By Carol Ryan Dumas on CapitalPress.com
Cattlemen recruited into cruelty issue
Idaho Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, was at the Idaho Cattle Association Convention in Sun Valley Tuesday, Nov. 17, to ask cattlemen to help develop animal cruelty legislation.
Corder, chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, has been preparing two bills on the issue. Animal welfare groups and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture have been at the table. Production agriculture has been missing until this past week, he said.
Livestock producers have rejected changing Idaho's animal cruelty law or adding new laws to the books, but Corder said things are changing and laws will change with them. It is crucial that producers be part of the conversation and help direct new laws to protect themselves.
"I can't do this without you, and you can't do this without me," Corder said. "I am asking you politely and directly to stay engaged with me."
He said it's only a matter of time before animal rights groups come to Idaho seeking changes in animal welfare laws and agriculture must be ready, he said. The only way to do that is to strengthen existing law and add new laws to protect livestock production. His intent is to separate livestock production from companion animals, keeping companion animal issues in the hands of law enforcement and animal production welfare in the control of the state ag department.
He cited examples from other states, like California's Proposition 2, which may prove devastating to that state's pork and egg industries. The initiative, approved by voters in November 2008, requires producers to provide all animals with space to turn around and fully stretch their limbs.
"Agriculture, of that scale in California, could not mount a campaign that even came close (to rejecting the law). That's embarrassing," Corder said. "I want Idaho to be ready, on the offensive. We're just not there yet, but we need to be."
He said a new chicken facility near Burley, which reportedly could produce 3 million eggs, will quickly bring animal activists to Idaho. Because it's a layer facility, the operation will be killing 400,000 male chicks a month.
"Wait till the public hears that," he said. "Idaho isn't ready."
Last year, the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund named Idaho as one of the worst states in the nation with regard to animal cruelty laws.
Animal activists "are already maneuvering the public to see things their way," he said.
Other speakers at the convention also urged cattlemen to stay involved in policy issues. They told producers to get out in front of the issues, educate the public and find ways to let the public know them.
"First and foremost, you have to stay engaged," said former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig.
Environmental policy, such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and grazing reform have gone awry because producers and other Western interests have not stayed as involved as they should have, he said.
Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney with Western Legacy Alliance, said producers need to push Congress for accountability regarding taxpayer money going to environmental groups to fund environmental lawsuits. The Alliance found that in federal court alone, billions of dollars in taxpayer money went to environmentalists over the past nine years.
Many court cases are sealed as to the amount of taxpayer money awarded and to whom, and the federal government isn't even keeping track of the money, she said.
Keynote speaker Bruce Vincent, a third-generation Montana logger, said, "America is ready to hear from us. But it's got to be our initiative -- it's got to be part of our business plan."