Country Life



Fun food for National Let’s Laugh Day

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

Doom and gloom have been the headline for the past year, but this March 19 it is time to find your funny for National Let’s Laugh Day. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but the secret to my heart was laughter. On a cold Friday night in January a long, long time ago, Paul picked me up in a 1966 Blue Volkswagen Beetle, a car just a few months younger than me. I say there was no heat and a hole in the floorboard; but Paul says it was a fine operating machine. Unbeknownst to me, it was the first of many of Paul and Shelly’s excellent adventures. Movies such as Beverly Hills CopBreakfast Club and Cocoon filled our date book. I will never forget laughing until my belly hurt at the late show of The Gods Must Be Crazy.… Continue reading

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Typical March weather continues

By Aaron Wilson, Ohio State University Extension

After a warm December and January but chilly February, Ohio’s winter will go down as one of near-average temperatures for the season. This past winter also ranks as the 23rd driest on record (1895-2021). This was a bit unusual given the cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, a pattern referred to as La Niña, and one that often brings wet weather to the Ohio Valley during winter and early spring.

A more active pattern has certainly set in over the last several weeks, especially across southern Ohio. Precipitation for the last 30 days shows quite a contrast between northern and southern Ohio, with less than 1 inch falling across northwestern counties, while areas near the Ohio River have experienced more than 4 inches. With long-term lingering dry conditions relative to average across northern Ohio, the current U.S. Drought Monitor depicts more than 50% of the state in abnormally dry conditions, with Fulton, Lucas, and northern Wood counties currently in moderate drought conditions.… Continue reading

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RFS showdown in the courts

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth

This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining v. Renewable Fuels Association. The case is from the Tenth Circuit, which includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. The Court will review a decision denying economic hardship exemptions for small refineries dealing with the costs of the federal renewable fuel mandate.

            Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard Program to move the United States toward greater energy independence and “to increase the production of clean renewable fuels.” To accomplish these goals, the statute provides “increasing volume requirements that are designed to force the market to create ways to produce and use greater and greater volumes of renewable fuels each year.”

            The EPA has the authority to extend a temporary exemption from Renewable Fuel Standards obligations that allowed small refineries additional time to prepare for the obligations. In this matter, the EPA agreed with the refiners until the appellate court issued its decision, after which the agency switched sides amid the difficult politics of an election year.… Continue reading

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Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance members testify on opportunities to tackle climate change in Senate Hearing

Four witnesses representing the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance’s (FACA) founding organizations and co-chairs — American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and National Farmers Union — testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on the agriculture, food and forestry sectors’ role in delivering climate solutions. Farmers, ranchers and forest owners are both on the frontlines of climate impacts and offer innovative, natural solutions through increased carbon sequestration in trees and soils and reduced GHG emissions.

In accordance with FACA’s guiding principles, the four representatives stressed to lawmakers that federal climate policy must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities, promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities, and be grounded in scientific evidence. In addition, solutions proposed by Congress and the Biden administration must be strongly bipartisan and accommodate the diverse needs of producers and landowners, regardless of size, geographic region or commodity.… Continue reading

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The status and changing face of Ohio agriculture

By Ani Katchova, Associate Professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

Farmers deal with many stressors, most of which are out of their control: extreme weather, market changes, COVID-19, trade wars, fluctuating market prices, and environmental challenges. In 2019 particularly, a harsh winter followed by high spring and early summer rainfall led to damaged hay fields, delays in the planting of corn and soybean crops, and an inability to harvest early season crops in a timely manner.

Tariffs on exported farm products led to declines in soybean and corn prices and contributed to uncertainty about the long-term security of global trade relationships. Growing attention to harmful algal blooms and other water quality challenges has increased pressure on farmers to reduce nutrient runoff from farm fields. Is this an unprecedented time in history, or have farmers experienced similar levels of stress in the past? It’s helpful to place current events in the context of long-term trends.… Continue reading

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Shipping shortage

Last week, 111 U.S. House members wrote to the Federal Maritime Commission chairman, sharing “mounting concern over reports that certain vessel-operating common carriers (VOCCs) are declining to ship U.S. agricultural commodity exports from our ports.”

