Country Life

Pandemic worsening food insecurity

Bringing higher rates of unemployment and poverty, the pandemic has also pushed more people into a struggle to buy the basics, including food. 

Grocery store food prices have gone up only about 5% since January 2019, but with so many people out of work, food banks have seen a surge in demand, said Zoë Plakias, an assistant professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

While facing an increasing demand, food banks have also received fewer food donations from grocery stores that give their excess products. When stores can’t keep their shelves stocked, there can be less available for donation, Plakias said.

With many incomes reduced during the pandemic, more people are taking advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, and new food aid programs have been started. 

But that’s enough to meet the need, Plakias said.… Continue reading

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2020 Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference highlights – Day 4

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

The 2020 Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference concluded with topics focused on consumer demand and commodity outlooks. Zoe Plakias, Assistant Professor in Agriculture and Food Economics, presented an outlook on consumer demand heading into 2021.

Plakias shared that in light of COVID-19 there have been some notable changes in consumer spending habits.

“There have been some key changes in how people buy and shop since the onset of COVID-19,” Plakias said. “There have been key changes in how much people buy, and what they are buying. There have also been key changes in where and how people shop.”

Total food spending was down by 8.6% in the last year. Not surprisingly, total food spending was lowest in April, but rebounded slightly over the summer. The monthly food sales data comparison between food consumed at home versus food consumed away from home noted a dramatic decline in the sales of food consumed away from home, but a slight increase in sales of food consumed at home.… Continue reading

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New H2Ohio program being offered

As part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is offering a new incentive program to encourage farmers to aid in conservation and improve water quality. ODNR will be accepting applications for its Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) from Dec. 1, 2020 through Jan. 29, 2021.


“Improving Ohio’s water quality is incredibly important,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Giving farmers an incentive to participate in this conservation process is another step toward clean water for future generations.”

The new program is being offered in combination with the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP is a USDA conservation program that offers farmers and landowners financial compensation for taking cropland out of production and establishing conservation practices.

The H2Ohio Water Quality Incentive Program will offer a one-time payment of $2,000 per acre for new Lake Erie CREP wetlands and forested riparian buffers (buffer strip with trees) to help improve water quality in the Lake Erie watershed.… Continue reading

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Squirrel hunting: An autumnal rite of passage

By Mike Ryan, OCJ Field Reporter

With their spirited scampering and high-energy acrobatics, squirrels certainly are a source of pleasure and admiration for Ohioans.

“The elegant creature, so cleanly in its habits, so graceful in its carriage, so nimble and daring in its movements, excites feelings of admiration…His presence adds to the pleasure of a saunter in the October woods,” said American naturalist John Burroughs, in his Squirrels and Other Fur Bearers.

Squirrels are also an excellent quarry to use for introducing our youth to hunting sports; many an experienced big game hunter has fond memories of time spent in the squirrel woods with his/her mentors. 

“Squirrel hunting was the first hunting I was exposed to and what turned me on to hunting to begin with as a kid. I can still remember what a big deal it was to me when I killed my first few squirrels,” said outdoorsman Shawn Skaggs of Marysville.… Continue reading

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Don’t let varmints chomp into your income this winter

By Don “Doc” Sanders

This column addresses a subject that I haven’t previously covered. I’ll warn you: My wife, Kris, got the heebie-jeebies when I told her what I’d be writing about … RATS!  I don’t intend to write anything crude. But I must confess that my former boss sent me to sensitivity training — three times — for graphically describing such stuff as this.

Rats, according to a report by AgWeb (, are sex-crazed, eating monsters. Their modus operandi is to breed multiple times a day and eat to maintain their energy.

Given the chance, they will gobble up significant profit from any farm, feed mill or grain terminal on earth. Cities are also vulnerable to these varmints. Rats cause an estimated $20 billion in damages to the U.S. economy every year.

