Country Life



Walleye breach the century mark

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

Great news for northwest Ohio anglers: a walleye has been found in the Sandusky River upstream of the recently demolished Ballville Dam near Fremont. University of Toledo graduate student Taylor Sasak has spent the last two springs searching for signs that walleye are moving past the site of the former Ballville Dam that was removed in 2018 on the Sandusky River near Fremont, and finally struck gold.

The fish was captured in late April while electrofishing in a boat as part of Sasak’s ongoing research project. She actually caught 13 walleye near Portage Trail Park and one walleye near Wolf Creek Park above the former obstacle, the first time walleye have accessed the habitat that had been blocked for more than a century.

“The Ballville Dam blocked migratory fish, such as walleye, from accessing upstream areas of suitable spawning habitat for over a century,” Sasak said.… Continue reading

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Gov. DeWine ending supplemental unemployment aid

On Thursday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that on June 26 Ohio will be ending the supplemental unemployment aid from the federal government. The unemployment checks, totaling $300 per week, were part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

“The unemployment supplement from the federal government helped many Ohioans get through a very challenging time, but it was intended to be a short-term solution,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “As businesses continue to do their best to respond to the growing demand across the food and farm sector, there are plentiful opportunities for the state’s workforce to get back on the job to help Ohio’s economy return to pre-pandemic levels. We appreciate Gov. DeWine taking the steps needed for the long-term success of Ohio’s employers and their employees.”… Continue reading

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Understanding climate adaptation in the Eastern Corn Belt

In light of climate-induced risks and uncertainties, such as increasing extreme rainfall events and warmer temperatures, an interdisciplinary team of research, extension, and outreach professionals at Ohio State are working together to identify how to promote sustainability and resilience in the Eastern Corn Belt. 

The team seeks to understand how farmers’ can adapt to these changing conditions while supporting both agricultural production and the protection of critical ecosystem services. View these brief videos to understand the project focus, the past and expected future climate conditions, and how and what farmers plan to adapt. Our climate infographic demonstrates how mean daily maximum temperatures could increase as much as 10 degrees, while annual total precipitation could increase as much as 15 inches. These changes will impact the growing season and create challenges with water availability at different times of the year. 

Our farmer infographic demonstrates that the preferred adaptation strategies are installing more drainage tile, increased the use of conservation tillage, changing one’s crop insurance coverage, and retired land for conservation.… Continue reading

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What is happening with lumber prices?

By Brent Sohngen, Professor Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, The Ohio State University

In case you haven’t noticed, lumber prices have increased a lot over the last year. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Lumber Price Index, which you can find here, lumber prices have increased 180% since April, 2020. This increase started last fall, and has continued ever since. So, why have they risen, and how high will they go?

Let’s start with the first question, why have they risen? The economic explanation is relatively straightforward: demand rose rapidly due to pandemic related building, and supply is really inelastic, as we say in economics. Thus, while the demand of wood has increased dramatically, the supply of wood hasn’t been able to keep up. Let’s break this down.

Consider the demand side first. The construction sector, specifically building and remodeling houses, is one of the largest demanders of lumber in the U.S.… Continue reading

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Bright future or a long shadow for solar in Ohio?

By Matt Reese

The solar debate is heating up in rural Ohio.

“It is huge here in Ohio and it is growing. I think we have probably a dozen projects in various stages of development in terms of utility scale solar development,” said Brandon Kern, with Ohio Farm Bureau. “There are a lot of mixed feelings about this. You have landowners and farmers who see this as an opportunity to diversify income. You have others who are concerned about the competitive strain it could put on trying to acquire farmland. If you are out there trying to rent ground and some of this ground is being taken up with solar development, you are probably concerned. We understand that. You also have another element of concern out there about what level of local engagement is appropriate for community members to have input into the process for where these utility scale developments get sited.… Continue reading

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On the road again with delicious breakfasts aplenty

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

The excitement of traveling is in the air. We have all been cooped up for over a year now and we are itching to get out of Dodge. Traveling abroad, across the U.S. and through the wonderful state of Ohio has taken me on quite the gamut of accommodations from a yurt in The Wilds, and camping in Betty, our T@B teardrop, to high-end hotels and of course everything in between. Experiencing unique lodging and my foodie ways have become a bucket list pursuit for me that started even from a young age. In the summer of ’83, the unique choices of lodging and food primarily fell to bed and breakfasts and their regional cuisine. Our family vacation that year took us across New England notches, lakes, foothills, the Atlantic Coast and White Mountains. In those days without mobile phones, booking.com and google maps to help you secure overnight accommodations, we were left with a bed and breakfast book and the good old fashioned Rand McNally Atlas to assist us on our trek.… Continue reading

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Tax concerns from House lawmakers

More than 130 Republican House members sent a letter to leadership on last week, opposing to the use of two tax provisions — the elimination of stepped-up basis allowances from the tax code and capital gains taxes at death — which could be offered as pay-fors under President Biden’s “American Families Plan” proposal. 

