Country Life

East Palestine update

Gov. Mike DeWine’s office provided updates from the State of Ohio regarding remediation work at the site of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

DeWine is planning a meeting with farmers in the area. Although the Ohio Department of Agriculture currently has no reason to believe that crops planted in soil in the area of East Palestine are not safe for consumption, the agency will host a roundtable discussion with East Palestine area farmers on Thursday afternoon to discuss concerns about the upcoming planting season.

Here are other updates.

Track and soil removal

The excavation continues under the south tracks at the derailment site. Ohio EPA reports that contractors are making good progress, and soil has been removed down to the clay in about 50 percent of the area. Once to that point, confirmation sampling is conducted to see if any contaminants remain. If contaminants are discovered, contractors will scrape away the clay until sampling comes back with no detection of contaminants.… Continue reading

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EQIP-CIC signup deadline April 7

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) deadline to apply for Environmental Quality Incentives Program Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC) is April 7, 2023. 

EQIP-CIC expands resource benefits for Ohio producers through incentive conservation practices such as wildlife management, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation crop rotations, and prescribed grazing. Additionally, EQIP-CIC allows producers to target priority resource concerns on their property by offering incentive payments for a five-year contract without needing to enroll the entire operation into the program. EQIP-CIC is designed to be a stepping-stone between EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to help producers improve their level of conservation and earn benefits of longer-term conservation enhancements.

Find Ohio’s ranking dates as well as other program information on the Ohio NRCS EQIP website. To learn more about other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.… Continue reading

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The challenge of a generation

By Matt Reese

It wasn’t that long ago when the outskirts of central Ohio towns like Groveport and Canal Winchester quickly transitioned to open, fertile farm fields with prolific crops and grazing livestock. In just the span of a generation, though, warehouses, residential areas, strip malls, and traffic have forever altered the landscape. Some would argue the change is for the better, and society is currently demanding it, but a growing number of voices are being raised about the erosion of the Ohio agriculture of generation’s past and concerns about a food insecure future beneath the pavement, in the shadow of perceived progress.

The issue is certainly not new for Ohio, which has a long history of paving over some of the world’s most productive farm ground. But in the wake of massive change including huge solar fields, the Intel announcement, an unsatiable demand for warehouse storage due to online shopping, and yet another housing boom, Ohio’s agricultural future is looking increasingly uncertain in some areas. Continue reading

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USDA wetland reserve easements now available to Ohio landowners

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a special set-aside funding pool for landowners interested in restoring, enhancing, and protecting wetlands through the Wetlands Reserve Easement Program (WRE). This year, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding has provided additional financial opportunities for the program, as wetlands play a critical role in climate mitigation. The first application cutoff date to receive fiscal year 2023 funding for the WRE-IRA program is March 17, 2023.  

Wetland Reserve Easements can help landowners protect land from climate impacts by reducing, capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Additional benefits include land development protection, critical wildlife habitat preservation and water quality improvement

Many of the state’s landowners can take advantage of this program, as eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can successfully be restored; croplands or grasslands subject to flooding; and previously restored wetlands and riparian areas that connect protected wetland areas. … Continue reading

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Harvest for All feeding the hungry

Farm and ranch families from across the nation donated 25.3 million pounds of food and raised more than $1 million to help fight hunger in 2022 through Farm Bureau’s “Harvest for All” program. Combined, the monetary and food donations totaled the equivalent of 31.1 million meals.

Criteria for tracking Harvest for All donations included dollars and pounds of food donated by state and county Farm Bureaus, as well as volunteer hours, reported from the grassroots up as part of the annual campaign.

The spirit of farm communities has always been one of working together and giving back. Now in its 21st year, Harvest for All is spearheaded by members of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program, but members of all ages from across the nation contribute to the effort. Their participation helps ensure Americans who are facing food insecurity can enjoy the bounty of food farmers and ranchers produce.

In addition to raising food and funds, farmers and ranchers tallied 13,827 volunteer hours assisting local hunger groups in 2022.… Continue reading

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Ohioan at work training farmers to feed an African nation

By Matt Reese

Retired Ohio State University soil scientist Warren Dick has long been known for his research on soil amendments. He can still talk passionately about gypsum or phosphorus, but his eyes truly light up when he discusses his Bethel Agricultural Association, Inc. project.

Dick grew up in a Mennonite family with 13 children on a small farm in North Dakota. He attended Wheaton College in Illinois as a chemistry major with plans to become a medical doctor. 

“Between my junior and senior year, I went on a summer mission trip to South Sudan, which is one of the newer countries in the world right now,” Dick said. “I saw so much poverty and hunger. I was planning to go to med school but instead of med school, I decided I could do more good for this world in agriculture.”

After the trip, Dick went to Iowa State University for a PhD and was hired by Ohio State University in 1980 where he began his career teaching and researching the biochemistry and microbiology of soils.… Continue reading

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New deer regulations proposed

By Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman

Next autumn’s deer hunting seasons and bag limits have been proposed to the Ohio Wildlife Council. Notably, bag limits were proposed to increase in six counties and decrease in one. Beyond that, the proposed deer hunting seasons are similar to last year and likely to be approved as written.

