Country Life

An uncertain spring

By Matt Reese

It is a time of challenge, hope, hard work, long hours and preparing for the unknown months ahead. Anyone who combines the promise of a seed with the miracles of the earth and mystery of the weather ahead knows the excitement, doubt, worry, and, maybe a little fear, that sits like a knot in your stomach as the risk and enormity of the spring planting season set in. Everyone who calls themselves a “farmer” understands the simultaneous uncertainty and excitement of early spring on the cusp of a new growing season.

All of these emotions, and many more, were present a decade ago that marked the most challenging spring in the young life of Billy Pontius with a tragic story that started a year earlier. Pontius was in his senior year of high school and was preparing for college orientation at Ohio State on the day he got the life-changing news that his dad, hero, and mentor had a brain tumor and stage four cancer.… Continue reading

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Buying local getting more popular

Buying local is a fast moving trend across the U.S., but no other industry has experienced the benefits of this recent movement more than agriculture. Within Ohio, countless roadside stands, farmers markets, wineries, garden centers and U-pick locations all face strong competition from larger operations, but they have a big advantage by providing some of the freshest fruits and vegetables around. The distance food travels, or simply, food miles, is almost irrelevant when buying local.

To explain more about the buy local movement, the monthly Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum will host Janet Cassidy, senior director, marketing communications, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), Thursday, Apr. 19 from 7:30 – 9 a.m. The program begins at 8 a.m. with informal networking prior, hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation, north of Bowling Green, Ohio.

OFBF has some excellent tools to link consumers with local growers.… Continue reading

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Eighth-grader makes grain elevator music video

By: Heather Hetterick

Eighth-grader Spencer Channell had to choose an invention from the Industrial Revolution and make a presentation out of it for his history class at Olentangy Orange Middle School. Having no agricultural background, he choose the grain elevator, because it sounded neat to him. He didn’t make a presentation though, he spent two weeks writing, recording, filming and editing a music video about the grain elevator. He even went to a Heritage Cooperative location to film in front of their grain elevator.

Channell tells us it’s exciting to see all the attention the video is getting. Even for those who do have an agricultural background its educational and entertaining.

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Asian markets important for agricultural trade

By Matt Reese

In terms of agricultural bounty, the United States has been clearly blessed since its earliest days of domestic agricultural production.

“The U.S. is a country that has been remarkable in that we had a relatively sparse population, we had an abundance of natural resources, we were surrounded by two terrific oceans, and we were never relegated by having to deal with marauding armies coming through the countryside every three or four generations,” said Tom Dorr, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO. “In comparison, Asian countries have very dense populations without the natural resources to support them. Even though China has nearly the same number of corn acres that we do, they have four times the population. Even if they gain in productivity, they ultimately exceed their ability to produce and that provides opportunities for us.”

For this reason, when Dorr starts talking about the vast market potential in Asian countries, he just can’t help but get excited.… Continue reading

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Auctions reveal strong land and equipment values

By Matt Reese

A year ago, there was quite a bit of talk about the steadily climbing value of land.

“Prices are sky high everywhere and continue to increase,” said Barry Ward, OSU Extension’s leader for production business management, in April of 2011.

Ohio’s cropland values rose from an average $2,400 per acre in 2000 to $4,000 per acre in 2010, while land rental increases have been a mixed bag in the state, Ward said. Since then, prices have gone nowhere but up. For this reason, Ohio’s Country Journal is starting to gather land auction results from around the state and share them periodically to keep readers informed of land prices and equipment prices from auctions around the state.

The Donald and Janet Hockman Auction, just outside of Bremen in Fairfield County in late March, attracted 1,200 people. The beautiful 71-acre farm with nice buildings, grain bins and a ranch home sold for $470,000 at a Leith Auctions sale.… Continue reading

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FSA CRP general signup deadline extended to April 13

Steve Maurer, the Ohio Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director, announced that general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be extended to April 13, 2012. During this extended signup period, landowners may offer eligible land for CRP’s competitive general signup at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this signup provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring on September 30, 2012, may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this signup are scheduled to become effective October 1, 2012.

FSA, which administers the CRP, will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that shows the environmental benefits of enrolling land in CRP. There are six factors that make up the EBI: wildlife, water, soil, air, enduring benefits and cost. Decisions will be made following the end of the sign-up period and after analyzing EBI data on all of the offers.… Continue reading

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Creative 4-H t-shirt to support Yes We Can in Highland Co.

We were excited to learn that the people from two of our most popular stories from the past six months have partnered together.

Sarah Young, the young 4-H member from the Yes We Can Campaign in Highland County has partnered with Erin Ehnle from the wildly popular, Keeping it Real:Through the Lens of  Farm Girl on a t-shirt about the importance of 4-H.

