Country Life

Ohio’s Stay at Home Order and agricultural businesses

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

We’ve received several questions about Ohio’s Stay at Home Order and how it affects agricultural businesses. As you well know, the Order states that residents are to stay at home and may leave “only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to participate in Essential Businesses and Operations.” All non-essential businesses and activities are to cease. It remains in place until the end of the day on April 6. Here are the relevant parts of the Order that answer the questions we’ve received:

What businesses are “essential”?

The Order lists (on pages 5 and 6) the “Essential Businesses and Operations” that may continue during this period. The list specifically includes many agricultural activities, such as:

12 b. Stores that sell groceries and medicine. Grocery stores, pharmacies, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, prepared food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products), and specifically includes their supply chain and administrative supp0rt operations.… Continue reading

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Coronavirus aid package moves forward

The coronavirus aid package negotiated by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and agreed to by Senate leaders and the White House will help ensure farmers and ranchers are able to continue feeding America in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, according to many of the nation’s agricultural organizations.

“Thanks to Leader McConnell and all the senators who diligently fought for farmers and ranchers to ensure they have our backs in the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. The aid to farmers in this package, including funding for the CCC and the Office of the Secretary, will allow USDA to begin crafting an appropriate relief program for agriculture,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau president. “America’s farmers and ranchers face enormous volatility as markets and supply chains rapidly react to changes, but I’ll say again that farmers and ranchers will not let Americans down. All members of Congress must understand that farmers have almost no control over the prices of the goods we produce, so fulfilling our commitment to America requires a team effort.… Continue reading

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OCJ columnist has first hand Ohio run-in with COVID-19

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Late on a recent Thursday night I returned home from a weeklong dairy consultation trip in Minnesota to find my wife, Kris, coughing and feeling poorly. Even though she put on her brave face, I could tell that Kris was suffering from more than a common cold.

Two weeks before, Kris and I attended a conference in Gainesville, Fla. It didn’t dawn on me until later that perhaps her illness traced back to our flight and stay there.

Since Friday is always a tough time to get in to see our doctor, I suggested that we go to the emergency room to get her checked out. Kris was too ill to argue.

Kris ended up staying in the hospital eight days, diagnosed initially with viral pneumonia, and eventually, coronavirus. She took ill before the virus was classified as COVID-19. She had never before been that ill.

The good news is that she survived and has been home from the hospital three weeks.… Continue reading

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Local food connections abound in Athens

By Madi Kregel, OCJ field reporter

A push for local products has connected local farmers and businesses with the Athens and Ohio University communities in southeastern Ohio.

In the hills of Athens county, local farms range from beef cattle to honey bees and herb farms. These farms are connected with the rest of the community through groups such as Farm to Ohio Working Group and Athens Own.

“We have a work group here on campus, Farm to Ohio that is also working and help us bring more local products to different locations on campus,” said Drew Banks, general manager of the Ohio University Campus Cafes.

The Farm to Ohio Working Group (also known as FOWG) consists of Ohio University’s culinary services, office of sustainability, and center for community engagement. It began with a grant initiative with two Southeast Ohio organizations Rural Action and Community Food Initiatives. FOWG meets monthly and aims to find impactful ways for local food to be obtained by more consumers in the Athens area.… Continue reading

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COVID-19 in Ohio Q&A

Linda Saif knows more about coronaviruses than just about anyone. They’re her life’s work.

Saif, a faculty member in Ohio State’s Food Animal Health Research Program, is known nationally and internationally for her research on viruses that affect food-producing animals, wildlife and humans. She’s also a member of Ohio State’s Infectious Diseases Institute, where she is a co-director for the Viruses and Emerging Pathogens program.

Here, she talks about COVID-19’s possible origins, how it compares to similar diseases and why we should take the coronavirus seriously.


Q: How seriously should we take this virus, and how worried should we be?

A: It is serious. This is a national and global emergency.

Based on epidemiologic predictions for a new disease in a fully susceptible population, some epidemiologists suggest as many as 66% of people in the United States could become infected, whereas others indicate 30% to 40% as the best case scenario.… Continue reading

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OSU Extension March madness Tournament of Education

Did your usual conference get canceled? Looking to fill the void of the big basketball tournament? Ohio State University Extension is here to help with a new virtual education program for the agricultural community.

“Agriculture and Natural Resources Madness: A Tournament of Education” will include 64 educational events broken into daily brackets. Each day, a virtual educational session will be held at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. The educational tournament is free of charge and will likely continue until mid-May.

“This effort is a direct response to providing a variety of useful and timely sessions for farmers and families across the state during Gov. DeWine’s stay-at-home order,” said Jacqueline Wilkins, interim director of OSU Extension. “While our ‘tournament’ is being loosely tied to March Madness, it’s not a competition, and people can join in at any time for as many or as few sessions as they desire.”