As the members wrote, there are reports that VOCCs “are delivering shipments to U.S. ports and then electing to leave without refilling empty containers with American goods for export. Such activity constricts entire supply chains and propels trade to move only in an inbound direction. These conditions are unsustainable for exporters, put significant strain on the U.S. economy, and simply unacceptable.”

The members urged the chairman to urgently resolve the matter. The National Pork Producers Council has been actively working on resolving the issue, recently joining more than 70 groups in sending a letter to President Biden, urging the administration to address this shipping crisis. … Continue reading

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Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year nominations now open

Farmers are invited to submit nominations for the 2022 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year contest, supported by Purina. This is the fourth year of the contest, which celebrates farm dogs and the many ways they support farmers and ranchers in producing nutritious food for families and their pets across America.

The grand prize winner – Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year – will win a year’s worth of Purina dog food and $5,000 in prize money. The winner will be recognized at a Farm Dog of the Year award ceremony at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in January 2022. Up to four regional runners-up* will each win $1,000 in prize money.

“We’re excited to host this popular contest again and provide the general public with another glimpse into daily life on the farm,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president. “Farm dogs often play a dual role as both working dogs and companions to farm families, which is especially important because farming and ranching can be stressful, even on the best days.”… Continue reading

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Health care and weather sources of farm stress

Weather was a major source of stress for farmers in 2019 when unrelenting rain kept some from being able to plant. 

But perhaps more surprising was that health care costs weighed as heavily on their minds as businesses costs and profit margins that year, according to a survey done by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

One in three farmers in the survey reported major stress from farm economic conditions —land prices, production costs, and commodity prices — and paying for health care.

“Ohio farmers told us they were experiencing distress, and it wasn’t just because of the prices and economics of agriculture. It was also struggles over health insurance or events that happened: life transitions, job losses, drug abuse, divorce,” said Doug Jackson-Smith, a CFAES professor.

Jackson-Smith conducted the survey last year on a random sample of 837 farmers across the state with CFAES assistant professor Shoshanah Inwood and postdoctoral researcher Andrea Rissing.… Continue reading

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American Rescue Plan and agriculture

On March 11 President Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

The measure includes another round of stimulus payments for Americans and aid directed at families and state and local governments impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package also appropriates $3.6 billion for U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the food and ag sector supply chains, including grants and loans for personal protective equipment and funding for COVID-19 testing in animals.

“America’s farmers, ranchers and producers will reap the benefits of the American Rescue Plan as more resources flow through the economy, as more businesses open up, spurring greater demand for American food and agricultural products,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary Vilsack.

Here is an overview from USDA on the ag-related provisions specifically to reduce hunger across the country, strengthen the food supply chain, invest in rural America, and provide support to socially disadvantaged farmers.… Continue reading

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The Sentinel Oak

By Matt Reese

Farmers and trees have a contentious relationship. While livestock on pasture can benefit from their summer shade, there are few other practical benefits of trees on farm ground. They persistently plague fence rows, rob yields from surrounding crops and serve as highly inconvenient obstacles for farm equipment of every kind. 

With this reality in mind, I always marvel when I see a lone tree standing out in the middle of a farm field. Why is it there? Each one has a different story, I’m sure. In every case, though, a striking tree standing out in the middle of a farm field is a combination of God’s magnificent handiwork and the intentionality of generations of landowners to preserve it. 

Certainly among the more visible and spectacular specimens of farm field trees in Ohio was recently felled. The imposing swamp white oak tree was known by its owners as the Sentinel Oak and, by virtue of its impressive dimensions and location, was also well known by the local community in Hancock County, near Findlay.… Continue reading

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Vilsack outlines USDA priorities at Commodity Classic

By Matt Reese

As has been the tradition, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture addressed attendees of the Commodity Classic, this time on a virtual platform. 

