August 21, 2019

Animal Agriculture (HSUS, Ohio); Farm Bill; Rural Development (Broadband); Biofuels

Categories: Ethanol /Farm Bill

Animal Agriculture (HSUS, Ohio)

Alan Johnson reported late last week at The Columbus Dispatch Online (Ohio) that, “Ohioans will see new standards for raising animals ranging from chickens, hogs and calves to puppies, bears and alligators as part of a deal reached yesterday to keep a constitutional issue off the fall ballot.

“Gov. Ted Strickland helped engineer an eleventh-hour compromise between the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] and the Ohio Farm Bureau, which are contentious rivals on the subject of farm-animal care. Yesterday was the deadline to submit issues for the November election.

“‘I just did not think it was in Ohioans’ best interests to have an acrimonious ballot issue debated,’ Strickland said at a news conference at his Statehouse office. ‘This is something that is good for Ohio agriculture and good for animal welfare in this state.’”

Mr. Johnson added that, “Jim Chakeres, executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association, said the rules might hamper growth of the egg business in Ohio, which is the No. 2 producer behind Iowa. ‘But this gives us time to look at the next option,’ he said.

Dick Isler, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, likewise said that the timing allows the preservation of the $500-million-a-year industry in Ohio. He said that if the ballot issue had passed, ‘many family farms would have gone out of business.’”

Matt Sanctis reported on Friday at the Springfield News Sun Online (Ohio) that, “A proposed ballot issue aimed at improving the treatment of farm animals is off the table after the State of Ohio, the Humane Society of the United States and Ohio agricultural leaders reached a consensus.

“The agreement, reached earlier this week, means a ballot issue proposed by the HSUS and a group called Ohioans for Humane Farms will not go on the ballot this November. The organizations had been collecting signatures for the issue, which, had it passed, would have required farmers to quickly phase out the use of gestation crates for pigs and battery cages for hens.

“The new agreement calls for hog producers to phase out gestation crates by 2025, but new facilities built after 2010 will not be allowed to use the crates. For egg producers, new facilities will not be allowed to use battery cages, but current producers will be allowed to continue their operations without changes. The agreement also calls for recommendations for prohibiting the sale of exotic animals, regulating dog breeding kennels and increasing penalties for cockfighting, among others.”

The article noted that, “While some farmers were opposed to any kind of agreement, [Mike Terry, president of the Champaign County Farm Bureau] said, it will probably be better for the state in the long run. Many farmers, he said, believe the issue was being pushed by out-of-state interests that know little about the reality of farming.

“Still, he said, a drawn out campaign in the fall could have been worse for the state.

“‘The more I look at it, the more I think it’s probably better than a drawn out battle,’ Terry said.”

David Coyan reported on Friday at The Jackson County Times-Journal Online (Ohio) that, “After months of speculation with regards to the potential impact of a ballot initiative started by Ohioans for Humane Farms, an agreement was reached between the animal rights group and various organizations representing the agriculture industry in the state of Ohio that will avoid a campaign slowdown, at least for now.

“The deal was brokered by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, and could be viewed as a terrific compromise between two different organizations with very different agendas.

“‘This agreement represents a joint effort to find common ground. As a result, Ohio agriculture will remain strong, and animals will be treated better,’ Strickland said in a press release issued from his office. ‘Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars and unproductive energy fighting an acrimonious campaign through the fall, both sides will be able to continue investing in our agricultural base and taking care of animals.’ Both sides have touted about their efforts to preserve the principles on which they were founded, while finding a compromise.”

On Thursday, the AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams contained additional background and perspective on the Ohio HSUS compromise agreement.

A July 1 update at AgriTalk Online indicated that, “Reaction to the agreement was widely mixed. We talked today with Jack Fisher of the Ohio Farm Bureau and asked him why the ag groups made the concessions. Among the reasons given Fisher said that while ag groups were confident they could win the vote, repeated HSUS ads showing animal cruelty would erode consumer confidence.”

“We also talked with Ohio farm broadcaster Andy Vance with the Buckeye Ag Radio Network. He said reaction from farmers is mixed;” and, “David Martosko of Humane Watch, however, said HSUS gained very little in the agreement.”

Audio clips from Jack Fisher, Andy Vance and David Martosko were posted at the AgriTalk webpage, as well as a replay of the press conference announcing the agreement.

Meanwhile, in other news, the Washington Insider section of DTN reported on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance that would reduce antibiotic use for food-producing animals to situations necessary to protect their health under a veterinarian’s supervision. The proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days.”

The DTN item noted that, “Observers point out that this is not a new concern for FDA, which has urged for decades the development of increased regulation on use of antibiotics by livestock.

In fact, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told the press recently that the General Accountability Office will release two reports in the near future on the use of antibiotics for both humans and livestock. In the past, Congress has discouraged FDA from becoming ‘too aggressive’ relative to the use of antibiotics for livestock, Peterson said, and he made clear that he and other farm-state lawmakers will be very watchful about what other lawmakers and FDA, may have in mind.

