House passes revisions to Ohio’s animal cruelty laws

Bill modifies penalties for animal cruelty, with focus on companion animals

Months before the current controversy of alleged animal cruelty by employees of Conklin Dairy Farms, Rep. Williams and Combs introduced H.B. 55 to revise portions of Ohio’s animal cruelty law.  Yesterday, the Ohio House passed the animal cruelty bill, which had been introduced last March.

H.B. 55 focuses largely on cruelty to “companion animals,” which includes dogs, cats, and any animal kept inside a residential dwelling.  Changes to the companion animals provisions include authority to order child offenders to undergo counseling and psychological treatment, inclusion of companion animals in court protection orders, and requirements for the State to approve continuing education courses on animal abuse counseling for medical and social work professions. 

In regards to cruelty to animals other than companion animals, H.B. 55 adds a new penalty provision.  The penalty remains a second degree misdemeanor for first offenses, but increases to a first degree misdemeanor for subsequent violations of the law.  Current law addresses each offense as a second degree misdemeanor.   Under Ohio law, a first degree misdemeanor can result in a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, while a second degree misdemeanor violation carries a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. 

What is cruelty to animals?  Ohio’s animal cruelty law is Ohio Revised Code section 951.13, which states that “no person shall:

  • (1) Torture an animal, deprive one of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill, or impound or confine an animal without supplying it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good wholesome food and water;
  • (2) Impound or confine an animal without affording it, during such confinement, access to shelter from wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the animals would otherwise become sick or in some other way suffer.  Division (A)(2) of this section does not apply to animals impounded or confined prior to slaughter. For the purpose of this section, shelter means a man-made enclosure, windbreak, sunshade, or natural windbreak or sunshade that is developed from the earth’s contour, tree development, or vegetation;
  • (3) Carry or convey an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner;
  • (4) Keep animals other than cattle, poultry or fowl, swine, sheep, or goats in an enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air, nor or feed cows on food that produces impure or unwholesome milk;
  • (5) Detain livestock in railroad cars or compartments longer than twenty-eight hours after they are so placed without supplying them with necessary food, water, and attention, nor permit such stock to be so crowded as to overlie, crush, wound, or kill each other.”

Before passing H.B. 55 yesterday, the House included floor amendments that make minor revisions to the dangerous and vicious dog provisions in Ohio Revised Code 955.11. 

The Ohio Senate has not introduced a similar animal cruelty bill, and has only a few more sessions until its summer recess begins in early June.  If the Senate doesn’t pass the animal cruelty legislation before the end of the year, the bill will expire and must be reintroduced after January, in the next session of the Ohio General Assembly.

Animal rights groups have advocated around the country for stiffer penalties on animal cruelty offenses.   Most state animal cruelty laws contain both misdemeanor and felony penalties, with the more severe felony charges typically applying to acts that are intentional, heinous or involve mutilation.  Under Ohio law, felony charges apply to certain offenses against companion animals and some dog-fighting offenses.   For an overview of state animal cruelty laws, visit this publication by the Michigan Animal Legal and Historical Center.  View the entire chapter of Ohio law on offenses to domestic animals, which includes the animal cruelty law and various penalty provisions, here.

See Ohio H.B. 55 here.  The floor amendments to H.B. 55 are in the House Journal for May 27, 2010.

Ohio’s “animals running at large” law may see revision

Bill introduced in Ohio House of Representatives to clarify liability standards

A recurring problem around Ohio may be resolved if H.B. 503 progresses through the General Assembly before the end of the year.  Representatives Bubp (R-88th Dist.) and Garrison (D-93rd Dist.) recently introduced the bill to revise Ohio’s animals at large law.  The proposal clarifies the standards for civil and criminal liability under the law.

