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Issue 2: Don’t be tricked by BIG FARM. A classic David vs. Goliath story.

By Annie Stahlheber | The Lakewood Observer

free range chickens at Rennheber Gardens in North Benton, Ohio (photo courtesy of Rob Burgoyne)

You have likely seen the commercial by now: a mom and dairy farmer, Brenda Hastings is shown on her farm in Geauga county. She promotes, “safe and affordable local food” and “fair treatment” of livestock. She touts Issue 2 as beneficial for both farmers and the people. The lobbyists behind these advertisements have been very creative with their word choices to capitalize on votes, targeting their advertising towards people interested in the popular local food movement. But, let’s take a closer look. Issue 2 writers and lobbyists include the Ohio Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Livestock Commission and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. These associations have restaurant and factory farmers’ bottom lines as their primary focus, not the humane treatment of animals, food safety, the health of Ohioans or the environment.

In their advertisements the word “affordable” should be read as “cheap.” Also note that the statement “fair treatment” was carefully selected instead of “humane treatment.” The food resulting from livestock raised after Issue 2 passes will be cheap. The animals will have cheap lives, live in cheap quarters, eat cheap corn feed rather than the grass that they should be eating, be injected with antibiotics and save the big agriculture associations money so they can be sold to you for a cheap price. This way of raising food is cheap on the short term, but expensive in the long run. Expensive since it will cost us our health, as well as environmental and moral burdens that we’ll pay for in the decades to come. Another major concern with this bill is that it will change the Ohio Constitution. The lobbyists and Senator Grendell snuck this issue in under the radar very quickly, but it will be very hard to reverse it once it’s embedded into our constitution. 

The basic drive of Issue 2 is that a Livestock Care Board will be created. This issue describes who will sit on the board, which includes 13 people appointed by the Governor. Big agriculture special interests spent millions lobbying to get this issue on our November ballot and continues to spend a lot of money and a lot of time in the faces of Ohio’s legislators. Knowing the close connection between state government and big agricultural interests, we can safely assume that small independent farms will not have a space on this board. The board will take away Ohioans' rights regarding our food supply. The board will not answer to anyone, which is most alarming. They will have the power to decide the way in which animals are cared for, how and what farmers are allowed feed them, and how their waste will be disposed of. Diane Jones of Windtim Wald Farm in Auburn Ohio puts it simply: “It’s like putting the foxes in charge of the hen-house.”

Another tricky word that is used in the ballot language is the term "family farm."  The ballot language states that representatives of "family farms" will sit on the Livestock Care Board. Sounds good at first glance to the consumer who supports family farms. The problem with this is that there is no legal definition of "family farm." According to the USDA, 98% of factory farms could say that they are "family farms."  I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust the greedy Big Ag folks to decide how to manage the livestock in my state.

Of the informed, there is a clear split if you read the commentary on Issue 2. Small independent, sustainable farms are against it. Large, inhumane farms are for it. The large factory farms want to cram more animals onto their land and sell their meat cheaper to make more money. They do not have Ohioans' best interests at heart, despite what they might seem to say in their advertisements. The small independent farms, like the ones we have come to know through the local food movement in Lakewood, do not support Issue 2. They know that it does not support the sustainable methods of farming that they have used for generations to feed both their own and our families. 

The local food movement promotes small, independent, sustainable farming practices.  The other side of this movement is “Big Agriculture” factory farms. According to the EPA, Ohio already has a problem with too many factory farms, almost 200 across our great state. If the livestock management requirements are loosened through the passage of Issue 2, these farms are likely to increase in size and numbers. 

You may have noticed that the opposition of Issue 2 has no advertisements on TV. Sustainable farmers and their supporters do not have the millions of dollars to spend to counter this issue. I haven’t seen any yard signs, but I’m planning to make my own. Help spread the word about this attempted high-jacking of our state constitution. Don’t let the Goliath Agriculture industry get away with this power grab.

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