The tournament opens on Wednesday, March 25, with the eFields 2019 Results webinar.… Continue reading

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Farmers at work keeping grocery store shelves stocked on National Agriculture Day (and every day)

On National Agriculture Day, as Ohioans are under a Stay At Home executive order, the state’s farmers remain dedicated to working tirelessly to ensure an abundant supply of nutritious food for families near and far. Organizations representing the state’s farmers, including the Ohio Poultry Association, American Dairy Association Mideast, Ohio Pork Council, Ohio Beef Council, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Agribusiness Association, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, and Ohio Soybean Association have joined together to continue their united, ongoing and unrelenting commitment to help feed the nation today and every day.

“It is our obligation to assure that the public continues to have a steady supply of wholesome and nutritious food—and that responsibility does not stop, even in a public health crisis,” said Frank Burkett III, president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “We know that families have seen shortages in some foods and products at grocery stores, but Ohioans can be confident that our farm community will do what is needed to help keep a steady supply of food available.”… Continue reading

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Happy National Ag Day!

President Donald J. Trump has proclaimed March 24, 2020 as National Ag Day. This year marks the fourth year that the administration has publicly recognized National Ag Day as a salute to the contributions of America’s farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.

“More importantly, it reminds everyone that the affordable, abundant and nutritious food that they depend on every day comes to them thanks to the hard work and resilience of 2 million American farmers and ranchers,” said Greg Horstmeier, chairman of the board for the Agriculture Council of America, the national organization charged with promoting National Ag Day.

The proclamation highlights the timeless American values of hard work, perseverance, and stewardship of the land. It also stresses that farmers provide the foundation of a national economic supply chain that is critical to our national security and prosperity. The entire proclamation can be viewed at

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA).… Continue reading

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Not just any other day: You are essential!

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

It is something we in agriculture have known for generations. Unfortunately, many in society are several generations removed from the farm, and the value of agriculture has been silently forgotten. Farmers work daily to provide for the food, fiber, and energy needs of our country and the world. In times of prosperity, this daily endeavor is often overlooked by the non-farm public.

Last Friday, the Secretary of Homeland Security by means of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released the list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors necessary to ensure the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure. Food and Agriculture were included in that list of 16. In his Friday press briefing, President Donald Trump stated that: “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”… Continue reading

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Malaria drug from Bayer shows promise as treatment for COVID-19

Yesterday Bayer announced it is joining the U.S. Government’s fight against COVID-19 with a donation of 3 million tablets of the drug Resochin (chloroquine phosphate).

Resochin, a product discovered by Bayer in 1934 and indicated for prevention and treatment of malaria, also appears to have broad spectrum antiviral properties and effects on the body’s immune response. New data from initial preclinical and evolving clinical research conducted in China, while limited, shows potential for the use of Resochin in treating patients with COVID-19 infection.

Bayer in recent days has been in talks with the White House, HHS, CDC, and the FDA, offering any assistance we can provide with a focus on donating Resochin to help in the government’s efforts to combat the virus. Currently not approved for use in the United States, Bayer is working with appropriate agencies on an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug’s use in the U.S.

Bayer thanks the Trump administration for moving quickly to enable this donation and will continue to work closely with the administration to support its efforts in the fight against COVID-19.… Continue reading

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Agriculture deemed essential in emergency

The Trump Administration has made it clear that the food and agriculture is a critical infrastructure industry in the wake of the coronavirus national emergency, a move that encourages state and local authorities to allow farms and the entire food-supply chain to continue operating as usual amid current and potential restrictions created to stem the spread of the virus.

“This declaration allows farmers to do what they do best — feed U.S. consumers — in a time of acute need and anxiety,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation. “Agriculture is working around the clock to ensure timely delivery of safe, abundant food. That’s what farmers always do — but in a time of unprecedented public-health concern, a fully functioning food system is even more critical to national health and well-being.”

The administration’s designation of “essential critical infrastructure workforce” was announced today by the Department of Homeland Security.… Continue reading

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Letter to DeWine outlines essential services for Ohio agriculture

A coalition of Ohio agriculture groups, including Ohio Farm Bureau, sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine to highlight the importance of farmers and all of those along the food supply chain amid the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. These organizations are fielding many calls from their members who have questions about how their industry may be impacted. This letter addresses those concerns and asks for consideration and actions for what is an essential part of overcoming the coronavirus crisis. Here is a portion of the letter to Gov. DeWine:

We are thankful for your leadership as well as that of  Lt. Gov. Husted and Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Pelanda during these uncertain times. The concerns around the rapid spread of COVID-19 have already had a major impact on our daily routines.

Both you and the President have noted that our food supply is an essential service, which is vitally important.… Continue reading

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Check first before heading to local SWCD office

With the current social distancing guidelines due to COVID-19, many Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) offices around the state have changed their structure in response.

While most offices are open, many are closed to the public, and some have staff working remotely from home. Before heading to a local Soil and Water office, please call first. If there is no answer, please leave a message or send an email to the office contact you are trying to reach. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Like everyone in the state, SWCDs are trying to limit personal contact to essential business. Please be patient with non-emergency matters.

