Country Life



Small farm conferences coming up

Ohio State University Extension will host two conferences in March dedicated to small farm landowners.

The first conference is the third annual “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show to be held March 11-12 at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. The conference will feature 38 breakout sessions and a trade show for small farmers.

The conference kicks off on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. with a session, “Get Ready – Get Set – Get Market Ready” – an evening dedicated to investigating opportunities for marketing beyond the farm gate.

Saturday, March 12 will feature over 35 breakout sessions offered throughout  the day and will cover a variety of topics that will include such examples as: Growing Grapes/Making Wine; Agritourism; Bee Keeping; Poultry Production; Biosecurity for Livestock; Berry Production; Equipment Needs; Food Preservation; Food Safety; Cherry Production; Agricultural Law Considerations; Insurance Issues; Pumpkin, Sweet Corn and Tomato Production; Alternative Energy Sources; Meat Marketing, Pasture and Hay Production; Local Foods; Social Media Marketing; Financial Management; Organic Dairy: Livestock Production; Grants and Loans and so much more.… Continue reading

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A conversation with Rocky Black, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture

OCJ: First, could you share a little about your background in agriculture and legislation that has helped prepare you for this position?

Rocky: I’ve had the privilege of working with the Ohio General Assembly for 25 years, since 1985, including working 6.5 years as Statehouse lobbyist for Governor Voinovich.

And I’ve worked in agricultural policy for nearly 9 years including as senior director of policy and political affairs for the Ohio Farm Bureau, and as senior policy advisor for the Ohio Soybean Association.

OCJ: Your duties include overseeing the ODA’s legislative efforts. What are the key opportunities and challenges in this area?

Rocky: We haven’t really identified an agenda per se, however some issues are sure to surface. First we have the enormous challenge of the state budget. Shoring up essential programs in food safety, livestock oversight, laboratory testing, and weights and measures is essential. Cutting some programs in areas with less overt impact on food and animal safety is probably unavoidable.… Continue reading

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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces investments to study renewable energy feasibility in rural communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA Rural Development has selected for funding 68 study grants nationwide to determine the feasibility of renewable energy projects. The grants cover five regions: the Northeast, Central/East, Southeast (including Hawaii), West and Pacific Northwest (including Alaska). In all, studies will be funded in 27 states and the Western Pacific. Funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program under the 2008 Farm Bill.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping our nation become more energy independent by helping rural businesses build renewable energy systems,” Vilsack said. “The projects announced today will provide rural small businesses and agricultural producers the opportunity to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy system installations. These investments will not only help our farmers and small businesses reduce energy costs, but also help find renewable alternatives to generate energy.”

For example, in Lorain County, Ohio, Vermilion Wind, LLC, has been selected to receive a $6,250 feasibility study grant.… Continue reading

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ODNR designates Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed distressed


Due to the unprecedented harmful algal blooms of 2009 and 2010, the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed has been designated a watershed in distress as of January 18, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

A recent analysis, conducted by ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources, concluded that the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed met the criteria for designation as a watershed in distress, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code 1501:15-5-20.

The study looked at a number of issues, such as:

Is the watershed listed as impaired by nutrients from agricultural sources, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency?

Does the watershed exhibit conditions that can affect public health?

Is there a threat or presence of contaminants in a public drinking water source or recreational body of water?

Do unacceptable nuisance conditions exist including the depletion of dissolved oxygen resulting in impacts to aquatic life?

The analysis report was submitted to the seven-member Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission for review on January 18.… Continue reading

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Farm Credit Services to reduce interest rates on Feb. 1

This new year, customers of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America will be receiving a pleasant surprise — their interest rates will be going down. Effective Feb. 1, 2011, Farm Credit’s Board of Directors and management have approved rolling back interest rates on all existing loans by .35% creating an annual savings to customers of $43 million. Also beginning Feb. 1, interest rates on all new loans will be adjusted down by .35%.