“A recent EY study found that these two changes to the tax code had the potential to reduce wages by $32 for every $100 in new taxes collected, and to eliminate 80,000 jobs per year right now, and up to 100,000 per year by 2030,” the letter explained. “We agree 21st century transportation networks, utilities, and broadband are vital to economic growth as we rebuild our economy and get Americans back to work. We also believe repealing stepped-up basis and taxing capital gains at death would be counterproductive to these goals. We oppose their inclusion in any legislation, and we look forward to working with you on ways to responsibly fund the improvements needed to ensure America’s farms, ranches, and small businesses fully benefit and can continue serving their customers here and around the world,” the lawmakers wrote. … Continue reading

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Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation awards Action and Awareness grants

The Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation recently awarded grants to fund efforts in agriculture-related programming.

“A robust farm and food community is something that everyone in Ohio is reliant upon,” said Mike Townsley, chairman of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation board. “These fantastic grant recipients share a common goal to forge new programs and projects that will create enthusiasm for innovation and will promote growth in the interest and investment in Ohio’s farm and food community.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation funds programs that create a positive, measurable impact in four core areas of giving through its Action and Awareness grants program:

Education — Providing grants for professional development programs allowing individuals to advance their knowledge of agriculture, share ideas and improve people’s lives.

Environment — Funding sensible solutions that contribute to a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable Ohio by focusing on increased care for land and water.

Economic development — Capturing opportunities that build prosperity, create jobs and enhance the quality of life for Ohioans by funding projects that spur economic growth in local communities.… Continue reading

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USDA announces listening session on impacts of COVID-19 on new farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a virtual listening session for beginning farmers and ranchers to learn how COVID-19 impacted their farming operations and to get their feedback on USDA assistance. The listening session will take place on May 6, 2021, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Eastern time.

“We invite beginning farmers and ranchers to share their experiences in navigating USDA’s resources for assistance after the pandemic,” said Gloria Montaño Greene, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

“We need to understand what worked well and where we can improve, while deepening our understanding of how farmers were affected by the pandemic and how they are modifying their operations,” said Mae Wu, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Montaño Greene and Wu will be joined by Zach Ducheneaux, USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator, and Sarah Campbell, USDA’s National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator.

This feedback will inform USDA preparations for outreach strategies, programmatic needs, technical assistance and accessible program delivery for beginning farmers and ranchers through Pandemic Assistance for Producers.… Continue reading

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Farmers helping food banks

By Vince Hall, interim chief government relations officer at Feeding America

My father spent 30 years in the rice business and I remember driving a “bank out” wagon to transport the grain before I ever drove a car. From those rural roots I came to appreciate that farmers are the foundation of our nation’s food system, providing the nourishing foods we all need to lead healthy, happy lives. Farmers — through advocacy, fundraising and more — are also critical partners in our nation’s fight against hunger, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today I’m proud to serve Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Working together, in 2020 we provided a record-number of meals to our neighbors in need amid new challenges to putting food on the table: a once-in-a-generation pandemic made going to the grocery store an uncertain experience, food prices reached a 50-year high and unemployment rates rivaled those of the Great Depression.… Continue reading

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NFU: USDA must prioritize climate change across all programs

Agriculture is uniquely positioned to mitigate climate change — but farmers need the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) support to fully realize that potential, according to National Farmers Union (NFU).

In comments submitted, the family farm organization outlined ways UDSA could better “encourage the development, adoption, and equitable delivery of climate smart practices.” While the agency already has a suite of programs that can achieve this goal, they are falling short in some respects. For one, many programs do not currently prioritize climate in their criteria, making it difficult for farmers to use them to meet climate goals on their operations. As a remedy, NFU President Rob Larew encouraged USDA to “publicly state that climate change is an urgent priority. . .and ensure programs reflect this prioritization.” Additionally, it should give precedence to applications that result in “positive soil health, carbon sequestration, and resilience outcomes in line with local climate change resource concerns.”… Continue reading

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New grant program to enhance Ohio’s Lake Erie water quality

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded ODA’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation a five-year, $8-million grant to assist in Ohio’s work to improve water quality in Lake Erie.

Administered by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the grant funding will support Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative by assisting farmers in developing nutrient management plans and conservation practices in Crawford, Erie, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, and Wyandot counties.  

Farmers in these counties can begin enrolling through their local soil & water district office in late summer. 

“Our partnership with NRCS will pave a way for Ohio to cover even greater ground in its statewide goals of clean water through Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director. “Ohio is grateful for NRCS and its insight as we work together to improve water quality through proven conservation best practices.” … Continue reading

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Forecasting weather challenges ahead

By Jim Noel, NOAA

There are challenges ahead so we will break them into short-term and long-term.

