Country Life

Monitor trees for signs of invasive pests

In an effort to protect the trees of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is encouraging Ohio citizens to check their trees for signs of the Walnut Twig Beetle and Asian Longhorned Beetle.

Both of these tree pests have been detected in southwest Ohio and threaten the health and viability of the state’s hardwood forests, as well as some of the state’s leading industries. Signs and symptoms of both the Walnut Twig Beetle and Asian Longhorned Beetle are visible in August.

The Walnut Twig Beetle is a small beetle known to carry a fungus that causes Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD), which can kill walnut trees. TCD is caused when the Walnut Twig Beetles bore into the branches and trunk tissue of walnut trees, thereby introducing the fungus. Repeated attacks by the insect lead to multiple individual infections by the fungus and the tree eventually dies. There is no known treatment for TCD.… Continue reading

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U.S. farm spending up

U.S. farmers spent a record-high $351.8 billion on agricultural production in 2012, a 10.4% increase from 2011, according to the Farm Production Expenditures report, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Crop farms accounted for the majority of production expenditures in 2012. These expenditures totaled $200 billion, increasing 17.4% from 2011. Low interest rates boosted new machinery purchases in 2012, increasing the overall farm expenditures for the year. Also, chemicals, fertilizers, and seeds cost crop farmers $55.5 billion last year, accounting for 27.8% of crop farms total expense.

On the livestock side, farmers spent $152 billion, up 2.4% from 2011. The largest expenditure for livestock farms was feed, on which the producers spent $54.4 billion in 2012. The drought reduced feed availability, causing prices to climb last year, making it the costliest category in the entire agriculture sector.

Regionally, the largest increase in production expenditures was in the Plains, where expenditures rose by $15 billion from 2011.… Continue reading

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Hog showmanship pays off in the courtroom

It’s been 35 years since I showed a hog at the county fair, yet the skills I learned from the show ring were some of the most important parts of my education. I use them all of the time as a lawyer. As a farmer, not so much. If I ever taught trail advocacy in law school (which is not going to happen), I would take several days and match students with pigs, then hold a showmanship contest. In the process, I would stress the following principles of showmanship.

• Be ready to enter the ring when the class starts.

• Keep your eye on the judge.

• Always present your hog in the best way possible.

• Keep moving.

• Don’t run between another showman and his animal.

• Try to look like you are enjoying yourself.

• Be prepared to answer any questions the judge may ask about your pig.… Continue reading

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Feelin’ saucy: A BBQ overview

Aug. 7 is a date that I will always remember — it was the day I got to judge my first barbecue contest, the Ohio Pork Producers Council’s rib-off at the Ohio State Fair. The panel of esteemed judges included David Black, a Franklin County grain farmer who serves on the Ohio Soybean Council’s board (which helped sponsor the best barbecue sauce portion of the event); Matt Reese, editor of Ohio’s Country Journal; Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio Expo Center (a.k.a. as the Ohio State Fairgrounds), and Joel Riley, WTVN 610 AM morning host and personality.

Judging a barbecue contest involves more than eating. Pardon the pun, but it’s really not a place to pig out as Matt Reese learned the hard way last year and was still taking some good natured ribbing (once again, no pun intended) for it. It seems that Matt thought last year’s contest was a good place to chow down on every sample that they brought him to judge.… Continue reading

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Fun facts in historical ag data

Did you know? 
In 1933, hybrid corn seeds made up only one-tenth of 1% of the national crop. Within 10 years, that proportion reached 50%, and by 1956, more than 90% of the national corn crop was from hybrid seeds.

Iowa harvested 2.36 billion bushels of corn in 2011, more than the entire U.S. corn harvest of 1935.

That’s just a couple of the fun agricultural facts uncovered in 77 years of historical data now available online from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The agency has just completed the digital compilation of data since 1936, which is now easily accessible to anyone with internet access. In the past, this information, published in the annual bulletin Agricultural Statistics, was available in print form only.

