Supporters and opponents of state Issue 2 clashed last night about whether the livestock-standards proposal is a "constitutional grab" by powerful agribusiness interests or much-needed protection for Ohio's farms and food supply.

Both sides of the issue that Ohioans will see on the Nov. 3 ballot got a full airing during a two-hour debate at Independence Hall on the Ohio State University campus. The event was sponsored by the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of on- and off-campus organizations.

Two Ohio Farm Bureau Federation officials were the strongest supporters.

Keith Stimpert, senior vice president of public policy, said the issue is necessary to fend off "out-of-state activist groups," specifically the Humane Society of the United States, which he said supports reforms for livestock and poultry care without regard to the impact on Ohio's $93 billion-a-year farming business.

Leah Dorman, a veterinarian and director of food programs for the Farm Bureau, raised the specter of suspect foreign foods filling the gap if "animal-rights activists" have their way.

If food can't be produced in Ohio, it will come from elsewhere. "That may be Indiana or Michigan. That may be China or Mexico," Dorman said.

Opposing the issue was Natalie Kee of the Ohio Act Coalition, made up of environmental and other groups who think Issue 2 is a bad idea to permanently enshrine in the Ohio Constitution.

Kee said the issue, if approved, would be "a blank check to put corporate profits before public safety."

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