In related note for northwest Ohio, the deadline for farmers to submit an application for the H2Ohio program has been extended from March 31, 2020 to June 2, 2020. To allow adequate time for the alternate means of communication necessary to achieve completed applications, ODA is extending the deadline.… Continue reading

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Immediate challenges facing the agriculture sector with COVID-19

American Farm Bureau has released its first assessment of the impact on farmers and ranchers in the wake of the national mitigation efforts to combat COVID-19.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, AFBF President Zippy Duvall pledged that “America’s farmers and ranchers will be with you every step of the way, doing all that we can to help you win this fight and to ensure the health, safety and prosperity of all America.” USDA invited Farm Bureau to convey agricultural issues or concerns arising as the pandemic mitigation efforts and impact advance. Duvall said labor, supply chain issues and possible price manipulation topped the list of immediate issues farmers are raising with the national organization.

The letter, which will be updated as new issues materialize, outlines concerns from Farm Bureau members across the country as national and local leaders take action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.… Continue reading

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Food safety and coronavirus

By Sanja Ilic and Tracy Turner

There have been no reports of this food contamination with coronavirus. As of this time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is unaware of any instances suggesting that coronavirus, COVID-19, has been transmitted by foods. This includes meats, fruits, and vegetables. Moreover, the USDA has created a website dedicated to answering questions regarding food, food safety, and COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include the common cold, severe illnesses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), all of which can infect both humans and animals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Symptoms range from mild to severe respiratory illness. Advanced age or conditions such as various cancers, COPD, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes are associated with an increased severity of COVID-19 infections and fatality rates.… Continue reading

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Canada approves USMCA

On March 13, the Canadian Parliament’s approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) set the stage for the long-awaited trade agreement to be hopefully implemented this summer. The trade agreement replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement from 1993.

“Now that the USMCA has been approved by all three countries, an historic new chapter for North American trade has begun. This landmark achievement would not be possible without President Trump’s leadership and determination to strengthen our economy, and the hard work of our negotiating partners in Canada and Mexico,” said Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative. “USMCA is the gold standard by which all future trade agreements will be judged, and citizens of all three countries will benefit for years to come.”

USMCA was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on January 29, 2020, after it received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. All three countries are working together closely on implementation in advance of the Agreement’s entry into force.… Continue reading

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OSU Extension offices throughout Ohio will implement teleworking options for staff

Governor DeWine recently issued a state of emergency for the state of Ohio, and along with the Ohio Department of Health, has implemented a variety of strategies to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To do our part in reducing risk to Ohio State University Extension employees or clientele, we have implemented a teleworking plan effective immediately, and all OSU Extension offices will be closed to the public until further notice.

This mirrors The Ohio State University’s decision earlier this week to close university buildings and facilities on all of its campuses to “critical services” only (such as law enforcement and public safety; hospitals and health services; facility utilities; and a few others).

While our physical offices will be closed, we are committed to continuing to conduct our work as fully as possible. Our employees are prepared to telework and are ready to serve their local clients and communities.… Continue reading

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Global economic setbacks, progress and potential as planting season draws near

By Dave Russell and Matt Reese

The world is watching as coronavirus sweeps around the globe and limits commerce at every level of society. The issue, and its impact on the agricultural economy and global trade, was certainly a topic of discussion with the Ohio Farm Bureau members on the recent County Presidents’ Trip to Washington, D.C.

“We’re dealing with a new kind of demand destruction with the coronavirus. We found yet another headwind for U.S. agriculture this year,” said John Newton, chief economist with American Farm Bureau. “The elephant in the room is China and Phase One and what has happened to that elephant with the coronavirus. Globally the supply chain is going to slow. This could have a long tail and we’ll have to continue to keep an eye on it.”

After a general downturn in the agricultural economy and an extended trade war, the impact of the coronavirus could have lasting effects for farms. … Continue reading

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H2Ohio signup deadline extended

By Glen Arnold, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

The deadline to enter into a contract with the H2Ohio program for farmers in the 14-county, Maumee River watershed is being extended. The original deadline was March 31, but due to COVID-19, more farmers and Soil and Water Conservation District personnel are conducting information exchanges through phone calls and e-mails.

The H2Ohio deadline is expected to be extended to June 2, tentatively. Contact the local Soil and Water Conservation District for more details.… Continue reading

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U.S. halts visa application processing in Mexico

U.S. agriculture is working diligently to maintain the stability of our food supply as concerns over COVID-19 lead to increased consumer purchases of groceries and other items. At the same time, the United States is suspending routine immigrant and nonimmigrant processing visa services in Mexico beginning March 18, 2020 to combat the spread of the virus. This is a serious concern, said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president.

“Farmers and ranchers remain committed to doing the work in the fields, orchards and barns across the country to ensure Americans have access to healthy, affordable food. Particularly now, during these challenging times, an assured food supply allows families to focus on the safety and well-being of their loved ones. We commend the good work being done to protect families and our population and appreciate all the workers focused on ensuring food gets from our farms to grocery stores, and of course we are grateful for the health care workers ensuring we can treat those who are ill and contain the pandemic,” Duvall said. … Continue reading

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