PDT Staff Writer
Officials at the Scioto County Farm Bureau say there are organizations who are attempting to place new restrictions and guidelines on farmers.
“There are some organizations that are trying to severely stop or put some brakes on the way that farmers produce their food,” Scioto County Farm Bureau County Communications Action Leader Wyatt Bates said.
“There is legislation in some states that has shut down a lot of farming operations that we at (the) Farm Bureau believe were good, safe production facilities.”
Kim Harless, organization director for the Scioto County Farm Bureau, said it is the Humane Society of the United States that is introducing the legislation.
“They are the ones who just had Proposition 2 in California, Arizona, and Florida that passed,” Harless said. “Basically it’s against the large factory farms. Because of the factory farms being so large they think of it as inhumane housing. They’re wanting to do away with that, which in return, will put farmers out of business.”
Proposition 2 Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
Harless said the Ohio Farm Bureau is working together, now attempting to decide how they will handle the issues that will come out of the legislation.
“They have already told us that it will be on the ballot in 2010, and that is what we are looking at right now,” Harless said.
Harless said the Scioto County Farm Bureau is a grass roots organization, so they are always looking for suggestions from the public, which they can vote on at the annual meeting at the Scioto County Fairgrounds in September.
The policy the organization adopts can then be taken to the Ohio Farm Bureau in December, eventually passing the suggestions on to the American Farm Bureau Federation in January.
Harless was quick to add the Humane Society of the United States, “has nothing to do with our local Humane Society. It’s not the dogs, the kittens.”
According to the HSUS Web site — “We work to reduce suffering and to create meaningful social change for animals by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and conducting hands-on programs that make ours a more humane world.”
Bates said much of the controversy surrounding farming methods and facilities deals with animal production.
“They want us to all be vegetarians, and while we have nothing against vegetarians, and we support people who want to become vegetarians, we just don’t believe that everybody should be a vegetarian,” Bates said.
“There are people who do like to have meat products, and we like to have a balance between the vegetable and the animal production facilities. And we want to be able to do that.”
Bates said there are organizations that believe farmers treat their animals cruelly.
“We (Farm Bureau) believe the total opposite of that, because that is the farmer’s livelihood,” Bates said. “You do not treat something very cruelly that you depend on to make your living.”
Bates was asked for specific accusations of cruelty made by activist groups against farmers methods.
“Chicken farms are one thing,” Bates said.
He said chicken farms are large, ventilated buildings where chickens are kept in smaller pens where they are fed and watered.
“They are given the best of treatment. They are very well taken care of, and they produce the eggs for us,” Bates said. “Once those chickens pass the egg production stage, then they are sent on out to be processed for food.”
Bates said there are groups that do not like to see cows in smaller pens.
“They would like for all of our food to be totally free range,” Bates said.
Bates did acknowledge there are some people taking advantage of animals, “and we do not like to see that at all.”
“Our farmers have a good relationship with the veterinarians in the area,” Bates said. “The animals are well taken care of. The sick animals are segregated from the population of the other animals. They are treated, and brought back to health, and then they can be processed with the other animals.”
Harless said it is important for consumers to learn what the actual farmer’s share of the retail food dollar is.
According to a flyer handed out at a recent event in the Scioto County Court House, the farmer earns an average 19 cents of the food dollar, with 81 cents going someplace other than to farmers.
“Ohio Farm Bureau believes in producing good high quality nutritious food in the safest, healthiest way possible. If anyone has issues or concerns that they would like the Farm Bureau to address that has to do with agriculture, we would certainly like to have them get in touch with us,” Bates said. “They can go to ofbf.org. It’s a great Web site with a lot of information for farmers and consumers.”
Bates said the site has links to e-mail addresses.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.