“This is a special and unique action that we are able to take because of the fundamental strength of our cooperative,” said Paul Bruce, Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. “We are able to pass along this savings because of some extraordinary earnings events and because our cooperative has performed well financially over the last several years. These rate adjustments will provide additional flexibility for our customers to withstand market volatility. This is something we’re pleased to do, and this is the right time to do it.”… Continue reading

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Farmland values on the rise

Much of the U.S. economy has been slow to recover from the recession. That hasn’t been true of farmland markets, which have continued to climb, a group of Purdue University agricultural economists said.

Strong crop returns, very low interest rates and a growing expectation that both might continue have had a positive influence on farmland values, said Mike Boehlje, Chris Hurt and Brent Gloy.

“Even while some residential and commercial real estate values have been falling, that has not been the case for farm real estate,” Boehlje said. “Instead, we’ve seen some high prices for farmland in recent months, even exceeding $10,000 an acre in some extreme cases.”

Boehlje, Hurt, Gloy and fellow Purdue agricultural economist Craig Dobbins examine farmland value dynamics in their paper “Farmland Values: Current and Future Prospects.” The paper can be viewed online by going to http://www.agecon.purdue.edu/commercialag/progevents/landvalueswebinar.html and then clicking on the link.

Farmland values have risen steadily since 1987 but have shot up in recent years.… Continue reading

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New food safety regulation signed into law

In early January, President Barack Obama signed into law new food safety regulations that are the most dramatic changes to American food safety practices in over 70 years.

“The Food Safety bill will provide the Federal Government with improved tools to prevent foodborne illness and address challenges in the food safety system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary. “Protecting consumers from harm is a fundamental function of government and with passage of this landmark food safety legislation, USDA remains committed to keeping food safety a top priority.”

The changes have generated some concerns within the agricultural industry, however. “Food safety knows no size, and exempting some small producers and processors from the legislation, as the Tester/Hagan amendment will do, sets a dangerous precedent for the future our nation’s food safety system. Instead of including the Tester/Hagan language, Congress should have passed legislation to set appropriate standards for all products in the marketplace, no matter the size of the producing entity,” said Kristina Butts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of legislative affairs.… Continue reading

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Tips for planning for the future of your family farm

A conversation with Robert Moore, with Wright Law Firm

OCJ: First, could you share with us about your background and how you got involved with the legalities of family estate planning?

Robert: I grew up on a dairy farm in Coshocton County. After graduating from Ohio State I worked for OSU Extension for 9 years. During my time with OSU Extension, I attended Capital Law School at night. I felt a legal career working with farmers would be both challenging and rewarding. After law school I joined Wright Law Co., which focuses on agricultural law, particularly estate and succession planning for farm families.

OCJ: How do you feel about the recent changes to federal estate tax?

Robert: It is definitely beneficial to farmers. The new $5,000,000 federal estate tax exemption will allow most farm families to be exempt from federal estate tax. If the exemption had gone back to $1,000,000, many farm families would have struggled to continue the farm due to federal estate taxes upon the death of a family member.… Continue reading

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Ohio residents honored for support of fairs

The individuals from across the state were recognized for their outstanding support of local fairs during ceremonies at the 86th Ohio Fair Managers Association Annual Convention at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs presented each recipient with a certificate.


The award recipients were:

District 1 – L.C. “Butch” Krauss, Fulton County

District 2 – Dave Jury, Wyandot County

District 3 – James A. Bell (posthumous), Greene County

District 4 – Jim Kirk, Fayette County

District 5 – Herbert J. Berry, Wayne County

District 6 – Joel D. Spires, Fairfield County

District 7 – James C. Rex, Morgan County

District 8 – Albert Young, Coshocton County

District 9 – James Bailey, Portage County

Ohio’s 94 county and independent fairs and the Ohio State Fair support the local economy and help educate the public about the importance of agriculture and the many necessities it provides, including food, clothing, shelter, fuel and energy.… Continue reading