As in years past, only one antlered deer may be harvested, regardless of where or how it is taken, and hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The proposed deer hunting dates for 2023-24 include:

• Deer archery: Sept. 30, 2023-Feb. 4, 2024

• Youth deer gun: Nov. 18-19, 2023

• Deer gun: Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2023; Dec. 16-17, 2023

• Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 6-9, 2024. 

Bag limit increases from two to three deer were proposed in six counties: Belmont, Gallia, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, and Monroe. A bag limit decrease from three to two deer was proposed for Butler County.… Continue reading

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ODA awards funding for two-stage ditches through H2Ohio

As part of Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is awarding $4.2 million in grants for 12 two-stage ditch projects.

“We are keeping our foot on the gas pedal to reach our nutrient reduction goals,” said ODA Director Brian Baldridge. “These projects will provide water quality benefits that complement the other best management practices offered through H2Ohio.”

Six county engineers and six Soil and Water Conservation Districts will receive funds to construct or improve two-stage ditches. Recipients will receive up to 100 percent of requested funding for these projects.

More than 18,000 acres of watershed will benefit from the 8.4 miles of two-stage ditch projects. Construction of these projects will begin this summer, and all projects must be completed by Fall 2024.

The two-stage ditch became the eighth best management practice offered through ODA’s portion of H2Ohio. A two-stage ditch is a conservation practice that modifies the shape of a drainage ditch to create vegetation benches on each side.… Continue reading

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Spring weather outlook

By Aaron Wilson, Ohio State University Extension

Not to be outdone by January, February temperatures have been much above normal as well. Much of the state will end the month with temperatures about 5-10 degrees F above the long-term average (1991-2020). Locations such as Dayton and Columbus experienced daily high temperatures of at least 70 degrees F on three different days in February, a first for both locations. Despite the continued presence, although weakening La Niña, it was a drier than normal month for much of the state. The exception to this was northwest Ohio, where many counties picked up 125% to 200% of normal precipitation. The warm temperatures have certianly advanced the accumulation of growing degree days, with numerous signs of spring. For a detailed look at growing degree days and to see what might bloom next in your area, check out the The Ohio State Phenology Calendar.

An active weather pattern will continue this week as temperatures remain mostly above average.… Continue reading

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It is time to change the way we think about crop insurance

By Michael Sweeney, Vice President of Bickle Farm Solutions

I am very privileged to sit across the table from some of the best farmers in Ohio multiple times every year and talk with them about crop insurance, farm insurance, or just farming in general. One thing that I have learned in my years in agriculture is that everyone has an opinion and very few are the same. This could not be truer about crop insurance. 

Michael Sweeney

Generally there are two sets of views on crop insurance. One side says, “I buy it because the bank says I have to” or “I buy it to make sure I can farm again next year.” The other says the purpose of crop insurance for their operation is to guarantee margin, or at least to make them whole again. Both sides will have reasons for the stance they take. At the end of the day, it’s all about mental and financial risk tolerance.… Continue reading

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U.S. Department of Labor modifies wages in H-2A program

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced it will publish a final rule to amend how the Adverse Effect Wage Rates for the H-2A program are set to improve the rates’ consistency and accuracy based on the work actually performed by these workers and to better prevent H-2A workers’ employment negatively affecting the wages of U.S. workers in similar positions. 

The H-2A program allows employers to address temporary labor needs by employing foreign agricultural workers when a lack of U.S. workers for the positions exists, and as long as hiring non-U.S. workers does not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar jobs. The program’s Adverse Effect Wage Rates is the wage below which there would be an adverse effect on the wages of U.S. workers.     

The department uses the data for field and livestock workers combined as reported by the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Labor Survey to set the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, but on a few occasions in recent years, the FLS has not been conducted.… Continue reading

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Ohio counties eligible for emergency farm loan assistance

By David Marrison, OSU Extension Field Specialist- Farm Management

Farm operations in 15 Ohio counties are eligible to apply for emergency credit through the U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Farm Loan program. These loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

The Emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President of the United States under the Stafford Act. These loans help producers who suffer qualifying farm related losses directly caused by the disaster in a county declared or designated as a primary disaster. In addition, farmers located in counties that are contiguous to the primary designated county may also qualify for this loan program.

A declaration was made for Brown and Clermont counties on Nov.… Continue reading

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Fish kill numbers, wildlife impacts updated for East Palestine

In early February, 38 Norfolk Southern rail cars carrying toxic chemicals derailed, resulting in a chemical burn to prevent a potential explosion and an ominous smoke plume over the village of East Palestine in Columbiana County.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified five materials known to have been released into the air and water from the incident:

  • vinyl chloride.
  • butyl acrylate.
  • ethylhexyl acrylate.
  • ethylene glycol monobutyl ether.
  • Isobutylene.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz provided a Feb. 23 updated estimate on the number of aquatic animals potentially killed from the incident. The final sample count of aquatic species killed in waterways impacted in the area totaled 2,938. Of this collected sample, most — nearly 2,200 — were small minnows.

