Country Life

Utica and Marcellus Shale Gas and Oil Lease Terms Program

Leasing activity of land for gas from Utica and Marcellus shale formations has been on the increase in Licking County and surrounding counties in recent months.  As a result landowners have many questions on terms in a lease and what are reasonable expectations.  With that in mind OSU Extension in Licking County has arranged for a program on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Newark Campus of Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College.  The program will be held in Hopewell Hall South, Room 68.

J. Richards Emens, an attorney with Emens & Wolper Law Firm, LPA, Columbus, Ohio will resource the program.  He is a specialist in dealing with leasing contracts for mineral rights.  There will be some time for questions.  No advance reservations are needed.  Handouts will be available that will provide additional information on shale gas formations and exploration. A fee of $5 per family is asked to cover the cost of the handout materials.… Continue reading

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Farm Credit’s Tom Schlenker retires after 33 years of service

Tom Schlenker, executive vice president of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, retired on February 15 after 33 years of service.  Schlenker joined the agriculture lending cooperative in 1978. He is widely credited for organizing and leading the organization’s Relationship Management Philosophy program and providing leadership in the launching new products including the Agnition dealer credit program and crop insurance.  Also under his leadership, Schlenker supervised the overall support of a very diverse agriculture market, from agribusiness, to the full- and part-time farmer markets, to rural residents.

Farm Credit President and CEO Donnie Winters said “Tom represented and served the interest of American agriculture and Farm Credit. He consistently modeled the values of integrity, hard work, high performance and dedication to our customers. Because of his contributions, he has helped guide this organization to become the premier lender to farmers and rural America and we appreciate the efforts he has made over the many years.”… Continue reading

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Several From Ohio Competing in Championship Tractor Pull in Louisville

Several people from Ohio will be competing in the Championship Tractor Pull during the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week.

8,200 Super Stock Tractors

Mike Beck                          Napoleon                              High Tech Redneck
David Siefert                     New Washington                Renegade Deere

7,500 Modified Tractors

John Evans                       Wilmington                         Double Stuff
Keith HuKeith                  Ansonia                                The Fury

10,200 lb Modified Tractors

Larry Shope                      Bellville                                 Iron Dragon

9,300 lb Super Farm Tractors

Julia Conny                      Beloit                                      Mac Daddy

6,200 lb 2-WD Super Modified Trucks

Jessie Petro                     Camden                                  2 Timin’
Jeff Whitsel                      Orient                                    At It Again

8,000 lb Super Stock Alcohol Tractors

Jeff Hirt                             Port Clinton                        Runnin’ Bare
Tim Howell                       Wilmington                        Ryans Toy II
Frank Keener                    Ashland                               XXX
Larry Roberts II               Wilmington                         The Big Toy

9,300 lb Super Farm Tractors

Larry Sheets Jr.                 Williamsport                    Red River
Dean Wildermuth              Lewistown                       The Replacement Deere II

6,200 lb 2-WD Super Modified Trucks

Randy Petro                        Camden                             Kathy’s Komplain

10,200 lb Pro Stock Tractors

Carlton Cope                        Salem                               Warpath
Mike Linder                          Edison                              Linder Brothers

7,500 lb 4×4 Super Stock Diesel Trucks

Carl Atley                               Xenia                              Lethal Weapon
Cory Atley                              Cedarville                      Agstremely Hooked
Wayne Greier                       Salem                              Resurrected Ram
Shane Kellogg                      Forest                              Gotta Have It
Erik Stacey                            Winchester                    Smoknya HD

10,200 lb Pro Stock Tractors

Monte McCoy                     Warsaw                            Dusk Till Dawn
Kevin Schmucker               Louisville                         Rampage

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New rules for estate taxes

By Jim Skeeles & Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension Educators

Congress passed new legislation in December affecting estate taxes, but only for 2011 and 2012, reducing federal taxation of large estates. This legislation affects families with an individual who dies in 2011 or 2012 and has assets more than one million ($1M) or an individual that gifts more than $1M dollars during this period.

