Country Life

Laughing — One of life’s best medicines

By Don “Doc” Sanders

There are plenty of benefits of laughing. A good guffaw:

  • Lowers blood pressure and stroke risk 
  • Reduces stress hormone levels 
  • Works abs, as I described earlier  
  • Improves cardiac health. Laughter provides a great cardio workout. 
  • Boosts T-cells, which are specialized immune system cells that fight off illness
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers, making you feel good
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

Laughter also comes in handy as home therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a condition where an individual becomes moody and depressed in the winter when daylight becomes a scarce commodity. 

I know of individuals that have SAD every year. The symptoms include feeling depressed nearly every day, losing interest in the activities that normally bring you joy, being unmotivated and being unable to concentrate. It can become extreme with a feeling of hopelessness, and maybe guilt. Some individuals with SAD border on being suicidal.… Continue reading

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USDA offers additional assistance through CFAP

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide additional assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), expanding eligibility for some agricultural producers and commodities as well as updating payments to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for the program. Producers who are now eligible and those who need to modify existing applications due to these updates can contact USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) between Jan. 19 and Feb. 26. Some of these changes are being made to align with the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 while others are discretionary changes being made in response to ongoing evaluation of CFAP.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep impact on the farm economy, and we are utilizing the tools and monies available to ease some of the financial burdens on American producers to ensure our agricultural economy remains strong, independent and a global leader in production,” said Secretary Perdue.… Continue reading

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Weather outlook to spring

By Jim Noel, NOAA

La Nina remains in full swing, the cooling of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Typically the impacts kick in for Ohio by late December or January.  

You can keep up on La Nina and ENSO at the links below:

Therefore, the climate pattern supports big swings for temperatures for the rest of winter through early spring with the tendency toward above normal temperatures. This will also support snow that comes and goes for most of Ohio. This can expose winter wheat to temperature changes with limited snowpack.

As for rainfall and precipitation, expect above normal conditions to ramp back up for later January into February and March. Northwest Ohio subsoils remain drier than normal but the expectation is for wetting up to continue late winter into early spring.

Going forward through spring, the wetter conditions typically shutdown at some point and that varies for each La Nina event but often it is by May or June.… Continue reading

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Master Gardener volunteers supplying Ohio food pantries

Master Gardener Volunteers from across Ohio grew nearly 80,000 pounds of produce in 2020 statewide and donated it all to 101 food pantries in cities and towns across the state.

The Master Gardener Volunteer program is a U.S.- and Canada-wide effort that in Ohio is run by Ohio State University Extension, in the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The produce grown included fruits, vegetables, and herbs and was equivalent to 65,200 meals, according to Pam Bennett, state master gardener volunteer program director and horticulture educator with OSU Extension.

Although Master Gardener Volunteers have grown and donated food through this program for 20 years, growers ramped up their production efforts to help deal with the growing issue of food insecurity issues faced by individuals and families in 2020 statewide, said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator who facilitates the program in Franklin County.

That’s significant, considering the rising unemployment and other financial hardships people have faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused food banks to have increased demand for food but receive fewer food donations from grocery stores, according to research from Zoë Plakias, a CFAES assistant professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics.… Continue reading

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Bundle up: A polar vortex could be on the way

If you were thinking this winter has been fairly mild so far, it has been, but gear up. 

Frigid temperatures could be gripping Ohio, the Midwest, and the Northeast around the last week of January. 

The polar vortex, a wide area of swirling cold air near the North Pole, has weakened and split in two, which happens from time to time when air in the stratosphere above it warms. With the split, forecasts indicate one of the portions of the vortex may drift south toward Canada and the northern United States. 

These weakened polar vortex conditions often drop temperatures well below normal (think single digits and sub-zero) and may lead to more snow, said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“We’re watching this evolve,” Wilson said. “It’s eye-catching from a meteorologist’s standpoint. It can obviously cause some storms and lead to very cold conditions.” … Continue reading

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American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention highlights

The American Farm Bureau hosted multiple days of virtual programming this week focused on the future of agriculture and the most pressing issues for farmers, ranchers and consumers for the 2021 American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, farmers and policy experts at both live featured workshops and on-demand sessions. Members from around the country also met virtually to set policy for the coming year.

