Country Life

Will the surge in land prices continue?

What started out with better than expected sales prices at land auctions prior to fall harvest extended into very strong prices at some auctions during October and November, surprising many.

“Farmers National Company had auction sales in several states during this time where land sold near levels last seen in 2012. In specific instances, prices for good quality cropland in the heart of the Midwest are up hundreds to thousands of dollars per acre more than anticipated,” said Randy Dickhut, senior vice president of real estate operations at Farmers National Company. 

Agricultural land prices have been fairly stable in the past several years despite the gyrations of the ag economy. Producer incomes were taking hits, but the land market took it in stride except for the hardest hit areas or segments. The factors supporting the land market remained constant during this time, which included historically low interest rates, a lower supply of land for sale and adequate demand for good cropland just about everywhere.   … Continue reading

Read More »

Farm Gates

By Dave Russell, Ohio Ag Net

Who’s the largest owner of private farmland in U.S.? 

Queue the theme to Jeopardy: “According to The Land Report this software developer is now the largest owner of private farmland in the U.S.” 

Answer: “Who is Bill Gates?” 

Yep…Land Report says the one-time world’s richest man owns 242,000 acres of farmland in 18 states. The most acres are in Louisiana at just over 69,000, followed by Arkansas at nearly 48,000 and Nebraska at 20,588. Gates owns almost 9,000 acres in Ohio, just over 9,000 acres in Indiana, nearly 18,000 in Illinois, but only 552 acres in Iowa. 

Bill and Melinda Gates also cracked the Land Report’s Top 100 Landowners for the first time coming in at number 49. The No. 1 landowner in the U.S. is billionaire John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, who tops the list with 2,200,000 acres.… Continue reading

Read More »

Adult mental health first aid training

By Jami Dellifield, Ohio State University Extension

The Ohio State University Mental Health Awareness Team members are pleased to be able to bring Mental Health First Aid training to rural Ohio.

The program is a blended format in partnership with the Ohio State University Farm and Rural Health Task Force with funding from the USDA FRSAN grant. Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. This course is open to anyone, but the Feb. 5 training will take an agriculture and rural focus.  

There are seats open in the Feb. 5 class. The class will be held via zoom from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with appropriate breaks scheduled. This course will have a 2-hour online component prior that must be completed before the virtual class. Participants will receive this link to the pre-course material at least one week prior to the class. 

Class size is limited to 20 participants. Those… Continue reading

Read More »

Winter weather outlook for 2021

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

A global assessment of the weather showed 2020 to be the second warmest year since 1880. The warmest average year was 2016, and 2019 ranked third. Looking all the way back to 1880, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1985.

The most recent Winter Outlook Meeting, hosted by The Ohio State University, provided data and information to help farmers make informed decisions going into the winter and spring. Aaron Wilson, Atmospheric Scientist at OSU and state climatologist shared information focused on “Where we’ve been, where we are currently, and where we are going.”

There was also a significant increase in the number of “billion dollar disasters” in 2020. There was a total of 22 recorded last year. The numbers in general have been increasing. To put it in perspective, looking at the time period of 1908 through 2020, the average is six disasters of that magnitude per year.… Continue reading

Read More »

OABA 2021 Industry Conference

From trade conditions to weather to a global pandemic, those working in agriculture never know what form a disruptor may take. But they have experienced, time and time again, that disruptors become a propelling force for change. A nimble agribusiness leader will seize the momentum of disruption to realize positive impact for their business – even if others fail to see the disruptor for the opportunity it is.

At the 2021 OABA Industry Conference, agribusiness professionals will address disruptors to the industry and learn to harness the momentum for change which they present.

The Industry Conference will be held virtually January 27-29, 2021.  Included in conference registration is the Safety & Risk Management Day on February 3. 

Topics include: economic outlook, insects, soil health, political impact outlook, export markets, precision planting, hemp, sulfur and potassium, N economics, waterhemp, eastern corn market, ethanol outlook, meat processing, and international trade and policy.