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A new “coffee shop” is born

By Matt Reese

A jingle announces when someone walks in the door and every head turns to see who it is. Golden oldies country music is playing in the background. Coffee is consumed by the pot and the food is good enough to accompany the bountiful conversation that flows freely, depending on who is sitting around the table.
Farmers have flocked to the local coffee shop for generations to learn the local gossip, talk about the weather and share their (often slightly exaggerated) crop yields. This is just the kind of place Bill Yeoman had in mind when he conjured up the idea of a new business for his Fayette County family farm.
The Yeoman family has been in the area since 1815 when their founder got a 1410-acre land grant for service in the Revolutionary War. In more recent years, the Yeoman family operation had evolved into corn and soybeans and freezer beef from an Angus herd.… Continue reading

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Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program 2011 application period opens

The 2011 Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program application is now available on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website. All applications must be submitted electronically no later than 5 p.m. on April 6, 2011. A hard copy of the completed application must also be sent by registered or certified mail to the department, postmarked on or before April 6, 2011.

The applications are used by the department to evaluate and purchase agricultural easements to preserve Ohio’s farmland. Agricultural easements are voluntary legal agreements restricting non-agricultural development on farmland, with the land itself remaining on the tax rolls and under private ownership and management. Landowners may undertake any agricultural activity permitted under Ohio law. They can sell their farm or pass it along as a gift to others, but the easement remains with the land, prohibiting any future non-agricultural development to make certain that it remains used for agricultural purposes.

The Clean Ohio Fund bond initiative won support from Ohio’s voters in November 2008 to preserve farmland and green spaces, improve outdoor recreation, encourage redevelopment and revitalize communities by cleaning up brownfields.… Continue reading

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Top stories of 2010

At Ohio’s Country Journal, we made a significant effort to expand and improve upon our Web site in 2010 and it has been extremely successful at getting the news out instantly. We have enjoyed the chance to get Web site visitors the stories they want to know about as they are happening. The response from Ohio agriculture has been fantastic with many visitors this year. Here are the most commonly viewed stories on the Web site from 2010.

#5. Kent Boyd: From farmtown to Hollywood, by Heather Vaubel, posted Aug. 16

Kent Boyd danced his way from his hometown in Botkins to the finals for the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance” on Fox.

Each week Boyd wowed the judges with his talent and America fell in love with his innocence and charming, genuine and goofy personality. As Boyd’s fame grew, Botkins became prouder and prouder, especially since there was a little confusion about where he was from.… Continue reading

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IRS publishes 2011 mileage rates

By David L. Marrison, OSU Extension Educator

On December 3rd, the Internal Revenue Service issued the 2011 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2011, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 51 cents per mile for business miles driven (up from 50 cents per mile in 2010);
19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (up from 16.5 cents per mile in 2010); and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (same as 2010).
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. Independent contractor Runzheimer International conducted the study.… Continue reading

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2011 income tax cut marks final step in Ohio's historic tax reform plan

Ohio’s individual income tax rates will fall by more than 4% across the board next year, meaning additional savings for Ohio taxpayers.

But there is a larger historical significance to next year’s rate reductions. They also mark the finish line in one of the most ambitious packages of state tax cuts ever undertaken in Ohio, a multiyear plan that has reduced income tax rates four other times and phased out Ohio’s two largest business taxes.

With next year’s rate change, state income tax rates will be a full 21% lower across the board in 2011 than they were in 2004, the year before the Ohio General Assembly launched the tax reform plan as part of House Bill 66.

The plan, launched during the Taft administration, was embraced by Governor Ted Strickland and has reduced taxes throughout his term as governor. The reforms also included a gradual phase out of local property taxes on business machinery and equipment and a phase out of the state’s corporation franchise tax on profits.… Continue reading

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2011 income tax cut marks final step in Ohio’s historic tax reform plan

Ohio’s individual income tax rates will fall by more than 4% across the board next year, meaning additional savings for Ohio taxpayers.