“U.S. agriculture continues to progress by learning from our past, which is why it is imperative to have historic data easily available,” said Cynthia Clark, NASS Administrator.… Continue reading

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USDA announces funding to boost the rural economy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that projects in 17 states, including Ohio, will receive loan and grant assistance to create jobs and boost economic development in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno made the announcement on Vilsack’s behalf while attending the National Veterans Small Business Conference in St. Louis.

“The Obama Administration is committed to building strong rural economies, and helping veterans find jobs that will support their families,” Salerno said. “The funding we are announcing today reflects the Administration’s commitment to provide economic opportunity for residents and businesses in rural communities, including those here in Missouri.”

This funding is provided through three USDA economic development programs: the Intermediary Relending Program, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.

Intermediary Relending Program funds are awarded to community-based development or regional planning groups that then re-lend the money at a low interest rate to local businesses.… Continue reading

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Dedication of the Preble County Agriculture Education Center

The Preble County Fairgrounds held the official dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony of the Preble County Agriculture Education Center on July 27, the opening day of the fair.

As the fair continues to evolve, the fair staff saw great potential in their commercial building to expand their outreach and educational services, but the building was in need of a little tender loving care. Generous donations totaling $15,000 from the Preble County Farm Bureau, Central Ohio Tractor Pullers Association, Preble County Ag Society, all six FFA Chapters in the county, and FFA Alumni made this two-month project possible. Around 60 FFA members added in the hard work and physical labor to renovate the building, which will now exhibit FFA member’s fair projects. The county’s FFA chapters also hope to use the building for educational activities during the Preble County Pork Festival.

Harold Neihaus, past teacher and advisor for the Preble Shawnee FFA chapter and current Director of Curriculum for the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, was very excited to see this project completed.… Continue reading

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Soil health, water quality and bioenergy among topics at workshop

Growers and anyone interested in learning more about soil, water quality and bioenergy, in addition to the latest research on blueberries, hops and aquaculture, can learn more at a workshop Aug. 27-28 at the Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon.

Some of the workshops and field demonstrations will be led by scientists with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The event is part of a joint meeting of the Association of Ohio Pedologists and the Soil and Water Conservation Society, which will hold their summer meeting and workshops at OSU South Centers.

Rafiq Islam, who holds joint appointments with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, will discuss his research on water quality and public health during a field presentation and demonstration at the workshop Aug. 27.

OSU Extension, OARDC and South Centers are all part of the college.

Islam’s work looks at organic production systems and the impact of long-term tillage and cover crops’ effect on soil health and ecosystem services.… Continue reading

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Small town the right fit for big comedian

This summer, comedian Drew Hastings, with an impossible-to-take-too-seriously hairstyle and notably urban inspired attire, performed on a rickety homemade stage in an Ohio barn with four bare light bulbs overhead. The crowd guffawed at a funny bloated cow story Hastings shared as a couple of bats fluttered around the rafters overhead and the June sun dipped below the corn field horizon outside. The small barn stage swayed a little and groaned underneath his lanky six-foot six-inch frame.

The notably rustic setting was far cry from the seat beside Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show” or the nightclub stages where he has headlined around the country. Hastings is a funny guy who is funny enough that he does not have to perform in a barn for a 4-H fundraiser.

He was born in Casablanca, Morocco and raised in Ohio by a British mother. Before becoming a professional comedian at age 31, he worked in a trucking business, document shredding startup and others endeavors.… Continue reading

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Northwest Ohio cooperatives merge

The Blanchard Valley Farmers Cooperative and Deshler Farmers Elevator Company have agreed to merge their two agricultural cooperatives.

Work has started on determining how to best merge the operations under the name of Legacy Farmers Cooperative on March 1, 2014. The new company will initially operate under and 15-member board of directors and move to a nine-member board by 2017. The new president and CEO will be Mark Sunderman, who currently serves as president of Deshler Farmers Elevator Company. Mike Tobe, the current Agronomy Division Manager at Blanchard Valley Farmers Cooperative, will serve as vice president and agronomy manager.