Short-term

The recent snow was a rare event for the amount that fell across Ohio. However, the minimum temperatures in the 20s and 30s was not that far off of normal for last freeze conditions for Ohio.

The strongest typhoon ever in the northern hemisphere occurred east of the Philippines last week and this energy will come across parts of North America over the next week. When that happens weather model performance often drops. Hence, if you see more bouncing around of forecasts the next 10-15 days that may be one reason why.

We have a big warm-up the first half of this week ahead of a strong storm that will move through Ohio the second half of the week with wind and rain. We could see anywhere from 0.50 inches to over 2 inches across Ohio later this week but placement is not certain and seems to favor central and southern Ohio with the highest amounts.… Continue reading

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Testing a new way to kill harmful algal blooms

As the weather warms and draws people to the water, tests are about to begin on a new technique for killing off harmful algal blooms in Ohio’s streams and lakes. 

The technology being tested creates ozone and injects it into a waterway in the form of microscopic bubbles. Once in the water, the ozone can kill unwanted algae, destroy toxins, and boost oxygen levels, said Heather Raymond, director of the Water Quality Initiative at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

When these tiny bubbles of ozone called “nanobubbles” burst in the water, they produce hydroxyl radicals and peroxides. Those substances can further destroy harmful algae and possibly help cut off the algae’s food supply, thus preventing future blooms.  

How well this technology works to combat Ohio’s harmful algae will be tested in the lab, in test ponds, and in several state lakes and rivers.… Continue reading

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USDA awards 85 new partnership projects to help mitigate climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). 

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Terry Cosby NRCS Acting Chief. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.” 

Across America, producers are seeing the impacts from climate change. Farmers, landowners and local communities can be a major part of the effort to combat climate change. 

USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water.… Continue reading

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Growing Climate Solutions Act introduced

The Senate Agriculture Committee last week approved a bipartisan bill that encourages farmer participation in the carbon credit offset markets.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced earlier in the week by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would create a certification program at USDA to solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. USDA’s certification program would provide transparency, legitimacy and informal endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture and forestry-related practices.

The bill would also create an advisory council comprised of agriculture experts, scientists, producers and others, to ensure the certification program remains relevant and credible. National Pork Producers Council is among numerous agricultural groups in support of the bill — just as it backed the legislation last year— and believes it will ensure U.S.… Continue reading

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USDA seeks proposals for innovative approaches to conservation on agricultural lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking proposals through June 21 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials). On-Farm Trials, part of the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches.

This program harnesses the expertise, resources and capacity of partner organizations nationwide to help NRCS boost natural resource conservation on private lands and support climate smart agriculture. 

“USDA is a leader in using the latest science, research and conservation tools to reduce the impacts of climate change,” said John Wilson, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Ohio. “We’re doing our part in helping America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the natural resources we all depend on, like clean air and water, while supporting the health and resiliency of their operations for the future.… Continue reading

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Fish don’t realize they’re a dam site better off

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

It’s been almost three years since the Sandusky River’s controversial Ballville Dam near Fremont was removed, in part to allow fish species such as walleyes and white bass to move farther upriver to spawn. But so far, that’s not happening.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) figured it might take a few seasons for fish to make their way upstream during their annual spring spawning migrations, but they didn’t know how long the natural process would take. Since 2019, ODNR has been conducting post-dam removal studies to determine changes in fish populations.

Although the main obstacle for fish to move upstream has been removed, no walleye or white bass were found last spring or so far this spring during the spawning migration between the former dam site at Ballville and the first dam near Tiffin, according to Eric Weimer, fisheries biologist supervisor at ODNR’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit.… Continue reading

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USDA expands and renews Conservation Reserve Program in effort to boost enrollment

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will open enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture, including $330 million in 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is working to leverage USDA conservation programs for climate mitigation, including continuing to invest in innovation partnership programs like RCPP and On-Farm Trials as well as strengthening programs like CRP to enhance their impacts.

“Sometimes the best solutions are right in front of you. With CRP, the United States has one of the world’s most successful voluntary conservation programs.… Continue reading

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Much more legislation in progress in Ohio

By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Hopefully, Ohio’s planting season will soon be as busy as its legislative season. There’s a lot of activity down at the capitol these days, with many bills on the move. Here’s a summary of bills that could impact agriculture and rural communities. Note that the summary doesn’t include the budget bill, which is also currently being debated.

Water quality bonds 

A joint resolution recently offered in the Senate supports amending Ohio’s Constitution to create permanent funds for clean water improvements. S.J.R. 2, a bipartisan proposal from Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Hts.) would place a ballot issue before voters in November. The issue proposes amending the Constitution to allow for the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund clean water improvements. Up to $1 billion over 10 years would be permissible, with no more than $100 million allocated in any fiscal year.… Continue reading

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