The animals running at large law, found in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 951, states that no owner or keeper of  horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, or geese “shall permit” the animals to run at large on public roads or outside of their enclosures.   Many law officers, prosecutors and judges have interpreted the word “shall” as a trigger for automatic liability–if an animal is out, the owner is liable.    But in a case before the Ohio Supreme Court, the court stated that the law does not establish automatic liability.  The court explained that the law creates the duty to exercise ordinary care to keep animals from running at large and sets up a “rebuttable presumption” of liability.   An animal owner whose animals are found running at large has the opportunity to rebut the presumption of liability and prove that he or she exercised ordinary care to contain the animals.  Despite the Supreme Court opinion, animal owners have continued to be subject to prosecution under an automatic liability standard.

H.B. 503 removes the possibility of interpreting the animals at large law as a strict liability law and lays out two different standards for civil and criminal liability.  An owner or keeper of animals who “negligently” permits animals to run at large is liable for all damages caused by the animal, and an owner or keeper who “recklessly” permits animals to run at large is guilty of a fourth degree criminal misdemeanor.  Under Ohio law, “negligence” is the failure to exercise ordinary care, while “recklessness” is acting with indifference to consequences and with disregard to a known risk.

H.B. 503 would alleviate the problems many animal owners in Ohio have faced–potential criminal liability when natural disasters, vandals, pranksters or neighbor disputes, rather than the owner’s action or inaction, caused the release of the animals.   A disturbing increase in such incidents led the Ohio State Bar Association and its Agricultural Law Committee to work with H.B. 503 sponsors to develop the revisions.  View H.B. 503 here.

Under Ohio roadway law, what is a livestock trailer?

Appellate Court decides that a livestock trailer is “farm machinery”  under Ohio law

Why does it matter?  A “motor vehicle” must display a license plate according to Ohio Revised Code Section 4503.21(A), but “farm machinery” is exempt from the requirement.

When a farmer pulling a trailer loaded with cattle in Wayne County did not have a license plate on the trailer, a state trooper cited him for violating ORC 4503.21(A).  The farmer argued that the trailer did not require a license plate because it was  exempt as “farm machinery.”   The municipal court judge disagreed because the trailer fits within the definition of “motor vehicle.”  The court found the farmer guilty of a minor misdemeanor.   But a later opinion issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judge’s decision and held that the livestock trailer is “farm machinery” that is exempt from Ohio’s license plate requirements.

Confusing?  As with many Ohio laws relating to agriculture, the statute itself is likely responsible for the confusion. The license plate law states in Ohio Revised Code Section 4503.21 that:

  • “(A) No person who is the owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall fail to display in plain view on the front and rear of the motor vehicle the distinctive number and registration mark . . . except that . . . the owner or operator of a motorcycle, motorized bicycle, manufactured home, mobile home, trailer, or semitrailer shall display on the rear only. . .” [emphasis added]

In conclusion, a “trailer” must have a rear license plate.  The law defines a “trailer” in Ohio Revised Code Section 4501(M), which includes, among other things:

  • ” . . . a vehicle used to transport agricultural produce or agricultural production materials between a local place of storage or supply and the farm when drawn or towed on a public road or highway at a speed greater than twenty-five miles per hour . . .”

And so it appears that a trailer transporting livestock to a sale in Wayne County should have displayed a rear license plate.    Not so, said the court, because the law also states in the definition of “motor vehicle” that the definition does not include “farm machinery.”  If a trailer transporting livestock fits within the definition of “farm machinery,” then it is not a motor vehicle that requires a license plate, the court reasoned.  Which brings us to the definition of “farm machinery” in ORC 4503.01(U); that definition begins:

  • “ ‘Farm machinery’ means all machines and tools that are used in the production, harvesting, and care of farm products, and includes trailers that are used to transport agricultural produce or agricultural production materials between a local place of storage or supply and the farm . . . [emphasis added]

Hence, the confusion–two similar references to trailers used for agricultural purposes, but with different outcomes.   The appellate focused on the “farm machinery” definition to determine the outcome of the case, and stated:

  • “We conclude that the cattle Mr. Besancon was hauling were “agricultural produce” under Section 4501.01(U) because they were the progeny of livestock animals. We further conclude that the auction house is a “place of . . . supply” under that section because it is a location at which goods are offered for sale at various prices. A magistrate found that Mr. Besancon was using the livestock trailer to transport cattle to an auction house. Mr. Besancon, therefore, was using it to transport agricultural produce between a local place of supply and his farm. Accordingly, it was farm machinery under Section 4501.01(U).”