We first reported on Sarah when she donated the proceeds from her county fair lamb to the Highland Co. 4-H program, in an effort to keep the program in her county. Last year she created the Yes We Can campaign where she collected cans to raise money for the local 4-H program.

Erin is a very talented photographer and graphic designer who’s images and quotes promoting agriculture are shared throughout the internet daily. She created an image from one of Sarah’s quotes that not only went viral, but had people wanting to buy it.… Continue reading

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Grant looks into naked oats

Scientists with Ohio State University have received a four-year, $896,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study the feasibility of incorporating “naked oats” into organic farming rotations as a way to cut the cost of producing organic chicken.

The oats, which have a unique protein and amino acid balance, will be tested in the diets of pasture-raised organic broiler chickens. The chickens will be considered part of the crop rotation within a given year, where they’ll serve as both a product to sell and a source of manure to enhance soil fertility.

The goal of the study is to develop a way to reduce the cost of organic chicken feed by growing the cereal portion of the birds’ diet on the farm, thus making it more cost-effective to raise and sell organic chicken, said Mike Lilburn, an animal sciences professor at the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in northeast Ohio and the leader of the study.… Continue reading

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Secret layover in Ohio for Budweiser Clydesdales

By Ed Chatfield, OCJ field reporter

The Budweiser Clydesdales made an unofficial visit to the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio, March 27-29. The team and crew were resting while traveling from St. Petersburg, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio to participate in festivities for the Cleveland Indians Opening Day Ceremonies.

According to Burt Westerbrook, one of the Budweiser Clydesdale crewmembers, there are three teams of Clydesdales that travel the country to promote Budweiser. The team resting in Clark County was the East Hitch out of Merrimack, New Hampshire. Each team spends more than 300 days a year traveling to and from special events.

Although the horses were not officially on display during this rest stop in Springfield, a few visitors managed to sneak a peak at them.

Tony Davis, a fireman in Springfield Township, and his young son Hunter arrived aboard a fire truck to have a special visit with Brewer, the team’s Dalmatian.… Continue reading

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A Korea-China FTA?

By Byong Ryol Min, U.S. Grains Council Director in Korea

Not long after concluding free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States and the European Union (EU), Korea has now initiated discussions for an FTA with China. It’s been noted, however, that the Korea-China FTA is likely to impose significant costs on Korea’s agricultural industry, compared to the earlier agreements with the United States and the EU.

Not surprisingly, a public hearing on Feb. 24 to debate the ratification of the Korea-China FTA was disrupted by protestors from various agricultural groups. According to a recent report completed by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, within 10 years of a Korea-China FTA, Korea’s agricultural production will be reduced by almost 15%: fruit by $1.02 billion and vegetables by $977 billion.

The projected loss in total Korean agricultural production has been valued at about $2.8 billion a year, four times larger than the residual damage estimated from the Korea-U.S.… Continue reading

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Improvement of waterways remains crucial


With a wide variety of pressing issues facing the federal government over the coming months, funding for desperately needed lock and dam improvements remains a high priority for the nation’s corn farmers according to the National Corn Growers Association.  With the country’s inland navigation system moving more than a billion bushels of grain per year, about 60 percent of all grain exports, farmers understand the importance of a functional waterways system.


“Our inland waterway system plays a crucial role in the nation’s economy, and we must act now to help our leaders understand that funding improvements is critical to maintaining our industry’s viability,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer.  Achieving our goal is not only important for farmers and shippers, our nation as a whole will benefit from the job creation and shipping efficiencies this project would generate.”


The country’s inland navigation system plays an even more visible role in the economy also, moving more than a billion tons of domestic commerce valued at more than $300 billion per year. … Continue reading

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Grand Lake St. Marys gets another $1 million for water quality

The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed received national attention by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address the critical water quality issues facing residents in the watershed.

“NRCS Chief Dave White provided the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed with an additional $1 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to get conservation on the ground in this watershed,” State Conservationist Terry Cosby said. “There is a sizeable waiting list of producers with high quality EQIP applications in the watershed; those that result in the greatest conservation benefit will be chosen for funding.”

On the ground in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, conservation measures impacted by the weather seem to be doing well.

“Plant growth is ahead of schedule due to the unusually mild winter and spring,” said Steve McDevitt, an NRCS conservation planner working with producers in the watershed. “Cover crops are looking good.”

Now, more farmers will have a chance to take advantage of the financial and technical assistance offered through EQIP to plant cover crops, build manure storage facilities, put in filter strips, and complete other conservation measures that keep phosphorus out of waterways.… Continue reading

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Equine Affaire around the corner

Spring is right around the corner, and so is the 45th Equine Affaire. North America’s premiere equine exposition and equestrian gathering will return to the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus on April 12th through the 15th with a wealth of horses and horse-related opportunities for equestrians including the largest horse-related trade show in North America, an educational program that is second-to-none, Equine Affaire’s exciting Versatile Horse & Rider Competition, and the ever-popular Pfizer Fantasia. With a schedule of 230-plus educational sessions in eight venues, acres of exhibits to browse, and special events on Thursday through Saturday evenings, horse lovers will want to plan to arrive early and stay late each day.