If you have a rat problem on your farm and don’t implement aggressive measures to contain and eliminate the critters, it won’t be long before they’re also your neighbor’s problem.… Continue reading

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New, free mobile app helps farmers protect Ohio’s waterways

This fall, the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) announced the launch of its mobile app to enroll farmers in its new certification program. 

“OACI was created to bring together new partnerships to create a certification program that’s valuable to farmers and protects Ohio’s water quality,” said Kris Swartz, northwest Ohio farmer and OACI chair. “Enrolling only takes a few minutes and the mobile app makes it easy for farmers to enroll when it is most convenient for them. After enrolling, farmers will be part of the OACI Certification Program and will be eligible to become certified in 2021.”

The OACI Certification Program will allow farmers to voluntarily self-report information about their farm’s soil testing, nutrient application, nutrient placement, on-field management and structural practices, with the number of acres in each category. Participants will be given a score for each category and an aggregated overall score to determine their certification level. Enrollment is the first step in engaging with the OACI certification program and takes just minutes to complete.… Continue reading

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Agricultural plastic in the U.S. and China: A blessing or a curse?

By Karen Mancl

Surprisingly, 90% of the world’s plastic greenhouses are in China, covering 8 million acres, about the area of Maryland. Using greenhouses doubles yield and extends the growing season, so farmers are able to produce more food on less land. The thick plastic greenhouse sheeting, however, does not work forever. Long exposure to UV light starts to break down the plastic. After 3 years it needs to be replaced. So, what happens to all that waste? 

In addition, agricultural plastic mulch use started in the 1980s. China is the world’s largest user of plastic film mulch as well. Current use in China is over 2 million tons of plastic covering 77,200 square miles, like covering every inch of Nebraska with plastic mulch. The mulch blocks weed growth, reducing the need for herbicides and protecting the soil from erosion. The plastic also helps warm the soil and conserve water. The benefits of plastic mulch are significant, increasing yield and water use efficiency by about 25%, and benefitting farming in areas that would otherwise be too dry or cold to grow food.… Continue reading

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Helping meat workers get used to wearing masks

A study done at Ohio meat-processing plants found very few employees were wearing required face masks. 

Among the 37 workers interviewed at five meat-processing plants across the state, only nine wore face masks when surveyed at their job sites, according to the study by researchers with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

“What we found is they’re not seeing other people wearing masks, and they’re not seeing the advantage of wearing them,” said Joy Rumble, an assistant professor in CFAES and one of the lead researchers of the study. 

The point of the study, done in June and July, was to determine why many meat-processing facility workers don’t wear masks, so that new measures can be put in place to encourage them to do so.

Face masks, along with other personal protective equipment such as hairnets, safety glasses, gloves, and frocks are commonly used at meat-processing plants.… Continue reading

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Alliance unveils unprecedented climate policy recommendations

An alliance of groups representing farmers, forest owners, the food sector, state governments and environmental advocates today unveiled an unprecedented set of recommendations to guide the development of federal climate policy. 

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) was formed in February 2020 by four groups that now co-chair the alliance: American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and National Farmers Union. The alliance has since expanded to include FMI The Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and The Nature Conservancy.

Together, the group developed more than 40 recommendations based on three principles: agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities; they must promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities; and they must be science-based. These recommendations share an overarching goal to do no harm. Climate policies will impact farmers, forest owners, ranchers, rural and limited-resources communities, wildlife and natural resources and must be thoughtfully crafted to account for any potential inequities, consequences and tradeoffs.… Continue reading

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The truth is free

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth, a dairy farmer and attorney near Celina

This past May 6, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a merit decision in Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. Pusser. While this is not an agricultural case, everyone who has an insurance policy should be aware of the ruling. And farmers tend to have their share of insurance policies. The case deals with misstatements made by applicants when applying for insurance and the serious problems that can result.

The question before the Ohio Supreme Court was whether the specific language in an insurance policy was sufficient to warn the insured that misstatements as to warranties in her application for the policy rendered the policy void from the beginning (void ab initio). The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately held that the insurance policy involved in the case plainly stated that a breach of warranty in the application for the policy rendered the policy void ab initio. … Continue reading

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CFAES food safety center to research food safety in Kenya

The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University has been awarded a $770,000 grant to improve food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses in Kenya.