“2020 has been a year of challenges and high expectations for our farmers — expectations that we will continue to grow the food, fiber and energy for our country and a lot of the rest of the world. We have risen to that challenge and those expectations, all along trying to protect our employees and families from this pandemic,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “I am so proud of Farm Bureau as we have worked with our counties and states to help our farmers get through this difficult time.”… Continue reading

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New rule improves partner flexibility in Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule for its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The rule updates USDA’s partner-driven program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others. 

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a powerful program that enables us to co-invest with partners on win-win solutions that benefit agriculture and natural resources,” said Terry Cosby, State Conservationist of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Ohio. “The final rule contains some minor adjustments made in response to public comments, and we now look forward to continuing our work with Ohio partners to use this unique and innovative program to extend the reach of conservation.” 

RCPP promotes coordination of NRCS and partner conservation activities that aid farmers, ranchers, and private landowners in Ohio with addressing on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.

NRCS received comments from more than 65 organizations and individuals on the RCPP interim rule, which was published February 13, 2020.… Continue reading

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DeWine signs H.B. 7 to improve water quality

By Jeffrey Lewis, attorney and research specialist, Ohio State University Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Ohio is thirsty for some quality H2O, but the legislature has recently struggled with how to get it. After debating two separate water quality bills for over a year, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate finally passed H.B. 7 in December. The bi-partisan bill aims to improve water quality in Ohio’s lakes and rivers but doesn’t establish a permanent H2Ohio Trust Fund as the House had first proposed. 

Even so, H.B. 7 will help fund and implement Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohioprogram. DeWine unveiled his water quality plan in 2019 to help reduce phosphorus runoff, prevent algal blooms, and prevent lead contamination in Ohio’s waterways. In July 2019, the Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million to fund the H2Ohio initiative. H.B. 7 continues those efforts by creating a statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program and directing the Ohio Department of Agriculture to implement a pilot program to assist farmers and others in phosphorus reduction efforts.… Continue reading

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Despite concerns, Vilsack may be well-suited withstand agribusiness influence

By Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union

In a sprawling, diverse U.S. family farm community, questions are being asked about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Tom Vilsack to lead the USDA in the next administration.

Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union president

 Like most of my colleagues around the country, I have often been asked about the wisdom of appointing Secretary Vilsack a second time. The former and likely future Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had represented dairy processors and exporters for the past few years, so many small farm advocates had become concerned that he might be too close to “Big Ag.” 

State and National Farmers Union organizations have been among those who had fought against corporate concentration and mega mergers in the ranks of the nation’s seed and feed and food processing businesses. These global ag corporations have taken over markets, putting the squeeze on farmers at the bottom of the supply chain and increased prices to consumers.… Continue reading

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Broadband investment for southern Ohio

Lt. Governor Husted announced that Southern Ohio Communication Services, Inc., in collaboration with JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE) and Pike County Economic & Community Development, plans to invest $3.8 million to provide high-speed Internet service over 64 miles to 1,300 residential and business customers in southern Ohio.  Southern Ohio Communications Service received a $50,000 JobsOhio Inclusion Grant toward building and engineering costs. The project will provide 1 Gig optical fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed Internet to the service area.