Horsepeople of all levels of expertise from 4-H riders and those who are just getting started in the horse world to accomplished equestrians and equine professionals will be able to immerse themselves in “all things equine” for four full days at the 2012 Equine Affaire and soak up training and riding tips from a roster of Olympians and World and National Champions from disciplines as diverse as reining, dressage, barrel racing, eventing, jumping, driving, hunter under saddle, team penning and sorting, English pleasure, and gaited horse competition .… Continue reading

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AgChat Foundation’s social media training set for August in Kansas City

In its third year, the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 event is poised to be its most dynamic social media training opportunity yet. The conference will be held August 23-24 in Kansas City, Missouri, where farmers and ranchers from across the nation will convene to learn how to better support agriculture and engage with non-farm consumers.

Advocacy 2.0 is hosted by the AgChat Foundation, a primarily volunteer organization that aims to empower farmers and ranchers to “agvocate” by connecting consumers with accurate information about farming and food production using social media.

“Advocacy 2.0 is all about giving farmers and ranchers tools they need to share their stories and the story of agriculture with consumers through tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs,” says AgChat Foundation Executive Director Emily Zweber. “Only 2 percent of people in the United States are farmers, meaning 98 percent of our population is not actively involved in food production.… Continue reading

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FCS reports strong financial 2011

Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, an agriculture lending cooperative serving more than 95,000 customers throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee reported strong financial results for 2011. The ag lender stated earnings of $278.6 million, a 30.2% increase over 2010 and owned and managed assets of $18.4 billion, a 5 percent increase over 2010.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Bill Johnson, said strong farm earnings continue to bolster the  farm economy and that has had a positive impact on the earnings of the association.

“The farm sector continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise unpredictable economy,” Johnson said. “That, coupled with the low interest rate environment, allowed us to offer competitive interest rates to customers on loans so they are able to grow their operations.”

As an example, more than 24,000 Farm Credit loans representing $4 billion in volume were converted to lower rates in 2011 which will save customers an estimated $94 million over the next three years.… Continue reading

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Ohio State Fair greening up with soy

With soy biodiesel powering trams and carnival rides, soy-based paint freshening up show barns and soy-based cleaning products getting the fairgrounds ready, 13 fairs, including the Ohio State Fair, will be a little greener this year with the help of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the soy checkoff.

“U.S. soy feeds the animals that provide the meat we eat, but soy does a lot more than that,” said Geno Lowe, a soybean farmer from Hebron, Md., and USB farmer-director. “U.S. soy is increasingly popular as a ‘green’ ingredient in everything from biofuel to paint to cleaning products and more.”

Lowe and his fellow USB farmer-directors selected the 13 fairs as part of a competitive application process. Through the Green Ribbon Fairs reimbursement program, now in its second year, the checkoff works with fairs across the country to promote the use of soy-based products such as biodiesel, paint, cleaners, hand sanitizers and more.… Continue reading

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The RFS battle continues

By Matt Reese

In a battle of contentious letters, the opposing sides of the Renewable Fuel Standard debate have been engaged in a war of words.

The National Chicken Council joined a diverse group of business, hunger and development, agricultural, environmental, budget, grassroots and free market organizations in urging Congress to reject any efforts to include continued or expanded federal support for corn ethanol in any legislation with a letter sent March 22 to Senate leadership.

The groups expressed their opposition to:

▪   Any renewal of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit or any other similar tax credit;

▪   Altering the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard in a way that would open the definition of advanced biofuels to include corn-based fuels;

▪   Any expansion of current alternative fuel tax credits that would allow ethanol blends (E10, E15, or E85) or related infrastructure projects to qualify for the credit; and

▪   Funding for ethanol “blender pumps” or any other ethanol infrastructure projects.… Continue reading

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USDA warns of fraudulent letters and calls

USDA officials have been notified that additional fraudulent letters and at least one fraudulent phone call have been received by individuals in a number of states. The phone call was received by an individual in Indiana, and letters are being sent by FAX to individuals and businesses in a growing number of states.

The letters and call purportedly come from a USDA procurement officer and seek personal information. These letters are false and in no case should a recipient respond with personal and financial information. The fraudulent letters bear USDA’s logo and seal and are signed by an individual identified as “Frank Rutenberg” using a title of “Senior Procurement Officer.”

Recipients should not respond and should not supply the requested information. USDA is investigating this matter through the Office of the Inspector General. USDA first learned that the letters were being circulated on March 16, 2012. If you suspect you have received such a letter or have been called by someone representing themselves as being from USDA seeking personal information, please contact USDA at:… Continue reading

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