The initiative is one of four new research projects announced by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The 3.5-year project, “Chakula salama: a risk-based approach to reducing foodborne diseases and increasing production of safe foods in Kenya,” includes a team of researchers from The Ohio State University, the University of Florida, Kenya Medical Research Institute, and the University of Nairobi, who will work to develop and test food-safety interventions to support Kenya’s small-scale poultry producers.

“This project will use a systems-based approach to answer important food safety questions and build an enabling environment that fosters the implementation of risk-based approaches to food safety in Kenya and, eventually, other African countries,” said Barbara Kowalcyk, director of CFI.… Continue reading

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2020 Farm Service Agency county committee elections underway

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mailed ballots for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee elections to eligible farmers and ranchers across the country. To be counted, ballots must be returned to the local FSA county office or postmarked by Dec. 7. 

“FSA has over 7,000 county committee members nationwide who serve their communities by providing input on our programs at the local level,” said Richard Fordyce, FSA Administrator. “We value their knowledge and judgment as decisions are made about the services we provide, including disaster and safety-net programs.”

Each committee has three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms of office, and at least one seat is up for election each year. Newly elected committee members will take office January 1, 2021. County committee members help FSA make important decisions on its commodity support programs, conservation programs, indemnity and disaster programs, and emergency programs and eligibility. 

Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the county committee election.… Continue reading

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Upland hunting ups and downs

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Nathan Stricker is a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and for a decade and a half has served as my primary source of information about Ohio’s upland game birds and animals to share with listeners on my weekly radio show, Buckeye Sportsman. During a recent interview, he offered us his annual upland game forecast, primarily of pheasants, rabbits and quail, for the start of those popular hunting seasons. Stricker, a farm boy from western Ohio, runs beagles, primarily pursuing cottontails, and I hunt with an English setter, targeting wild pheasants.  

A week ago that would have been plural, as in setters, but the pup I kept from a litter last summer was struck by a car ten minutes into his first ever “real” hunt. We were in northern Michigan, where I hoped to break-in 14-month-old “Henry” on hard-holding, highly scented woodcock.… Continue reading

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Farmer and Farmland Owner Income Tax Webinar

Do you know how the COVID legislation may affect your tax return? Do you know how equipment trade-ins may affect your federal and state tax returns? Farmers and farmland owners who wish to increase their tax knowledge should consider attending this webinar that will address tax issues specific to this industry. Content focuses on important tax issues and will offer insight into new COVID related legislation.

Mark your calendars for December 3, 2020 to participate in this live webinar from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The event is a joint offering from OSU Income Tax Schools which are a part of OSU Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Purdue University Income Tax Schools.  If you are not able to attend the live webinar, all registered participants will receive a link to view the recorded webinar at a time of their convenience. This link will be available through the tax filing season.… Continue reading

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CSU Seed to Bloom Botanical and Community Gardens officially opens

A “Virtual” Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Central State University Seed to Bloom Botanical and Community Garden was held Friday, Nov. 6, at the gardens located across from the university at the corner of Wilberforce-Switch Road and US 42, Wilberforce.

The garden is now open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days per week.

The CSU Seed to Bloom Botanical Garden was the vision of former Central State University President Emeritus Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, who envisioned an inviting space where members of the community could relax and people of all ages could learn.