Company officials said the investment represents the first phase of a two phase approach to providing expanded optical fiber-to-home high-speed internet service within its rural footprint in Pike and Scioto Counties. In the second phase of the project, Southern Ohio Communication Services will make an additional investment that will result in optical fiber-to-home high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses in Southern Ohio. The current project will result in the creation of at least five new jobs and construction of a new warehouse to store equipment.… Continue reading

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DeWine vetoes bill aimed at reopening fairs

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 375 on Jan. 11. The bill aimed to override Ohio’s statewide health order that limits Ohio’s county and independent fairs. It also provided the framework for the working group responsible for setting the 2021 fair season’s safe operating guidelines. The proposed working group included representatives from the legislature, health department, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Fair Managers Association, Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association, Ohio’s livestock organizations, Ohio Agricultural Educators Association, Ohio 4-H and the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

In his veto message, DeWine said it was a difficult decision to limit county fairs in the state last July to limit the spread of COVID-19. Legislative advocates of the bill made the case that fairs suffered financial loss after the statewide restriction reduced fairs’ income.

DeWine’s statement also pointed out the $4.7 million in funding provided to fairs by the state, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s waiver of the $50,000 local match requirement of the agricultural society facility grant.… Continue reading

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Where are we going with U.S. and global trade?

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

Agricultural trade was the topic of the first in a series of winter outlook meetings hosted by the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics (AEDE) at The Ohio State University’s College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES). Dr. Ian Sheldon, Ohio State’s Andersons Chair of Agricultural Marketing, Trade and Policy, led the discussion examining the effects of the pandemic on global trade and U.S. agricultural trade, including an evaluation of the Phase 1 Trade Agreement with China.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an impact on international trade.

“Global trade was forecast to decline by 9.2% in 2020, but then rise 7.2% in 2021 according to the World Trade Organization,” Sheldon said. “Those forecasts were originally made in late October and November of 2020. Forecast estimates initially looked much worse as their April forecast was for a decline of anywhere from 13% to 32%.”… Continue reading

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Organic production winter webinar series

By Cassandra Brown, Ohio State University Extension

Ohio State will host a series of organic production webinars on Wednesdays this winter, from 11-11:45 a.m. The series will provide opportunities for Ohio’s organic community to learn about Ohio State research and resources. Each session includes time for questions and discussion. We hope participating organic farmers and those interested in organic production will share their own experience, observations, questions, and ideas. Farmers considering organic certification or seeking ways to lower their farm inputs will also benefit from the presentations, as will educators and researchers interested in organic issues and management. A range of topics are planned. Some sessions of interest to agronomic crop producers are listed below.

According to the 2019 USDA Census of Agriculture, Ohio ranks 5th among U.S. states in the number of certified organic farms. Since the 2016 organic census, Ohio’s organic sales and cropland acres have both increased by more than 35%.… Continue reading

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Farmers gain improved access to small business support as PPP reopens

Farmers who run their operations as sole proprietors, independent contractors, or otherwise self-employed individuals will have newly expanded access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under changes made in the COVID stimulus package Congress approved. 

Producers who were denied PPP loans or whose loan amounts did not consider self-employment compensation may now be eligible for the vital federal small business support. Eligibility information and more details can be found here. Those wanting to apply for a PPP loan should contact lenders directly for more information on when PPP will be open for that specific lender.

“NMPF is pleased that many of our dairy farmers will have fewer restrictions and limitations on the PPP support available to them as the program reopens this week,” said Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation’s president and CEO. “We have been grateful for the support already extended to dairy through PPP, and we deeply appreciate the improved access found in the latest stimulus package.” … Continue reading

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Right-to farm win after a long and costly battle

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

Right-To-Farm (RTF) laws deny nuisance lawsuits against farmers who use accepted and standard farming practices and have been in prior operation, even if these practices harm or bother adjacent property owners or the general public. On Oct. 5, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari in Himsel v. Himsel. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that the plaintiffs’ nuisance and trespass claims are barred by the RTF laws stands as the final decision.

            Samuel Himsel has farmed in rural Hendricks County, Indiana his entire life. His sons, Cory and Clinton, also make their living farming in the county. In 2012, the three decided to start a hog-raising operation at 3042 North 425 West in Danville. This property had been in their family for more than two decades. Samuel’s parents acquired this farmland in the early 1990s, and the land had been used for agricultural purposes since at least 1941.… Continue reading

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There is something to be said for cooking low and slow

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

Hot to trot for Instapot! I feel like that is the mantra these days! It seems you can make anything from eggs to rice to desserts perfecto in a matter of minutes. We are definitely in an Instapot craze! My Japanese friends have been on me to get an Instapot. They look super cool, but I am dragging my feet. I am still old-school and have a Crockpot. Do I really need another gadget to clean and store? This month we are going to slow things down a bit with my old-school friend, the slow cooker.