“It’s important to stress that these small fish are all believed to have been killed immediately after the derailment. Because the chemicals were contained, ODNR has not seen any additional signs of aquatic life suffering in the streams.… Continue reading

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Farmland preservation gaining urgency

By Matt Reese

The concern around keeping Ohio’s best farmland in agricultural production is not a new one. Our state has a long history of paving over productive soils in favor of “progress” in the form of parking lots, strip malls and whatever other whims developers dream up. Certainly, some of this (or maybe even most) development has real value and benefits to the state and local communities. Each acre of productive farmland lost, though, erodes our society’s future ability to produce food, fuel and fiber, along with the agrarian heritage of the community.

Agricultural lands sequester carbon, produce oxygen, allow for water infiltration, provide wildlife habitat, have aesthetic appeal, and offer value to communities in ways which rooftops, concrete and asphalt cannot. Farms generate tax revenue with low costs to the community. Development brings additional burdens to existing infrastructure such as roads, schools and water systems.

While this has been an issue for many generations, the topic of farmland preservations seems to have gained some urgency in ag circles in the last couple of years.… Continue reading

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Using Quicken for farm record keeping

By Grant Davis, Champaign County ANR Educator, Ohio State University

2022 Quicken Training Flyer

As we have moved into the new year, and tax season is quickly approaching, you might be looking to re-evaluate how you keep records for your farming operation. Maybe you have thought about using a software program like Quicken but think it won’t work for a farm business, or just would like to see how it works before making the commitment of purchasing. Champaign County Extension will be hosting a short series on using Quicken® for Farm Record Keeping on February 21, and 28, at the Champaign Community Center Auditorium from 6 to 8:30pm. Participants will learn about Quicken using an OSU Computer Lab provided during the workshop with Quicken software installed. Or, if you already are using Quicken® you are welcome to bring your own computer. A workshop manual/home reference will be provided. Registration is $50 per farm business (Maximum 2 people per farm).… Continue reading

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Droning on in the classroom

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

Ohio’s teachers were talking agriculture at the recent 2023 Science Education Council of Ohio Science Symposium in Lewis Center.

The Ohio Soybean Council’s GrowNextGen was a major sponsor of the event, offering teachers effective methods of integrating agriculture into their lesson plans. One of the attendees was Chris Brown, a science teacher for seventh and eighth grades from Glandorf Elementary in Putnam County, who has been working with GrowNextGen in his classroom. 

“My first memory with GrowNextGen is we got to go to the Farm Science Review as part of the Ohio Rural Educator Program. I was just overwhelmed by the amount of things that are involved agriculture and that just opened my eyes,” Brown said. “I thought ‘Wow, I need to get this in my classroom because I can connect it to basically everything I teach.’ I really don’t think there’s a student who couldn’t find a way to use this, no matter what career they want to do.… Continue reading

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Farm Bureau seeking YAP leaders

Ohio Farm Bureau members ages 18-34 who are interested in developing their leadership skills and enhancing programming for their peers should apply for the 2024-2026 Young Agricultural Professionals State Committee. Application deadline is April 28, 2023 at 5 p.m.

The state committee is composed of eight members or couples who suggest, develop and conduct activities that provide networking, social and learning opportunities for young farmers and ag professionals, including planning the yearly leadership experience and hosting Young Agricultural Professionals in a variety of in- and out-of-state events.

Committee members serve a two-year term that begins in September 2023 and expires two years later after the Young Ag Professionals Leadership Experience in January. Four new couples or singles are appointed each year. Members serve a two-year term with four returning and four new positions each year.

Applications are due to Kelsey Turner, Ohio Farm Bureau director of leadership and business development, by April 28, 2023 at 5 p.m.… Continue reading

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Leases, zoning, milk insurance and popcorn: Answers to legal questions

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

Yes, you read it right: our roundup of agricultural law questions includes a question on popcorn–not one we often hear. Below are our answers to and several legal questions we’ve recently received in the Farm Office.

Q: A farm lease landlord didn’t notify a tenant of the intent to terminate a verbal farm lease before the new September 1 deadline. What are the consequences if the landlord now tries to enter into a new lease agreement with another tenant operator?

A: Ohio’s new “statutory termination law” requires a landlord to provide written notice of termination of a verbal farmland lease by Sept. 1 of the year the lease is effective. The law is designed to prevent a tenant from losing land late in the leasing cycle, after the tenant has made commitments and investment in the land.… Continue reading

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Turkey study underway

By Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman

The National Wild Turkey Federation Ohio State Chapter recently allocated $50,000 to support a new wild turkey research study that seeks to address population declines in the Buckeye State. With increasing concerns over population declines in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio State University are conducting the first broad-scale study of hen survival in the state in almost two decades. Findings will help researchers and wildlife managers understand how survival rates, harvest rates and reproduction have changed in the last 17 years and what factors may be causing those changes.

In the early 2000s, researchers determined May 1 to be the median date for which hens begin incubating; however, it’s clear today that incubation start dates vary in different regions of the state. Changing weather and habitat conditions, too, may be impacting the initiation of nest incubation from the median date established in the early 2000s.… Continue reading

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