But there is a larger historical significance to next year’s rate reductions. They also mark the finish line in one of the most ambitious packages of state tax cuts ever undertaken in Ohio, a multiyear plan that has reduced income tax rates four other times and phased out Ohio’s two largest business taxes.

With next year’s rate change, state income tax rates will be a full 21% lower across the board in 2011 than they were in 2004, the year before the Ohio General Assembly launched the tax reform plan as part of House Bill 66.

The plan, launched during the Taft administration, was embraced by Governor Ted Strickland and has reduced taxes throughout his term as governor. The reforms also included a gradual phase out of local property taxes on business machinery and equipment and a phase out of the state’s corporation franchise tax on profits.… Continue reading

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Former Bob Evans Inc. CEO Dies

Dan Evans, the former Bob Evans Inc. CEO who worked at the company for half a century and is credited with much of the chain’s growth, died at age 74 on Christmas Eve.

The Columbus-based company said Evans died at Riverside Methodist Hospital on Christmas Eve. Evans started at Bob Evans in a Xenia, Ohio, sausage production plant in 1956 and became chairman and CEO in 1971. He succeeded his father, Emerson Evans, the company’s founding leader. Dan Evans is the cousin of the company’s namesake, who died in 2007.

Evans retired as CEO in 2000 and chairman the following year before retiring from the board in 2006. In his three decades leading the company, Evans helped expand the restaurant chain’s nationwide footprint and its sausage-making operation, bringing Bob Evans past the $1 billion annual sales mark. The company recorded $1.73 billion in revenue in the year ended April 30.

CEO Steve Davis in a statement said Evans “leaves a tremendous legacy, which we are honored to continue each day.”… Continue reading

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New safety rules for private intrastate non-CDL drivers

by Chris Zoller,Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has revised its rules relative to motor carrier transportation safety. The new rules apply to businesses that use vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 to 26,000 pounds to transport property or passengers on a not-for-hire basis in Ohio.

There have been several questions from farmers about how they will be impacted by these rule changes.

The PUCO regulation change results in intrastate, non-CDL private motor carriers being subject to the same laws as other larger trucks. (Non-CDL is 10,000 – 26,000 lbs). However, these new rules will still not apply to farm trucks which remain in Ohio because the definition of private motor carrier, and for that matter motor transportation company, specifically does not include those trucks “engaged in the transportation of farm supplies to the farm or farm products from farm to market.”… Continue reading

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Conservation Reserve Program Celebrates 25 years

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the 25th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which has protected our nation’s natural resources since the signing of the historic Food Security Act of 1985.  The act provided for the establishment of CRP and for the protection of highly erodible land.

“CRP has a 25-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation’s natural resources through voluntary participation,” Vilsack said. “Although it was designed to address soil erosion, CRP has become one of the standouts in the USDA arsenal of conservation programs by continuing to provide significant economic and environmental benefits beyond its original intent.”

CRP was introduced at a time when soil erosion exceeded more than 3 billion tons per year, wetlands were being drained, water quality was deteriorating and wildlife populations were under stress due to the loss of habitat.  CRP provided solutions to all of these problems.  Since its inception, the program has helped reduce soil erosion by 622 million tons, provided natural habitats for wildlife, restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and removed millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air.… Continue reading

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The Christmas choice

By Tim Reeves, the Country Chaplain

A little over a year ago, I spent two weeks in the Holy Land on a combination sabbatical and visitation. Two dozen other pastors who like me who had also never visited the Holy Land were my traveling companions. We spent one week in Galilee and one week in Jerusalem.

As part of the Jerusalem leg, we spent a day in Bethlehem, the city of the Christmas story. We learned a great deal more about the real Christmas story than what we in the Western world know and imagine. We learned that some of the cherished images and stories of that first Christmas, which we hold so dear, are simply not true. However, what we learned makes the story even that much more personal.

For one, the shepherds were not grazing their sheep out on the hillsides at night. Nighttime grazing was not the common shepherding practice of that day.… Continue reading

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