“This merger will ensure an extremely positive future for both cooperatives, their stock holders and customers,” said Jerry Silveus, Blanchard Valley Farmers Cooperative general manager. “I sincerely believe that the combined boards of directors have chosen the right management team going forward and am very confident that the new CEO/president Mark Sunderman and vice president and agronomy manager Mike Tobe will not miss a beat as they work to grow this cooperative to the next level of success.”… Continue reading

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2013 Buckeye Battle of the Breeds Draft Horse Team Challenge

Ten teams of draft horses participated in the Buckeye Battle of the Breeds Team Challenge at the 2013 Ohio State Fair. This special class is open to all breeds of draft horses and offers extra prize money to the winners.

Short videos of the three heats of this class are shown to the left. The final drive off is show below.


  1. Lor Rob Dairy Farm Belgians, East Bethany, NY
  2. Oak Haven Belgians, Fremont, Ohio
  3. Blue Ribbon Days Farms, Winchester, Indiana
  4. Windermere Farms/Jackson Fork Ranch, Spring Mills, Pa
  5. All Star Farms, Wayne, Ohio*
  6. Hunting Creek Farms, Hamptonville, NC
  7. Hammersmith Belgians, Defiance, Ohio
  8. Flat Rock Draft Horses, Bellevue, Ohio
  9. Clemson Show Belgians, Chardon, Ohio
  10. Circle S Percherons, Dennison, Ohio

* All Star Farms was also the winner of a random drawing for $830 worth of horse harness.… Continue reading

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COOL controversy heating up

While Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) may have sounded like a great idea to everyone when first proposed several years ago, the ongoing debate and ultimate specifics have been very divisive.

This spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule regarding the mandatory COOL, which once again stirred up the debate that has now reached the international stage.

“We are deeply disappointed with this short-sighted action by the USDA. Our largest trading partners have already said that these provisions will not bring the United States into compliance with our World Trade Organization obligations and will result in increased discrimination against imported products and in turn retaliatory tariffs or other authorized trade sanctions,” said Scott George, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president. “As we said in comments submitted to USDA, ‘any retaliation against U.S. beef would be devastating for our producers.’ While trying to make an untenable mandate fit with our international trade obligations, USDA chose to set up U.S.… Continue reading

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2013 Ohio State Fair Buckeye Battle of the Breeds Draft Horse Cart Class

Congratulations to the winners of the Buckeye Battle of the Breeds Cart Challenge — All Star Farms and driver Nicole Honsberger of Wayne, Ohio.

Approximately 19 horses and their drivers competed in the class this year. This unique class is open to all breeds of draft horses. Cash prizes are larger than normal for those who place in this class. In addition, two non-placing entries are randomly chosen to receive cash prizes.

The final drive off is viewable below. Short clips of each heat are view to the left.


1. All Star Farms, Wayne, Ohio

2. Blue Ribbon Days, Winchester, Indiana

3. Flat Rock Draft Horses, Bellevue, Ohio

4. Gunville Hitch, Quinnesec, Michigan

5. Oak Haven Belgians, Fremont, Ohio

6. Windermere and Jackson Fork Ranch, Spring Mills, Pa.

7. Eagle Creek Farm, Montpelier, Ohio

8. Hammersmith Belgians, Defiance, Ohio

9. LorRob Dairy Farm, East Bethany, NY

10. Circle S Percherons, Dennison, Ohio

Jackpot of $300: R&M Farms Drafty Acres, Seville, Ohio

Jackpot of $200: Jo Nel Farms, Wayne, Ohio… Continue reading

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Ag groups pushing for House immigration reform

The American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 400 leading U.S. businesses and advocacy organizations called on the House to enact immigration reform legislation. The letter, sent today, was signed by a broad cross section of industries that includes agriculture, housing, retail, tourism, hospitality, technology, engineering, manufacturing, finance, venture capital, consumer electronics and others with a combined presence in every state in the United States.

The letter and all the groups signing on can be found at:

Following is the text of the letter that was sent to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:


“The undersigned organizations urge the United States Congress to enact legislation that would bring meaningful reforms to critical components of our nation’s immigration system. Reform of an outdated, broken immigration system is essential if we are to achieve a fully revitalized economy that provides rewarding and lasting jobs and opportunities for all Americans.Continue reading

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Farmers donate $65,000 to Ohio ag youth organizations

This year, through America’s Farmers Grow Communities, 26 Ohio farmers were able to fund the state’s 4-H and FFA programs.

Sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, Grow Communities provides farmers the chance to win a $2,500 donation for a local non-profit organization of their choice. In Ohio, nine winning farmers directed their donations to 4-H programs and 17 winning farmers directed their donations to FFA chapters in their communities. In total, local farmers gave $65,000 to Ohio ag youth programs.

Randie Bolender, the winning farmer from Brown County, supported his local 4-H program because of the opportunities 4-H has given him and his family.

“My whole family was involved in 4-H, including my two children,” Bolender said. “Through 4-H, my daughter learned about food production and nutrition, which sparked her interest in becoming a dietician.”

Each 4-H club decided how the donation would be used based on needs for supplies, program funding and participation in local fairs.… Continue reading

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Farmer privacy protect law introduced

Driven by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of personal and private data on thousands of livestock and poultry farmers to activist groups, Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Tuesday introduced the “Farmer Identity Protection Act” (S. 1343), which would restrict the EPA from disclosing such records again.

The legislation would allow EPA to provide data to outside parties only in aggregate or with a farmer’s approval. It would allow EPA to release farm information only when all personally identifiable information is removed. A portion of the information EPA freely distributed earlier this year to three environmental groups included names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the farmers and ranchers, their spouses and farm employees.

The legislation would allow EPA to release farm information only when all personally identifiable information is removed. NPPC, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, filed a lawsuit against EPA July 5, 2013, to prevent the agency from releasing information to additional groups.… Continue reading

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Marketing techniques covered in workshop

Producers wanting to make sure their food business or operation has a strong, income-building presence in the mobile media arena can learn tips and techniques from food marketing experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences during a workshop Aug. 15.

The “Maps and Apps” workshop will teach participants how to make the most of mobile media marketing as a way their businesses can benefit from free listings on Internet maps, GPS systems and mobile apps, said Eric Barrett, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

“Ohio food producers wanting to increase their markets, grow their customer base, improve profitability and increase their visibility can learn strategies on how to leverage the Internet, GPS, mobile applications and social media to increase business opportunities,” he said.

Statistics show that 91 percent of U.S. citizens who own mobile devices have them within their reach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Barrett, who will help present the workshop.… Continue reading

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Ohio CRP enrollment numbers released

The USDA Ohio Farm Service Agency (FSA), announced that 9,992.6 acres were accepted during the 45th Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up. Currently, Ohio has 317,363 CRP acres enrolled on 37,162 contracts.

Nationwide, USDA accepted enrollment of 1.7 million acres bringing the total program enrollment to 26.9 million acres.

For more than 27 years, CRP has protected natural resources in Ohio while providing economic and environmental benefits to rural communities throughout the state. The newly accepted CRP offers will continue the CRP legacy by improving water and air quality, increasing wildlife habitat and preventing soil erosion.

CRP is a voluntary program that allows eligible landowners to receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of their 10 to 15 year contracts. Accepted contracts will become effective October 1, 2013.

All CRP sign-up 45 offers were evaluated and ranked using the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that consists of the following five environmental factors plus cost: wildlife enhancement, water quality, soil erosion, enduring benefits and air quality.… Continue reading

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Three generations of combines and farmers

Megan James sent these great photos of her husband, Mike James, his father and grandfather on three generations of combines. These three men farm together today, harvesting their crops using the 2008 AGCO R65 driven by Mike in the photo.

His father, Ed James, is on an Allis Chalmers E Gleaner 1964 which his father purchased in 1976. Carl Graham, Ed’s father-in-law and Mike’s grandfather, is using the 1953 Allis Chalmers All Crop Harvester. Although this particular tractor was purchased at a later date, he had purchased one just like this one in 1954 after returning home from service in the Army.

All three combines are functioning pieces of equipment on the corn, soybean and wheat farm near Arcadia in Hancock County. Ed collects antique machinery, particularly pieces with symbolic meaning to him and his family.

James 1Continue reading

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