The impact of the Ninth District court’s decision could extend beyond the license plate law.  Many other highway and traffic laws include mention of “farm machinery” and utilize the same definition for “farm machinery” found in ORC 4501.01(U).  The Besancon case provides other courts, especially those in northeast Ohio’s ninth appellate district, a basis for sorting through the muddled treatment of agriculture in Ohio roadway laws.

See State v. Besancon, 2010-Ohio-2147, here.

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers

Author: Donald J. Breece, Farm Management Specialist, OSU Extension Center-Lima

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) provides producers of raw commodities, who have been adversely affected by import competition, with free technical assistance and cash benefits up to $10,000 per year. TAA covers farmers, ranchers, fish farmers, and fishermen competing with imported aquaculture products. It does not cover the forest products. The USDA has a Web site at:  http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/taa/taaindex.htm .

Until recently, commodities produced outside of Ohio were identified, such as Wild Blue Berries, Salmon, Shrimp, Olives, Avocados and Lychee.  Now, Concord Juice Grapes produced in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have qualified for assistance.  The Farm Service Agency will certify producers’  eligibility for adjustment assistance if they can demonstrate that their prices are less than or equal to 80 percent of the national average price during the previous 5 marketing years, and that increases in imports of like or competitive products “contributed importantly” to the decline in prices.  The five year average price for Concord Juice Grapes was $271.72 per ton for the three state area.   Eighty percent of this average, therefore, was $217.38.  In 2003 the average price fell below this 80% figure to $211.25, or a $6.13 difference.  The payment rate, therefore, is $3.06 per ton since the amount of cash payment will be equal to the quantity produced in the most recent marketing year, multiplied by one-half the difference between the average price in the most recent marketing year and 80 percent of the average price for the 5 preceding marketing years.

After submitting an application, producers are immediately eligible to request trade adjustment technical assistance from the Extension service at no cost. The Extension office will provide information regarding the feasibility and desirability of substituting one or more alternative commodities and technical assistance that will improve the competitiveness of the production and marketing of the adversely affected commodity.

Concord Juice Grape producers, covered by a certification of eligibility, may apply for adjustment assistance.  To qualify for a TAA cash payment, producers must complete Form FSA-229, meet with the county Extension service, and submit all supporting documentation by September 30. If an applicant has already received $10,000 in TAA benefits or $65,000 in counter-cyclical payments for the year, reported an increase in net farm or fishing income in the most recent tax year, or has an annual adjusted gross income greater than $2.5 million, he or she is disqualified from receiving an additional TAA cash payment.

Where can I obtain further assistance?

Your first stop should be your local FSA county office. You can also contact the Trade Adjustment Assistance Office, Foreign Agricultural Service, at (202) 720-2916 or write to USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service, Trade Adjustment Assistance, STOP 1021, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-1021, or e-mail at:  trade.adjustment@fas.usda.gov.  Ohio produces lots of diverse commodities, and  will most likely have more farm products to become TAA eligible.  Ohio’s Concord Juice Grape growers happen to be the first under the newest TAA Act, and are charting this new territory with both FSA and Extension.  Remember, this is a very recent Trade Adjustment Assistance program initiative.  More will be known as Ohio’s program becomes further developed early this summer.

The Impact of Section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Agriculture

Beginning in 2012, a little discussed mandate in the health care reform legislation (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) will require any business that purchases more than $600 of goods or services from another business to submit a 1099 tax from to the Internal Revenue Service. For the first time, 1099s are to be sent to corporations.