As part of the Agricultural Production Area, the CSU Seed to Bloom Botanical Garden is part of the Botanical and Community Garden Project and provides an inviting space to interact with its natural beauty. Providing a unique stage for horticultural education in a collegiate atmosphere, the garden offers learning opportunities for CSU students, local schools, and the greater community.… Continue reading

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Ag organizations lay groundwork to start work with Biden Administration

After several days of ballot counting and much anticipation, the Associated Press announced that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“The last four years haven’t been too kind to family farmers and ranchers. Overproduction, rampant corporate consolidation, trade disputes, and climate change have kept commodity prices stubbornly low, causing farm debt to balloon and farm bankruptcies to proliferate,” said Rob Larew, National Farmers Union (NFU) president. “On the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he intends to address many of the concerns we have expressed over the last several years. He has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement as well as provide farmers and ranchers the tools they need to implement climate-smart practices, both of which are top priorities for Farmers Union members. Additionally, Biden has outlined his commitment to revitalize rural economies, enforce antitrust regulation, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, alleviate racial inequities in agriculture, expand rural broadband, and promote homegrown biofuels.… Continue reading

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The power of rural health in Ohio

By Dee Jepsen and Laura Akgerman

National Rural Health Day is Thursday Nov. 19, 2020. This day highlights the unique challenges rural communities face when it comes to health services and healthy people.

Focusing on the Power of Rural is the theme for this year’s campaign

Ohio has a State Office of Rural Health (SORH), which serves as the anchor of information and support for rural communities. They advocate strengthening health care delivery systems through their resources and programs, and encourage recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural areas. Visit their website at

In addition to the good work done by SORH, Ohioans can connect with other rural health advocates and providers by joining The Ohio Rural Health Association, an advocacy organization which works closely with SORH, and offers resources, educational and networking opportunities for ORHA members. ORHA’s missions is to enhance the health and well-being of the state’s rural citizens and communities.… Continue reading

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USDA releases farm production expense forecast for 2020

By Chris Zoller, Ohio State University Extension Educator, ANR in Tuscarawas County

The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) has announced their prediction for farm production expenses for 2020. Production expenses are projected to be reduced by 1.3% to $344.2 billion in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) dollars. These expenses represent the costs of all inputs used to produce farm commodities and affect farm profitability. While overall production expenses are forecast to decrease, specific expenses vary.

USDA-ERS estimates expenses to increase in 2020 account for 69% of total expenses. The two largest expense categories, feed and labor, are expected to increase 1.4% and 3.1%, respectively. Expenses expected to decrease in 2020 account for 31% of all production expenses. Specific examples of expense items expected to decrease include interest expenses (27.1%), fuel and oil (13.9%), livestock and poultry purchases (7.5%), and pesticides (2.1%).

Inflation-adjusted total production expenses in 2020 are expected to be 19% below the record high of $427.1 billion in 2014.… Continue reading

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OSU Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference this week

Farmers in Ohio and across the Midwest might have reason to be optimistic this year.

Prices for soybeans, corn, and wheat have risen in 2020, and total net cash income from farms in the United States is expected to be up this year by 4.5%. That’s partly because of an increase in government payments to farmers.

Those payments will make up 32% of this year’s net cash income from all U.S. farms—more than double the portion those payments typically account for, said Ben Brown, an assistant professor of agricultural risk management at the The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

Traditionally, government assistance to farmers has made up about 14% of the annual net cash income from farms in the United States. Net farm cash income is a measure of profit generated from all U.S. farms by adding all sales of agricultural commodities and farming-related activities, plus direct government payments, and subtracting cash expenses.  … Continue reading

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Planning weddings, showers and events in 2020

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

K-i-s-s-i-n-g! First comes love. Next comes marriage. Then comes baby in the baby carriage. It’s true. What we learned on the playground has come second circle. Paul and I are in that seasoned time of life when weddings and babies are coming fast and furious. It’s a good thing I love to plan and host parties for these life celebrations.

Next comes marriage…

Weddings and showers are a HUGE part of today’s marriage culture and COVID has put a damper on these events. Smaller gatherings, postponements and two-step weddings are being planned. Son 1, semi-escaped the COVID wrath with a February “destination wedding” in South Dakota. Hallelujah there was no blizzard! Paul and I wanted to host a Buckeye Bash celebration back in Ohio. We decided on an end of August date for the “I do BBQ,” anticipating that the mandates by the State would let up.… Continue reading

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