Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Care Board Suggestions

As usual, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board has been on my mind. If you don't care much about this you might want to stop reading now and go surf the web somewhere else. I am thinking this blog could get a little, as they say, "inside baseball". But hey, someone has got to think about this stuff, right?

I sit on the Livestock Care Board's swine subcommittee. In theory ideas related to swine care should start with this committee and move up to the full board. That is a nice theory that works well on paper but not so much in real life. In real life ideas just sort of arrive from wherever, maybe even this humble blog, and some find their way into consideration and some don't. Depending on the size of your, shall we say "personality", your idea may get more or less consideration. So HSUS's ideas recieve ALOT of consideration because their personality is big enough to threaten the entire government structure of the State of Ohio. The governor's office, producer groups, and the Farm Bureau all have pretty sizable personalities in this discussion as well. So you are a little niave to think that the system is going to work according to theory. It isn't. It is going to work according to politics. The great hope of Issue 2, and the consequent Livestock Care Standards Board, is to bring this political process into the public forum and open it up to more voices and ideas. This blog is my humble attempt to bring some new ideas to the conversation and maybe move it in a positive direction.

So what are the politics? Here is the situation as I see it. HSUS threatened Ohio Agriculture with a punitive ballot initiative. Ohio Agriculture, along with their friends at the State House, responded with the creation of the Livestock Care Standards Board. HSUS then threatened Ohio Agriculture with another punitive ballot initiative. The Governor's mansion responded by brokering the so called "Ohio Agreement" to keep the whole arguement off the fall ballot and push it back to the Care Board. The Care Board has been happily doing what government boards do,write regulations to regulate animal care in the state of Ohio and slowly moving toward a discussion of the "Ohio Agreement". Of course, the Care Board is also doing the other thing that government boards do; protect it's authority and declare it's independence. Therefore, the "Ohio Agreement", though it must be dealt with, has had to wait in line until after the election and has not been given front billing. But the election is over and the day is coming. Of course, now there is an entirely new personality at the governor's mansion so all the calculations have to be redone by all the other personalities.

In the middle of and as a result of all this, the swine subcommittee has forwarded to the full board recommended wording for their consideration that would turn the "Ohio Agreement" and its language (practically verbatim) into regulation. The Care Board took one look at this language and sent it back to the subcommittee. I see this as the Board wanting to put its stamp of independence on the wording, that is what Board's do. They want to appear independent. It should not be a surprise to anyone. If the Care Board accepts the "Ohio Agreement" as written, then what is the point of having the board? The Board would look like it was doing what it was told to do by whatever personalities are involved and that it really had no independence. All that sitting around talking, sometimes referred to as "watching paint dry" would be seen as a waste of time. I doubt any government board is going to go charging down that path willingly. At the end of the day, the Board wants to be able to say that they protected the consumer citizens of the state of Ohio. So what is to be done?

Here is my idea, hopefully some bigger personality will bring at least part of it to the discussion.

Instead of using the language of the "Ohio Agreement" practically verbatim why not get to the same end point by a different route? Why not say, "After this or that date no swine in the state of Ohio shall be housed for more than 50% of each productive cycle in such a way that it cannot lie down, standup, turnaround for a major portion of each day." The Board can tinker with the start dates and the time percentage. They should stick in some wording to allow agressive, injured, or compromised animals special exception.

Under this proposal, a producer has the freedom to use housing methods for the benefit of the animal and people as he best chooses within that restriction. An inspector can pretty quickly inspect a facility for compliance. Count the sows. Count the sows in the stalls. Divide. Multiply by 100 if you really follow the math proceedure. And, wahla, in compliance or out.

To address concerns about grandfathering in existing operations perhaps the establishment of a new "premise ID number" with the state of Ohio premise registry could be referred to. If you are going to build or expand in such a way that you should have a new "premise ID" then this or that rule would apply to you. I really don't know the rules on these Premise ID's but it is an idea that could be explored.

I continue to ponder how the Care Board could facilitate an open audit process of facilities so that the industry and consumers might better get to know each other and develop a greater connection. My blog posting entitled "option three please" touches on this subject. I won't repeat it here. These things would put the Care Board's stamp of independence on the discussion.

In all these suggestions I am striving to minimize regulation and thereby increase the freedoms available to the people that feed each of us and have to develop compassionate ways to get that job done. I am trying to allow the Care Board to act independently but get the parties to the "Ohio Agreement" to a similar end point. And in all things to do those things that will increase the consumer's confidence in the quality of the food that is presented to them for nourishment.

Thank you for your thought.

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