Newly confirmed in the role, Tom Vilsack outlined some of the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the coming months and years. First on the list was the ongoing response to COVID-19.

“As difficult as it has been for those who work at USDA, it has been incredibly difficult for those we serve at USDA. I understand and appreciate that every farmer, every rancher every producer in the country has gone through a very difficult time,” Vilsack said. “With previous COVID packages, some but not all of those in the supply chain have been helped and assisted to get through this crisis. First and foremost we wanted to do an evaluation at USDA to determine precisely what the need is out there. How many groups within the supply chain need help and assistance?… Continue reading

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Deadline to enroll for Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative Farmer Certification Program is March 31

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) released a video to encourage farmers to sign up for the OACI Farmer Certification program through the mobile app to help increase adoption of best management practices and recognize farmers who demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement.

Enrollment has been simplified for the OACI Farmer Certification Program, which will help farmers take conservation programs to the next level. Farmers participating in the H2Ohio program must be enrolled by March 31, 2021.

“Enrolling is easier than ever with the new streamlined account set up,” said Kris Swartz, northwest Ohio farmer and OACI chair. “Farmers can enroll using the mobile app or through our website when and where it’s most convenient. After enrolling, farmers will be eligible to become certified in 2021.”

OACI’s Farmer Certification Program will help improve soil health, yield and cost-efficiency and deliver cost savings for farmers through practical, workable soil health solutions.

The no-cost program is administered by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and is available to farmers throughout Ohio.… Continue reading

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Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) webinar

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development invites you to participate in a free webinar on the application process for the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program. Rural Development is currently accepting applications for this program, which provides grants to develop new products from raw agricultural products or to expand marketing opportunities for value-added products.

Farmers, ranchers and owners of producer-based rural small businesses in Ohio and Indiana that plan to apply for the VAPG Program this year are encouraged to attend the webinar to learn more about the application process. The webinar will provide additional information about the program and the FY 2021 application process for potential applicants. Topics covered during the webinar will include:

• An overview of the program 

• Application deadlines

• Eligibility criteria 

• Definition of value-added products 

• Eligible uses of grant funds 

• How to apply

The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 10:00 AM EST. Please… Continue reading

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No hooks or bullets required

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

I’m in my 25th year of hosting a radio show about hunting and fishing in Ohio. One of the best things about producing Buckeye Sportsman is the guests I get to talk to, from the ice fisherman I interviewed live from his shanty — sipping schnapps and obviously getting more “relaxed” by the minute — to the avid rabbit hunter who had a cottontail tattoo on his back, which he felt compelled to show those of us in the studio, complete with bunny tracks inked down his spine leading toward where he claimed the rabbit lived. It’s been a hoot, and I have tried to make the show as entertaining and educational as possible for an audience who, I assumed, loved to hunt and fish. 

The same is true with this column, which I figure is of special interest to anglers, hunters, trappers and others who enjoy such “consumptive use” activities in Ohio’s outdoors – which some refer to as “hook and bullet” sports.   … Continue reading

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Conservation Stewardship Program deadline announced

The next deadline for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Ohio Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding this fiscal year is March 31, 2021. Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the CSP.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat — all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. 

“CSP is designed to help farmers take their conservation activities to the next level,” said John Wilson, Acting State Conservationist for Ohio. “Our committed staff can help Ohio farmers and forest landowners identify natural resource concerns and provide technical and financial assistance to solve those problems or attain higher stewardship levels in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner.”

CSP encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rates, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.… Continue reading

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House bill addresses agriculture labor shortage

Legislation introduced in early March in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would reform the H-2A visa program to address the agricultural labor shortage. Among other provisions, it would amend the H-2A program to allow a capped number of visas for farmworkers to work year-round. 

