Michigan Livestock Care Measure Passes Hurdle


Comprehensive standards for farm animal care are one step closer to state law in Michigan. Redrafted House Bills 5127 and 5128 were passed by the Michigan House Agriculture Committee Thursday.

The bills, supported by Michigan Farm Bureau and thirteen other ag groups, provide a solid framework to assure consumers that Michigan livestock have been raised with the highest safety and accountability standards. The re-drafted bills address previous objections raised by opponents. These measures closely mirror the proposed November ballot question in Ohio.

Jim Spink testifies in support of the legislation, refuting claims that the bills are designed for "industrial farms." Spink raises about 50 head of dairy steers and heifers and considers himself a "small farmer."

H.B. 5128 would put into law voluntary industry guidelines for farm animals’ care — ranging from how much living space they need to slaughter practices — and require audits of livestock farms. A 12-member council would review and possibly recommend updated animal care standards at least every five years.

H.B. 5127 Introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (D) on June 23, 2009, will impose and enforce farm animal care regulations on agricultural producers, and impose fees on farms sufficient to pay for this new regulatory regime. At first the regulations would be those created by producer organizations, but the Michigan Department of Agriculture would have the power to create and enforce its own. The department would be empowered to impose “a progressive enforcement mechanism” on violators to bring about compliance.

One of the revisions made to the two bills would remove all language dealing with pre-empting local animal welfare ordinances governing farm animal welfare. This kind of language is meant to ensure uniform welfare standards across the state in question and have been successfully passed in Oklahoma earlier this year. Additional changes to the legislation would require that farm welfare audits be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Much like in Ohio, HSUS has threatened to run a 2010 statewide ballot initiative in the style of Proposition 2 should the legislation become law. With the passage of the two measures in the House Ag Committee on Thursday, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS released this statement.

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