Professional credits (Certified Crop Adviser and state pesticide credits) are available throughout the OABA Industry Conference and are indicated in the session description.… Continue reading

Read More »

Most farm families rely on off-farm income

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

The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) completed a survey in 2019 to determine the number of hours principal farm operators work per week on-farm and off-farm. USDA-ERS defines the principal operator as the person who makes day-to-day decisions. The paragraph below is taken directly from the report.

Off-farm income supplements farm income for most farm households, in addition to offering benefits such as health insurance. In 2019, about 71 percent of farm households had one or more household members earning an off-farm salary or wage. More than 40 percent of principal operators worked off-farm, contributing about 54 percent of the total off-farm labor hours reported for their households. Principal operators who reported off-farm employment worked on average 15 hours off the farm per week in 2019. Compared with the seasonality of on-farm work, off-farm work offered principal operators more consistency—with operators working about 25 percent of total off-farm hours in each quarter of the year.… Continue reading

Read More »

Biden addresses food insecurity with executive order

 To address a dramatic rise in hunger, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that to increase food assistance for families missing meals due to school closures as well as boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for the lowest-income households.Throughout the pandemic, National Farmers Union (NFU) has expressed concern about elevated rates of food insecurity in both urban and rural communities; by some estimates, one in six adults and one in four children have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic — rates that are about 50% higher than the United States was seeing just a year ago.Though SNAP and other food assistance programs have provided a crucial safety net for millions of Americans, it hasn’t been enough to offset the surge of job losses and resulting financial stress. Even after the most recent stimulus package boosted SNAP benefits by 15%, the average recipient is still approximately $100 short of covering the costs of a month of low-cost groceries.Because
Continue reading

Read More »

CWD detected in a wild deer

A CWD-positive wild Ohio white-tailed deer was recently identified in Wyandot County, resulting in the Division of Wildlife implementing its CWD response plan, which includes enhanced surveillance in 15 townships in the surrounding area, to monitor for the disease.

The ODNR is asking deer hunters in portions of Wyandot, Marion, and Hardin counties to submit samples of harvested deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing. Testing is voluntary but highly encouraged. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer populations. Hunters in the following townships are asked to submit deer for CWD testing free of charge: (Wyandot County) Antrim, Crane, Eden, Jackson, Mifflin, Marseilles, Pitt, Richland, and Salem townships; (Hardin County) Goshen Township; and (Marion County) Big Island, Grand, Grand Prairie, Montgomery, and Salt Rock townships.

Harvested deer can be taken to the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area Headquarters, located at 19100 County Highway 115, Harpster 43323. Wildlife professionals will be on-site to sample deer from 9 a.m.… Continue reading

Read More »

Global pandemic doesn’t stop water quality research

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

The Ohio Sea Grant program is one of 34 State programs funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify and research issues impacting their neighboring water bodies. Every state that touches the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or one of the Great Lakes has a Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant Programs are modeled after Land Grant Institutions, and take the research results and disseminate the information to stakeholders, decision makers, and those that can make a difference. 

Chris Winslow is the Director of the Ohio Sea Grant, and also Director of Ohio State’s Stone Lab on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. While COVID-19 impacted the on-site education and outreach that Sea Grant conducts at Stone Lab, much of the research on the lake continued despite the pandemic. 

“We typically offer a lot of education and outreach programming at Stone Lab and everything at that location was shut down or went virtual,” Winslow said.… Continue reading

Read More »

USDA offers new forest management incentive for Conservation Reserve Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices. Existing CRP participants can now sign up for the Forest Management Incentive (FMI), which provides financial incentives to landowners with land in CRP to encourage proper tree thinning and other practices.

“We are offering CRP landowners an opportunity to use forestry practices for a more targeted approach to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on their land,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The Forest Management Incentive enables landowners to maximize the conservation outcomes on their land, such as supporting wildlife, conserving soil and improving water quality.”