“The U.S. pork industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage, negatively impacting farms and processing plants. Unfortunately, the current H-2A visa program is designed for seasonal agriculture, ignoring the needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. Without visa reform to support a sustainable workforce, production costs may increase, which could lead to higher food prices for consumers,” said Jen Sorenson, Pork Producers Council (NPPC) president. “NPPC thanks the bill’s sponsors Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) for jumpstarting this critical conversation, and believes this legislation is a step in the right direction. We look forward to working with Congress to enact meaningful labor reform that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country.… Continue reading

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OSU’s Farm Office Live continues through March and April


By Barry Ward, David Marrison, Peggy Hall, Dianne Shoemaker, Ohio State University Extension

“Farm Office Live” continues this winter as an opportunity for you to get the latest outlook and updates on ag law, farm management, ag economics, farm business analysis and other related issues from faculty and educators with the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Each Farm Office Live begins with presentations on select ag law and farm management topics from our specialists followed by open discussions and a Q&A session. Viewers can attend “Farm Office Live” online each month on Wednesday evening or Friday morning, or can catch a recording of each program.

The full slate of offerings remaining for this winter are:

  • March 10 7:00 – 8:30 pm
  • March 12 10:00 – 11:30 am
  • April 7 7:00 – 8:30 pm
  • April 9 10:00 – 11:30 am

Topics to be addressed in March include:

  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)
  • Proposed Stimulus Legislation
  • General Legislative Update
  • Ohio Farm Business Analysis – A Look at Crops
  • Crop Budget & Rental Rates

To register or view past recordings, visit https://go.osu.edu/farmofficeliveContinue reading

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OACI enrollment must be completed by March 31 for H2Ohio participants

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) is a partnership between agriculture, conservation, environmental and research communities to recognize farmers for their dedication to advancing methods that improve water quality in Ohio and increasing the number of best management practices being implemented on farms.

The OACI Farmer Certification Program will help farmers, throughout Ohio, take conservation programs to the next level with a free, confidential analysis. Enrollment is the first step in engaging with the OACI certification program and takes just minutes to complete. To enroll in the Farmer Certification Program, download the app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, or visit oaci.azurewebsites.net/.

Those in the H2Ohio program, must be enrolled in OACI by March 31, 2021.

OACI offers resources and education that farmers need to proactively employ modern, science-based practices on their farms and better demonstrate how those efforts are improving water quality over time.

By collaboratively learning and sharing information across environmental and agricultural communities, Ohio’s water quality advocates stand as united, committed to identifying nutrient management and water quality solutions and helping farmers execute them.… Continue reading

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Spring planting weather outlook

By Jim Noel, NOAA

            After a dry start to winter, the weather pattern has gotten more active. Even though the La Niña pattern in the Pacific Ocean is weakening the effect will likely continue through spring. This favors a normal to wetter than normal pattern for Ohio. The western corn and soybean belt will likely continue with the normal to drier than normal pattern through spring.

The greatest chances for wetness appear to favor the southern half of Ohio with closer to normal conditions in northern Ohio. The spring temperatures continue to favor warmer than normal overall.

The result of the warmer than normal temperatures and normal to wetter than normal conditions into spring is there could be some planting delays but they do not look severe at this time. With the above normal temperatures it favors a normal or slightly earlier than normal last freeze.

Indications for summer are for above normal temperatures and a trend for near normal precipitation to possibly below normal at some point in summer to early fall. … Continue reading

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Applications being accepted for Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Action and Awareness grants

The Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation is currently considering applications from organizations addressing a variety of program areas within agriculture for its Action and Awareness grant program.

“We all share the vision of a strong farm and food community for all Ohioans,” said Mike Townsley, chairman of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation board. “These grants provide a great opportunity for outside organizations and county Farm Bureaus to collaborate and create new projects that will help inspire innovation and cultivate investment in Ohio’s farm and food community.”

The Foundation funds programs that create a positive, measurable impact in four core areas of giving through the Action and Awareness grant program:

  • Education – Providing grants for professional development programs allowing individuals to advance their knowledge of agriculture, share ideas and improve people’s lives.
  • Environment – Funding sensible solutions that contribute to a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable Ohio by focusing on increased care for land and water.
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