 The story goes that in Lithuania in the 1800s Jewish wives would mix up a stew called cholent and take to bakeries on Friday night. Bakery ovens would be cooling down from the workday, so the smart women they were, would use them to cook the stew overnight so it would be ready for the Sabbath.… Continue reading

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Ohio colleges and universities invited to submit pre-proposals for armful algal bloom research initiative

Ohio Sea Grant, The Ohio State University, and The University of Toledo are requesting pre-proposals for one- to two-year research projects from Ohio colleges and universities as part of the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI). 

Pre-proposals must be submitted online by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at 5 p.m. EST.
The funding focuses on agency priorities aimed at reducing nutrient loading to Lake Erie via wetland design, identifying agricultural management practices that are both efficient and cost-effective, learning about algal toxin formation and human health impacts, and informing water treatment technologies.

Addressing these priorities will help support agencies’ management decisions and Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative. Specific detailed priorities can be found online at Approximately $3.8 million is available for this grant competition, likely funding 15 to 20 projects.
The application and use of research results, as well as their societal and economic impacts, are important considerations for this funding opportunity.… Continue reading

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Ohio mound country

By Mike Ryan, OCJ field reporter

Scattered across southern Ohio are many American Indian archaeological sites of great significance. Taking the form of earthworks, mounds, and effigies, these sites bear witness to the last physical remnants of the Hopewell people, whose culture emerged and thrived in Ohio and other parts of eastern North America from 200 BC to 500 AD, at the beginning of what is called the Middle Woodland period. The moniker Hopewell does not refer to a specific tribe, but rather a culture that is linked through shared artifacts (often found at and in their earthworks) and a shared way of life that developed across the Midwest at the same time.

Ohio is home to some of the largest and most impressive Hopewell sites in the world, as the Archaeological Institute of America explains.

“The most spectacular earthworks are in southern Ohio and Indiana, especially in the valleys of the Great and Little Miami, Scioto, and Muskingum rivers.… Continue reading

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NFU responds to violence in D.C.

As Congress prepared to verify the results of the 2020 presidential election today, a group of far-right insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building, vandalizing and stealing federal property, assaulting Capitol police officers, and threatening lawmakers with violence.

The event, which occurred mere blocks from National Farmers Union’s (NFU) D.C. office, is a disturbing attempt to undermine the will of American voters and the very democracy that guarantees our freedoms and protections.

“National Farmers Union and its members support all Americans’ right to free speech and peaceful protest, but these acts of intimidation and terror have no place in this country, and they cannot be condoned or brushed aside,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “More than that, this event demonstrates just how fragile democracy truly is. It doesn’t exist simply because it is written in the Constitution; it requires action of the part of every American. Every day, we must commit anew to upholding its core tenets of social equality, personal liberty, sovereignty, and a peaceful transfer of power.… Continue reading

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Grain bin safety contest continues in 2021

Every year, thousands of farmers and commercial grain handlers risk their lives by entering grain bins to remove clumped or rotted grain. As rural communities have come to know all too well, an accident in a grain bin can quickly turn deadly. In just seconds, adults can sink to their waist in flowing grain, rendering them completely trapped without the proper rescue devices. These accidents result in dozens of lost lives each year, and deaths have spiked in 2019 and early 2020 due to the wet harvest.

To lead the fight against these all-too-common accidents, Nationwide, is once again teaming up with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) in Iowa and other partners to hold the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest as part of annual Grain Bin Safety Week, which runs Feb. 21 to 27, 2021.

Now in its eighth year, the contest awards grain rescue tubes and hands-on rescue training to first responders to help save lives.… Continue reading

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