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 yesterday.

The bills address many public concerns posed with the initial bills, yet still provide a solid framework to assure consumers that Michigan livestock have been raised with the highest safety and accountability standards.

“We appreciate the leadership of Chairman Mike Simpson and the members of the House Agriculture Committee for moving these significant bills forward,” says Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) President Wayne H. Wood. “Our coalition looks forward to working with the House of Representatives to advance this legislation which stands to make Michigan a national leader in comprehensive farm animal care.”

Among the legislative revisions:

  • The Animal Care Advisory Council has been expanded from 10 members to 12 and now includes two members representing the general public.
  • All language referencing the pre-emption of local ordinances governing farm animal welfare has been stricken.
  • Information submitted to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) by a third-party auditor regarding a farm's failure to pass an audit for compliance with animal care standards would now be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Jim Spink, who raises about 50 head of dairy steers and heifers and farms about 200 acres in Jackson County, testified in support of the tie-barred bills and commended the Agriculture Committee on their action today. While some critics have attempted to cast the legislation as “large farm” bills, Spink, a self-proclaimed “small farmer,” said farms of all sizes share the same goals for production efficiency and substantive animal care standards.

Tracy Petzke, a third-year veterinary student at Michigan State University, also testified in support of the bills. Petzke works at the MSU dairy farm but does not come from an agricultural background. She said her experiences on the university farm have instilled the need for scientifically sound practices to ensure the best animal care and she believes House Bills 5127 and 5128 accomplish this.

American Humane Certified, the farm animal welfare program of the American Humane Association, submitted written testimony supporting the legislative cause.
In his letter, American Humane Certified Director Timothy Amlaw wrote, “We believe that agricultural interests in Michigan are on the right course by being proactive and addressing animal welfare standards with an effective and economically viable plan and within a reasonable time frame...We commend those in the Michigan Legislature and agriculture for taking this progressive action to adopt higher animal care standards. We look forward to working with all of the proposed Committee stakeholders to make the state of Michigan's farm animal care program the benchmark and standard for humane farm animal care in the United States."

Reading into the committee record at today's hearing, Simpson said the bills also have the support of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Press Association and Michigan Great Lakes International. The Michigan Townships Association is neutral on the legislation, he reported.

From their initial introduction, the bills have had the support of MDA and coalition members:

  • Dairy Farmers of America. 
  • GreenStone Farm Credit Services.
  • Michigan Agri-Business Association. 
  • Michigan Allied Poultry Industries. 
  • Michigan Cattlemen's Association. 
  •  Michigan Corn Growers Association. 
  • Michigan Equine Partnership. 
  • Michigan Farm Bureau. 
  • Michigan Milk Producers Association. 
  • Michigan Pork Producers Association. 
  • Michigan Sheep Breeders Association. 
  • Michigan Soybean Association.
  • Michigan Veterinary Medical Association.

Senate Bills 654 and 655 have been introduced in the Michigan Senate and are identical to the original House bills. The bills have been referred to the Senate Agriculture and Bioeconomy Committee for future action, and also have the support of the agricultural coalition.

Source: Michigan Farm Bureau