 2 on November 3rd. If the measure passes it is likely that the Humane Society and animal welfare advocates will seek a constitutional amendment if they are unsuccessful in persuading the animal care board to adopt their goals for animal housing and treatment.