Under current law, businesses send Forms 1099 for payments in excess of $600 for rent, interest, dividends, and non-employee services when these payments are made to entities other than corporations. Payments made to a corporation and payments for merchandise are not required to be reported. In agriculture, 1099s have been traditionally used to document income for individual workers or independent contractors who receive compensation other than wages and salaries. For example, Farmer Jones hires Farmer Brown to custom combine soybeans for $30 per acre. If Farm Brown combines more than 20 acres ($600 cap), a 1099 is issued.

Under the new rules, a 1099 would also have to be issued by the farm business to any business or individual who the farm purchases tangible goods. For example, Farmer Jones purchases 25 tons of lime valued at $760 worth from XYZ Lime and Farmer Brown purchases $700 of baler twine from RU-Ready Farm Supply, both would Farmer Jones and Farmer Brown would be required to issue 1099s for these purchases. The new rules also require the farm to issue 1099s to corporations as well. 1099s would have to been issued for purchases of goods or services from any source—imagine how this will affect purchasing farm supplies over the internet. These two new changes could require millions of additional forms to be issued from the farm sector. It would also mean the collection of names and taxpayer identification numbers for every payee and vendor the farm does business with.

The health care bill mandate aims to collect lost revenue from companies that under-report on their tax returns. The provision is expected to raise $17 billion over 10 years. This 1099 reporting mandate has the distinction of being the first provision of the health care bill to be challenged in Congress. U.S. Representative Lungren from California submitted House Resolution 5141 The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act which will attempt to remove section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee at the end of April.

The final impact of these new provisions will not be known until the Internal Revenue System has issued its regulations. The Ohio Ag Manager team will continue to monitor these changes and report them to you in future newsletters.

Western Ohio Cropland Values and Cash Rents 2009-10

The full article is also available at:

http://aede.osu.edu/resources/docs/pdf/D2R0YYDP-94GQ-4JKS-VOS4DHRFYGJXGKQC.pdf

Ohio cropland varies significantly in its production capabilities and cropland values and cash rents vary across the state. Generally speaking, western Ohio cropland values and cash rents differ substantially from eastern Ohio cropland values and cash rents. This is due to a number of factors including land productivity, potential crop return, variability of crop return, field size, field shape, drainage, population, ease of access, market access, local market price, and competition for rented cropland in a region.

This factsheet is a summary of data collected for western Ohio cropland values and cash rents.

Ohio cropland values show signs of remaining stable to falling slightly in 2010 while this survey indicates cash rent levels will see little change in 2010. According to the Western Ohio Cropland Values and Cash Rents Survey bare cropland values are expected to decrease from 0.1% to 3.1% in 2010 depending on the region and land class. Cash rents are expected to range from a decrease of 1.5% to an increase of 3.2% depending on the region and land class.

The “Western Ohio Cropland Values and Cash Rents” survey was conducted by drawing on the expertise of professionals that are knowledgeable about Ohio’s cropland markets. Surveyed groups include farm managers, rural appraisers, agricultural lenders, OSU Extension educators, farmers, landowners, and Farm Service Agency personnel.

Ninety-five surveys were completed, analyzed and summarized. Respondents were asked to give responses based on 3 classes of land in their area; “top” land, “average” land and “poor” land. The preliminary survey results are summarized below for Western Ohio and regional summaries are summarized for northwest Ohio (NW Results) and southwest Ohio (SW Results).

The full article is also available at:

http://aede.osu.edu/resources/docs/pdf/D2R0YYDP-94GQ-4JKS-VOS4DHRFYGJXGKQC.pdf

Local Foods Focus of Choices Magazine

The latest issue of Choices focuses on local foods and the issues surrounding this current trend in the United States. Choices is an online peer-reviewed magazine published by the AAEA for readers interested in the policy and management of agriculture, the food industry, natural resources, rural communities, and the environment. To access the latest edition go to

http://www.choicesmagazine.org/magazine/issue.php

FSA Programs: Sign-up Time is Running Out!

Farmers have until June 1, 2010 to get signed up for the farm program of their choice. Farmers need to understand that the requirement to re-enroll each year did not change with the DCP/ACRE election in 2009. Each farm still needs to be enrolled in either DCP or ACRE before the deadline to participate in the government farm programs. If farmers do not enroll, they will not receive DCP or ACRE payments for 2010.

