The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) met last week to discuss, among other things, its victory in November’s “Issue 2” vote. As one OFB vice president told members, the fight is far from over: “It’s going to get ugly.” Meaning that sooner or later, Ohio’s farmers are going to have to deal with the $131-million raging elephant in the room, the so-called “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS).
Most observers expect HSUS to try to undo the progress made by Issue 2. The measure’s landslide voter approval has enabled the formation of a state livestock board to oversee animal welfare policy (while limiting the influence of out-of-state animal rights groups like HSUS). This, of course, drives the save-the-chickens ideologues like HSUS president Wayne Pacelle crazy.
OFB has already spent millions getting Issue 2 passed. While this was an important step forward, it was essentially an uncontested layup. There was no meaningful opposition from HSUS, or from anyone else. So now that HSUS is looking towards the Buckeye State for a 2010 “round 2,” what can we expect?
To get a feel for what could happen, look no further than California and Arizona, which also allow ballot initiatives from carpetbagging radicals. Soundbite after soundbite, coupled with sad pictures and video clips of farm animals, led to crushing defeats for farmers in those states during recent elections, especially among urban voters who had no ties to agriculture (beyond what they buy at the grocery store). The issue was defined by HSUS, and farmers there spent their entire campaigns backpedalling, explaining themselves, and hoping HSUS’s rhetorical firebombs wouldn’t do too much damage.
If HSUS establishes itself in Ohio, it can dictate future farm policy in much the same way. Livestock farmers can expect a slow death by costly regulation (and litigation) coupled with activist-driven consumer resentment. Not a very promising future: Just look at forecasts for California’s egg industry following the passage of the HSUS-backed Proposition 2.
Farmers can’t score points if they only play defense. In the fight against agriculture’s animal-rights archenemy, they have to have an offense too. So, what’s the Buckeye farm establishment to do? And how deep is it prepared to dig? We’ll have to wait and see.