With this law change, an individual can pass on a total of $5M worth of assets with no federal estate or gift tax due. Further, if the net worth of an individual’s estate combined with the total counted amount given exceeds $5M, the federal estate and/or gift tax rate has been reduced to 35%.

Also upon the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse now receives the unused $5M exclusion of the deceased spouse. Since the surviving spouse also has her exclusion of $5M she now can transfer assets totaling $10M, either by giving them away, the assets going through her estate, or a combination of the two.… Continue reading

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Finally, warmer weather

Though it is still not warm, it is at least warmer.

Following relentless shots of record cold in December, January and now early February, a much-anticipated warm-up is coming to much of the eastern two-thirds of the country over the next week or so.

Temperatures in a few areas are set to jump as much as 90 or 100 degrees from this week’s frigid levels. In the process, much of the nation’s snowcover will be wiped out toward the end of next week.

As of Feb. 10, 2011, roughly 65% of the contiguous U.S. was covered with snow, according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. Also, 49 of 50 states had snow on the ground Thursday and Friday morning. This includes even Hawaii, with some snow atop Mauna Kea. The only state without any snow on the ground was Florida. Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity expects the warm-up to reduce the nation’s snowcover to about 25% toward the end of next week.… Continue reading

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Small farm conferences in March

Farmers who want new ways to grow, sell and stay in business can find them at two events coming next month. The “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show runs March 11-12 at Wilmington College in southern Ohio. The “Living Your Small Farm Dream” Northeast Ohio Small Farm Conference and Trade Show takes place March 26 at the R.G. Drage Career Center in Massillon.

“‘Small’ is relative, almost a mindset,” said Mike Hogan, one of the organizers and an Ohio State University Extension educator in eastern Ohio. “It’s hard to draw a line to say what’s small and what isn’t.

“The main focus either way is to help farm families identify ways to become more profitable and sustainable — economically, environmentally and socially.”

Alternative enterprises, such as blueberries and freshwater shrimp, will be among the topics. So will alternative production systems — reduced tillage, grass-based livestock and others — and alternative marketing systems, including CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmers’ markets and direct online selling.… Continue reading

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Brown asks for assistance to rebuild OARDC

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to help rebuild the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) on the Ohio State University’s Wooster campus, which was partially destroyed by a tornado in mid-September.

“The OARDC has been a crucial link between agricultural producers and world-class researchers and scientists, [and] is a cornerstone of economic development for the region,” Brown wrote in the letter. “A recent study showed that OARDC annually contributes more than $142 million to the Ohio economy and generates more than 1,576 jobs in the state.

“Following the tornado, nearly every building on the campus sustained damage.  While most buildings have considerable roof damage, three buildings and seven greenhouses were completely destroyed,” Brown continued. “This past October, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited OARDC and surveyed the extensive damage. After inspecting the grounds, Deputy Secretary Merrigan reiterated the need to restore the facilities so that research activities could resume…Bringing these critical resources back to full capacity is critical for Ohio and for the advancement of agricultural research.”… Continue reading

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Natural gas drilling could be boon for landowners, but be cautious

Eastern Ohio landowners interested in leasing their land for natural-gas drilling into the rich resources of the Marcellus Shale need to be aware that such leases can carry some financial risk if they’re not cautious. And, potential risks to the environment could be serious.

The Marcellus Shale formation encompasses about 95,000 square miles from New York to West Virginia, swinging through the southeastern corner of Ohio. The ancient formation, lying 8,000 to 15,000 feet below the surface, is estimated to be capable of producing more than 363 trillion cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas — more than 15 times the natural gas used in the United States each year. The Utica formation, which lies beneath the Marcellus and reaches into parts of central Ohio, appears to have similar reserves.

These rich resources are fueling a “gas rush” in areas where drilling is taking place, but the rise of the new industry has also raised concerns about the possibility of contamination or depletion of groundwater reserves.… Continue reading

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USDA to release new long-term agricultural projections

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will release new 10-year agricultural projections Feb. 14 at 12:00 noon EST. The “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2020” report will be released on the Office of the Chief Economist Web site at USDA publishes the projections each year in February.