Program sign-up has been significantly slower than past years according to the Wyandot County FSA office and farmers waiting until the deadline might not get the customer service they deserve due to the volume of farms that will need to be processed. As of April 22, 2010 approximately 22% of the farms had not started the sign-up process. Although there were some new farms signed into the ACRE program in 2010, the majority of farmers locally remained in the DCP program.

The table below shows the current price projections needed for the 2010 crop marketing year for ACRE to trigger assuming an average yield. With the amount of corn and soybeans already planted, many farmers appear to be optimistic that we could have another above average crop yield in 2010. The ACRE decision really depends on a farmers risk tolerance as well as their expectation of crop yields and market prices for the upcoming year.

U.S. average cash price to equal revenue guarantee; average Ohio yields U.S. average cash price to equal revenue guarantee; 5% increased Ohio yields U.S. average cash price to equal revenue guarantee; 10% increased Ohio yields
Corn 151.0 bu $3.45 158.6 bu $3.28 166.1 bu $3.14
Soybeans 46.0 bu $8.74 48.3 bu $8.32 50.6 bu $7.95
Wheat 68.8 bu $5.26 72.2 bu $5.01 75.7 bu $4.78

If you signed up for ACRE in 2009, don’t forget you have until July 15, 2010 to verify your 2009 crop production. According to the Wyandot County FSA office, at least locally, there is only 25% of the farmers that elected ACRE in 2009 that have completed this phase of the program. If you have specific questions on ACRE or any of the government farm programs contact your local FSA office or you can contact me directly at bruynis.1@osu.edu .

NASS Releases County-Based Cash Rent Data

Ohio State University Extension has been providing local cash rent data and thanks to NASS (National Agricultural Statistical Service) we have access to another source of cash rent data.  NASS cash rent data should be used as a supplement to the Ohio Cash Rent data provided by OSU Leader of Production Business Management, Barry Ward.

The cash rent information provided by NASS includes average rental rates for non-irrigated cropland, irrigated cropland and pastureland during the 2008 and 2009 calendar years. NASS is providing the county data in response to requests from customers as well as the new requirements of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Since 1997, NASS has published land value and rental rate data at the state level. Last year marked the first time NASS began publishing cash rent information at the county level. The data will is based on information NASS gathered from agricultural producers nationwide during end-of-year surveys.

The county-level data on cash rental rates will be available online through NASS’s agricultural statistics database, at

www.nass.usda.gov .

Users will be able to access cash rental rates at the state, county or crop reporting district level.

Here is the procedure I recommend you use to get the data for your area:

1. start at the NASS homepage http://www.nass.usda.gov/

2. navigate to the left sidebar and click on ‘Economics’, which brings you to this page

http://www.nass.usda.gov/QuickStats/indexbysubject.jsp?Pass_group=Economics

3. select ‘cash rents’ then hit the search button

4. Select: County Cash Rents Data Query – allow the page to refresh

5.  Under “Select Location” – “Locale” select: COUNTY; allow the page to refresh

6. Under “State” select: OHIO (or whatever state you have an interest); allow the page to refresh

7. Under “Select Time” select 2009; allow the page to refresh

8. You can select an individual county but I recommend you skip that and go to the bottom and select: Get Data

This will give you county by county cash rent averages from this Ag Stats survey for the entire state. You can view your county(ies) of interest. Cash rent data provided by NASS and Ohio State University Extension is a good place to begin the cash rent negotiation process.

Wages and Benefits For Farm Employees 2009

The full article is also available at:

http://aede.osu.edu/resources/docs/pdf/9FX5I8CH-S8U5-205G-TOG8ZTIV2IH61D5I.pdf

Hiring and compensating farm employees is a critical component in many farming operations in 21st century agriculture. For farm business owners, equitable compensation is critical to retaining quality employees and maintaining a profitable and successful farm business. For farm employees, equitable compensation is an important part of employment satisfaction.

