CME: Voters Approve State Issue 2 in Ohio

US - Ohio’s livestock and poultry industries won a resounding victory at the polls on Tuesday when voters approved State Issue 2 by a margin of 64 per cent to 36 per cent, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner in their Daily Livestock Report (DLR) for 4 November.
calendar icon 5 November 2009
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State Issue 2 established a state Livestock Care Standards Board that will oversee production practices and regulations in Ohio. The board will have 13 members comprised of “representatives of Ohio family farms, farming organizations, food safety exports, veterinarians, consumers, the dean of the agriculture department at an Ohio college or university and a county humane society representative.” Ohio is the nations second largest egg-producing state so any restrictions placed on layer cages would be damaging to say the least. Ohio ranked ninth in hog inventory on 1 December 2008.

The victory is about the first that can be claimed by livestock, poultry and meat interests in the ongoing battle over animal welfare and rights issues. Florida, Arizona and California all passed constitutional amendments banning gestation stalls, veal calf stalls and layer cages. Oregon’s legislature passed a statute imposing similar restrictions and producers in Colorado and Michigan forged a deal with animal rights groups that would phase out these practices over 10 years. Ohio’s livestock and poultry industries believed that they would be targeted very soon by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) since such a high proportion of Ohio’s population resides in three large metropolitan areas — Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. We presume that the board will be appointed by the governor but the actual language on the ballot (which can be found by clicking here) makes no provisions for the appointment process.

The measure does not preclude future action by HSUS which has already said it intends to seek more restrictive regulations either through legislation or the ballot box. It does, however, provide a fresh approach for satisfying livestock and poultry industry critics. Whether that approach succeeds remains to be seen. It has at least put one in the win column and did so by a strong majority. The ballot initiatives to ban certain practices (mentioned above) had all passed by similar majorities.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service published last Friday an “Overview of the US Hog Industry” that some readers may find very informative. It can be found here in PDF format. The overview includes several graphics of annual data regarding pig numbers, productivity, farm numbers and size, state shares, prices and imports. It also includes a very well done short glossary of common swine industry terms that readers not well versed in pig “lingo” may find particularly helpful.

The pork complex is still holding its breath but certainly feels better about the domestic demand-H1N1 influenza situation after pork cutout values continued to rise today. Today’s increase to $59.34 is the third increase this week and comes on the heels of a three week rally on the weekly chart shown below. As of today, this week’s average is $59.04. If that holds for the remainder of the week, it would mark the highest weekly average cutout value since the week that ended 1 August — which was on the tail-end of some sharp slaughter reductions in July when packers used floating holidays to push cutouts higher and get their margins back from the abyss they had fallen into the first half of the year.

The real news, though, is that this rally has occurred while slaughter has been almost precisely as expected from the September Hogs and Pigs report and weight have remained steady. Slaughter since the first week of September has been 1.1 per cent lower than last year and only 0.15 per cent higher than the report suggested after accounting for changes in imports from Canada. Hog carcasses weighed, on average, 202 pounds last week, the same as the week before and, for the first time since late March, the same as one year ago. Weights are usually increasing this time of year as the weather cools and fresh corn becomes available but we are not convinced weights will increase much if at all going forward. The first reason is that temperatures were wonderfully cool all summer meaning that this fall wasn’t that much of an improvement. In addition, fresh, palatable corn may not be on the menu this year given well-documented harvest difficulties and questionable corn quality, especially regarding mold.

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