Ohio agriculture contributes around $93 billion dollars to the state's economy and provides nearly one million jobs. Now Ohio's Issue 2 on the November ballot has many in the farming community grasping for more information.
Tempers flared during a question and answer session as Ohio farmers voiced their opinions on Ohio Issue 2 and hoped to gain answers. Around 30 people gathered Sunday at the Muskingum Livestock Auction Barn for an informational meeting on the issue.
"We as a quality beef, Buckeye Quality Beef that is, thought it would possibly be a good idea to hear the other side, both sides and let people decide for them self," says Howard Wheeler the vice president of the Buckeye Quality Beef Association.
Ohio Issue 2 proposes to amend Ohio's constitution to create a 13 person, appointed board that will set standards for livestock and poultry care. The Ohio Farm Bureau says the board will take into account things such as food safety, local availability and affordability of food, animal health and best farm management practices. Supporters say all standards setting meetings will be open to the public.
"Now the other part of this is when they actually do propose to set any actions, set any standards, those activities will be subject like any other in state government to meet the J-Bar process as we call it or the open rule making process, so people can comment. The board is also open, they are not going to meet in secret. It is an open floor, they will take public comment, probably at every meeting," says Adam Sharp from the Ohio Farm Bureau as he addressed the crowd.
Sharp says if Ohio Issue 2 does not pass, then it is possible the Humane Society of the United States could enter the state and pass regulations that ban modern food production and animal housing methods.
On the other side of Ohio Issue 2, the Ohio Environmental Council, or OEC, is against Ohio Issue 2 because they say it is not necessary to revise Ohio's state constitution. The OEC says Ohio Issue 2 was fast tracked through the legislature and will cost Ohioans around $170,000.
"We don't need it in the constitution to create this politically appointed board and once again we have concerns that this board will be made up political appointees and we add as evidence the fact that this got pushed through the legislature in one day as a pretty recommendation of the incredible power and influence that lobbying organizations have," says Joe Logan of the Ohio Environmental Council.
Logan says he does not fear the Humane Society of the United States because he gives Ohioans credit for their sense of knowing what is right and he says Ohio farmers will not let overly restrictive standards be forced upon them.
The final decision on Ohio Issue 2 will come during the General Election on November 3rd.