The long-term projections are developed by interagency committees in USDA, with the Economic Research Service (ERS) having the lead role in the preparation of the report.  The new projections cover crop and livestock commodities, agricultural trade and aggregate indicators such as farm income, and food prices through 2020.  The projections do not represent a USDA forecast, but a conditional, long-run scenario based on specific assumptions about farm policy, weather, the economy and international developments.  Provisions of the 2008 Farm Act are incorporated into the projections and are assumed to remain in effect through 2020.  Normal weather also is assumed throughout the projection period.… Continue reading

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Update from the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force

A conversation with Todd Hesterman, Henry County no-till farmer on the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force

OCJ: Can you provide a little background about the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force?

Todd: In January 2007, in consultation with Heidelberg University, Ohio EPA convened the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force. The goals of the Task Force were: to identify and evaluate potential point and nonpoint sources of phosphorus to Ohio tributaries; determine what practices may have changed since 1995 that could increase DRP loads; examine various aspects of agriculture that might influence the increase in DRP loads; review the possible/probable relationships of the increased DRP loads to the eutrophication problems that have returned to Lake Erie (particularly the western basin); consider the impacts of zebra and quagga mussels in altering the internal cycling of phosphorus in the lake itself; determine if these issues were unique to Lake Erie or occurring on a broader basis; identify research and monitoring needs; and recommend management actions that could be implemented to alleviate current conditions.… Continue reading

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Record number of OSU talks at Ohio organic food, farm conference

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will hold Ohio’s biggest conference on organic and sustainable agriculture next month, and Ohio State University will be well represented there. Ohio State scientists, specialists and students will give 19 presentations –the most ever from the university — as part of the program.

OEFFA’s 32nd annual conference takes place Feb. 19-20 in Granville in central Ohio. “Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities” is the theme.

“Our conference title says a lot about what we believe and what we’re trying to accomplish,” OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland said. “People who attend the conference are so moved by the inspiring examples of innovation and stewardship they learn from presenters and fellow participants.”

The Ohio State presenters are from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its research and outreach arms, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension.

The college is home to such programs as the Sustainable Agriculture Team, the Agroecosystems Management Program, and the Organic Food and Farm Education and Research (OFFER) Program.… Continue reading

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Spring Beekeeping Workshop to be Held March 4-5 in Wooster

Ohio State University Extension and the Tri-County Beekeepers Association of Northeastern Ohio will hold their 33rd Annual Spring Beekeeping Workshop the evening of Friday, March 4, and all day Saturday, March 5, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Wooster campus. 

The largest one-day beekeeping workshop in the United States (over 900 people attended in 2010), this year’s event will have as its theme “Honey Bees-Back from the Brink.” All events will take place at Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster.

Pre-registration fee is $35 per adult over 17; walk-in registration is $45; Tri-County Beekeepers Association members pay $30 for pre-registration; and youth, ages 17 and under, pay $5. Vendor registration is $75 per table and includes one person’s registration. A hot turkey lunch with mashed potatoes, vegetable and homemade pie or a boxed lunch will be offered for an additional charge with pre-registration only. 

Friday evening’s program begins at 7 p.m.… Continue reading

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New Dietary Guidelines help Americans make healthier food choices, including meats and dairy

It is no secret that Americans are overweight and out of shape, which makes guidelines for good nutrition more important than ever. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) team up every so often to revise the dietary guidelines for Americans that rely on science, and not health gimmicks or fads, to form the basis for a healthy lifestyle.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the HHS Kathleen Sebelius recently announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.… Continue reading

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Mid-winter weather expectations

By Jim Noel, with the National Weather Service

The trend of below normal temperatures and near or slightly below normal precipitation and near to above normal snowfall will likely persist at least into early February.

The longer-range outlook calls for a change toward normal or slightly wetter than normal conditions later February into March and April with temperatures remaining at or below normal. This is supported by the ongoing La Nina (cooling of the eastern Pacific Oceans waters near the equator) and the negative North Atlantic Oscillation.

However, this trend may support a switch to a warmer and drier summer that we need to monitor.… Continue reading

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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 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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