The voters in Ohio passed, overwhelmingly, a statewide constitutional referendum known as “Issue 2,” which creates a board of experts to oversee development of livestock care standards in the state. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will establish standards for the care, treatment and welfare of livestock and poultry raised in Ohio, based on ethics and science. The board will be chaired by the Ohio director of Agriculture and will include three family farmers, two veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members representing statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two consumer representatives.
Ohioans for Livestock Care Political Action Committee, who supported the referendum, said: “Ohioans have spoken and clearly understand that a board of experts is the appropriate entity to make decisions on behalf of animal agriculture and food production in our state. Passage of Issue 2 is a win for everyone who acknowledges the essential relationship between excellent farm animal care and a safe, affordable, locally grown food supply.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) opposed the initiative. HSUS stated, “By packaging Issue 2 as pro-animal welfare and pro-food safety, the architects of the ballot measure went a long way to assure its passage. We have not viewed Issue 2 as a poisonous package, but rather an empty one. The Ohio Farm Bureau and other agribusiness lobby groups cooked it up in an effort to block real reform.” Supporters of Issue 2 included Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Pork Producers Council, Ohio Association of Meat Processors, Governor Ted Strickland and 100 state legislators.
China to Reopen Market to U.S. Pork — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that China has agreed to reopen its market to U.S. pork and live swine. Secretary Vilsack said, “Two-way trade of agricultural, fish, and forest products between the United States and China has grown in recent years to over $21 billion per year, opening increasingly important connections that can benefit farmers, ranchers and consumers in both countries. China’s intent to remove its H1N1-related ban on U.S. pork marks an important step forward in cooperation between the countries on agriculture issues.” The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “This is good news for U.S. pork producers, who have been suffering through an economic crisis for the past two years. China is, by far, the largest potential money-making opportunity for the U.S. pork industry.” This announcement was made after the 20th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.
Swine Genome Project Succeeds — USDA announced that an international team of scientists has completed the first draft of the genome of a domesticated pig. According to USDA, this first draft sequence will spur advancements in swine production and human medicine. USDA said, “Understanding the swine genome will lead to health advancements in the swine population and accelerate the development of vaccinations for pigs. This new insight into the genetic makeup of the swine population can help reduce disease and enable medical advancements in both pigs and humans.” USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) provided funding to the University of Illinois for this project. Additional funding and technical support were provided by the University of Illinois; European Union SABRE; the Institute for Pig Genetics, Netherlands; INRA Genescope, France; Iowa Pork Producers Association; Iowa State University; Korean National Livestock Research Institute; National Pork Board; North Carolina Pork Council and others.
FSA County Committee Elections — USDA is urging producers to vote in the 2009 Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee elections that began on Nov. 6 and end on Dec. 7. FSA began mailing ballots to eligible voters last week. If voters do not receive ballots, they can obtain them at their local USDA Service Center. USDA said, “It is imperative that all eligible farmers and ranchers get involved and vote in this year’s county committee elections. County committee members will provide input and make important decisions on among other things, the local administration of new disaster and conservation programs under the 2008 Farm Bill.”
P. Scott Shearer