At the same time, Chairman Peterson said he recognized there are a growing number of lawmakers and outside groups who favor more aggressive FDA action on this issue. He and others also have noted that Denmark stopped the therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place and are now finding they need to use higher amounts of antibiotics when the animals do become ill.”

Friday’s DTN update explained that, “One key reason for FDA’s concern is the scale and importance of antibiotic use by animals, which accounts for more than half of the U.S. total. In general, antibiotics are used for animals for three purposes, to promote growth, prevent illness and treat illness. The Animal Health Institute says only 13 percent of agricultural antibiotics are used to promote growth, but most agricultural antibiotics are given to healthy animals to prevent illness. Still, FDA says it is mostly concerned about the use of antibiotics to promote growth — a practice banned in the EU in 2006.

“The issue is clearly of interest to the Congress and several bills to restrict antibiotic use in food animals go beyond FDA’s guidance. For example, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who chairs the important House Rules Committee, proposes to restrict antibiotic use in food animals and says the FDA guidance does not go far enough. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.Y., chairman of the Health Subcommittee, plans a July hearing focusing on the effects of antibiotic use in animals on the development of resistant bacteria in humans ‘to determine the next steps forward on this issue.’

“The U.S. livestock industry questions the need and premise for FDA’s move. It argues that the guidance is not based on adequate science, could have tremendous harm on animal health and, ultimately, the safety of food, and that there are not enough large animal veterinarians to supervise use when needed.”

Farm Bill

Robert Pore reported yesterday at the Grand Island Independent Online (Nebraska) that, “National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman testified Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to review the 2008 Farm Bill and prepare for the 2012 Farm Bill.

“‘The 2008 Farm Bill funded crop insurance and permanent disaster relief programs, created ambitious new programs to better serve farmers’ and the general public’s interests, continued successful programs and made adjustments to make other programs more successful,’ said Johnson. ‘The 2008 Farm Bill was an improvement over its predecessor, but room for improvement remains.

“During Johnson’s testimony, he assessed strengths and weaknesses of current farm programs, highlighting the need for strong crop insurance, permanent disaster and countercyclical income support programs. As the hearing was intended to strengthen farm policy, Johnson also called for the inclusion of supply management tools in the next farm bill.”

Mr. Pore noted that, “Stallman said the 2012 Farm Bill must continue to provide the nation’s farmers a dependable safety net, but given today’s tight budget outlook, the legislation must also be fiscally responsible. He said the best way to do that is to maintain the basic funding structure and baseline of the 2008 farm bill. Stallman told the committee that an overriding Farm Bill priority for Farm Bureau is to maintain balance and benefits for all farm sectors.”

An unofficial transcript of Wednesday’s Senate hearing is available here.

Rural Development (Broadband)

Reuters news reported on Friday that, “President Obama on Friday announced nearly $800 million in loans and grants for building broadband networks to reach homes, schools and hospitals.

“The grants and loans, which will be matched by $200 million in private investment, are part of Mr. Obama’s $800 billion federal stimulus package, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband expansion projects.

Mr. Obama said 66 new infrastructure projects would directly create 5,000 jobs and encourage economic development in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities.”

The article noted that, “The Agriculture and Commerce Departments are administering the grants and loans for projects in 50 states and Washington.

“Increasing broadband access to rural and low-income families and small businesses is a major part of the National Broadband Plan issued by the Federal Communications Commission early this year.”

Additional comments on this development from Sec. Vilsack were posted at this Brownfield webpage.


Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Worries over the federal budget deficit are raising concerns in the biofuels industry about the future of its existing subsidies and chances for getting new incentives.

“Congress must renew the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol or else the subsidy will expire at the end of the year. At the same time, the industry is seeking subsidies to install new pumps at service stations and fund the development of biorefineries that can make biofuels from crop residue and other new feedstocks.

“The new ‘blender’ pumps the industry wants stations to install would dispense varying mixes of ethanol and gasoline. The hope is that motorists would fill up with 20 to 30 percent ethanol rather than the 10 percent blend that’s now standard. A House bill introduced this week would provide grants to help defray the pumps’ cost. Installation could cost as much as $50,000 apiece, according to the government.”

Mr. Brasher added that, “The biodiesel industry’s inability this year to get its subsidy renewed could be a warning to ethanol producers.

“The $1-a-gallon tax credit lapsed at the end of 2009, and Senate has been unable to agree on a bill that would revive the subsidy and extend it to the end of the year.

“The biodiesel subsidy itself isn’t controversial, but Senate Republicans and some Democrats have objected to other spending in the bill that would add to the budget deficit. The legislation includes money for state Medicaid programs and an extension of unemployment benefits.”

Keith Good

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