Little data is available addressing issues of average compensation amounts, value of benefits provided and hours worked per week for farm employees. This survey was developed to collect and share baseline data for farm employers and employees. The “Wages and Benefits For Farm Employees” study was conducted by mailed survey distributed to farm business owners with hired farm employees.

Surveys were returned and summarized for 171 farm employees in 2009. Data was collected for each employee on education, years of experience, type of general farm duties, days per week worked, hours per week worked, time off (holidays, vacation, sick leave and personal days), wages paid in cash, fringe benefits (vehicle, farm produce or commodities, meals, clothing, insurance, housing, continuing education, recreation, vacation, retirement plan, use of machinery and equipment), and bonuses. Data was collected on farm size by gross sales and type of farm.

In this study we collected data for full-time and part-time farm employees. This study found that the average value of cash wages paid to full-time farm employees was $28,265 per year. (Table 1) The average value of benefits was $5,960 per year. (Table 3) Average total compensation including wages and benefits was $34,225 per year for full-time farm employees.

Full-time farm employees average 11.9 years of experience and 9.4 years of tenure at their present workplace. Full-time workers average 2374 hours worked per year. This data enables us to calculate the average wage per hour and total compensation per hour. The average wage for full-time farm employees, according to this study, is $11.91 per hour and the total compensation for full-time farm employees is $14.42 per hour.

Part-time employees average $9.22 per hour of cash wages. Their benefits average $590 per year. Part-time employees average 9.5 years of experience and 5.4 years of tenure at their present workplace.

The distribution of wages for full-time employees is presented in Table 2 and shows the large majority of full-time employees earn between $20,001 and $40,000 per year (55.5%).

Further articles on farm employment, human resources and farm management are available through the Ohio Ag Manager Newsletter ( http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu/ ), Ohioline ( http://ohioline.osu.edu/ ), and the OSU Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics Farm Management website:

http://aede.osu.edu/programs/FarmManagement

Forty percent of full-time employees from this study received some form of insurance.

Thirty-four percent of full-time farm employees received single person health insurance while 11% received family health insurance. The average value of the insurance benefit for those receiving the benefit was $4,653 per employee per year. The average value for all full-time employees in this study was significantly less at $1,566 per person per year due to a large number of employees receiving no insurance. (Sixty percent of this sample received no health insurance.)

Twenty-nine percent of full-time employees received housing as a part of their compensation package. The value of housing for those receiving the benefit averaged $6,933 per year. The average for all employees was $2,008 per year. Along with housing, some employees were compensated with paid utilities. For those receiving this benefit, the average value of the benefit was $1,992 per year. The average for all full-time employees was $382 per year. This much lower average value for all full-time employees is due to a large percentage not receiving this benefit.

Other significant forms of benefits for full-time farm employees include bonuses (43% received the benefit), and use of machinery and equipment (25% received the benefit). A breakdown of benefits received by full-time farm employees is shown in Table 3. Table 3 shows the percentages of farm employees receiving certain benefits along with average amounts paid to full-time farm employees.

Employees in Field Crop Production

Employees engaged in field crop production fill various roles. Duties might include field equipment operation and maintenance, trucking, seed/fertilizer/chemical procurement, organizing and cleaning up, managing employees, marketing grain, bookkeeping etc.

Eighty-seven employees in this survey sample were designated as working in the area of field crop production. Wage and benefit measures were calculated for field crop production workers and are displayed in the three tables below.

Summary

The findings of this survey show the importance of adequately compensating employees and the need to pay more than the minimum wage to attract quality employees. In addition to the cash wage or hourly pay, employers should emphasize the additional benefits that employees may not recognize or consider as compensation. Examples include those identified in this survey – insurance, housing and utilities, paid meals, vacation, and use of equipment. When these benefits are added to the base wage the total compensation package should be more attractive to employees. Farm employers will continue to be challenged to find and keep quality employees. Maintaining acceptable wage and benefit packages to compete with other farms and other businesses will be a critical component of the farm business human resource plan.