Right now, less than 10% of land currently enrolled in CRP is dedicated to forestland. But, these nearly 2 million acres of CRP forestland, if properly managed, can have enormous benefits for natural resources by reducing soil erosion, protecting water quality, increasing water quantity, and diversifying local farm operations and rural economies.… Continue reading

Read More »

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: Highlights of tax issues impacting farm businesses

By Barry Ward, Leader, Production Business Management/Director, Ohio State University Income Tax Schools

Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 which was signed by the President on Dec. 27. The CAA funds the government through Sept. 30, 2021, implements COVID-19 relief provisions, and extends a number of expiring tax provisions. The $2.3 trillion bill provides $900 billion in COVID-19 relief. This article highlights key provisions for farm related issues from several Acts within the CAA’s 5,593 pages.

Economic impact payments

The Act provides for “additional 2020 recovery rebates for individuals.” The additional recovery rebate credit is $600 for “eligible individuals” or $1,200 for “eligible individuals” filing a joint return. “Eligible individuals” are entitled to a $600 credit for each “qualifying child.” (This generally includes dependent children under the age of 17.) Phaseouts apply for higher income taxpayers.

Paycheck Protection Program loans — Covered expenses now deductible

Previously, the IRS and Treasury indicated that the expenses covered by PPP loans that were forgiven (or would be forgiven) would not be deductible.… Continue reading

Read More »

Farm Bureau scholarships available

Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and Geauga County Farm Bureau are offering scholarship opportunities to students pursuing post-high school education. The scholarship amount is determined by the number of acceptable qualifying applications. 

For Ashtabula County, applicant’s parent/legal guardian or themselves must be a resident of the county and a current Farm Bureau member at the time of application and payout. The student must be a full-time enrollee of an accredited two or four-year college, university, or technical school working towards an undergraduate degree. Applicants must show a 3.0-grade point average. A major in agriculture or a support field is preferred but NOT required. Eligibility and approval of applicants will be determined at the discretion of the Ashtabula County Board of Trustees or their designee. The fillable form is available online at, on our website at, or by emailing No handwritten forms will be accepted. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM on April 1, 2021.… Continue reading

Read More »

Water quality Wednesdays

By Boden FisherMatthew RomankoJordan BeckRachel CochranBrigitte Moneymaker

Water quality concerns continue to be at the forefront of environmental-impact discussions across many industries. Since agriculture occupies much of the land area in Ohio, adapting farming operations to include “best management practices” has been an area of focus for agricultural producers, governmental agencies and other stakeholders working to contribute to solutions. As water quality concerns remain, so do opportunities for reviewing the current research and considering adopting practices that work for your situation. Join The Ohio State University Extension-Water Quality Team and guest speakers for a webinar series discussing several timely topics in preparation for the 2021 growing season. Register for specific events or the entire series at: .

Following Events

February 10th 10-11:30am
Cover Crops and Water Quality: Sarah Noggle, Jason Hartschuh, Rachel Cochran

February 24th 10-11:30am
Best Management Practices for Water Quality

March 3rd 3-3:30pm
Lake Erie Water Quality Litigation Update: Peggy Hall

April 14th 10-11:30am
Water Quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin… Continue reading

Read More »

Growing the bioeconomy in uncertain times

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, the U.S. bioeconomy is facing challenges.

On Friday, Feb. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon, The Ohio State University’s Advanced BioSystems Workshop will look at those challenges and will brainstorm ways for research, technology, and the government to address them.

Workshop organizer Ajay Shah, agricultural engineer with Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), said plant-based fuels and products “have the potential to decrease U.S. dependence on petroleum feedstocks, improving energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating new industries.”

But he said the COVID-19 pandemic and other uncertainties have affected biobased industries in major ways, including in the areas of funding availability and simply the ability of businesses to survive.

Following a keynote address, three breakout sessions, and a panel discussion and Q&A, the workshop’s participants will produce a report “that will help entrepreneurs, policymakers, and regulators develop strategies for moving forward,” Shah said.

Doris de Guzman of Tecnon OrbiChem and the Green Chemicals Blog will give the keynote address, “Developments in Biobased Materials Markets.”… Continue reading

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »