Country Life

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 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

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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County fair guidelines coming soon from DeWine Administration

This week Governor Mike DeWine announced a loosening of restrictions for upcoming events, including county fairs, when safety protocols are followed.

“The vaccines have given us great hope, but until we have enough Ohioans vaccinated, we must continue masking and social distancing,” Governor DeWine said. “Easing up on some prevention measures is intended to serve as a starting point. If the trajectory of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continues downward, we hope to be able to relax more of these measures. If it gets worse, we may have to tighten up.”

DeWine said new guidance for county fairs, along with other events including proms, banquets, wedding receptions, festivals, and parades is forthcoming. Sporting and entertainment events will be able to reopen with 25% maximum indoor capacity and 30% maximum outdoor capacity provided they follow established precautions such as mandatory mask wearing for employees and customers, spectator pathways that allow for social distancing, and seating in groups in six-foot intervals of no more than six people from the same household.… Continue reading

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Texas agriculture reeling after winter storm

By Matt Reese and Kolt Buchenroth

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 a cold front moved into southeastern Texas followed by some precipitation, which turned to ice. This set the stage for a series of winter weather events not seen in Texas in recent memory and likely the first global billion dollar disaster of 2021.

As expected, the strong Arctic cold front passed through Southeast Texas on Sunday (Valentine’s Day). It served as the turning point from a significant winter storm that preceded the front to the historic winter event that would eventually unfold,” according to the National Weather Service. “On Sunday, every square inch of Texas was in a Winter Storm Warning. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain began to encroach into Southeast Texas Sunday afternoon, and then increased in coverage and intensity overnight Sunday night into Monday. Thunder snow was reported near the town of Snook, Burleson County Sunday evening, and then thunder sleet occurred near the Brazoria and Galveston counties coastline Sunday night.… Continue reading

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Agricultural Safety Awareness Program Week

Farm Bureaus across the nation are preparing for Agricultural Safety Awareness Program Week, Feb. 28 through March 6. U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers will join Farm Bureau in promoting ag safety this week with the theme “Driving Safety Home.”

Farm Bureau and U.S. Ag Centers will focus on sharing information about a different safety area each day of ASAP Week:

Monday, March 1 – Farmer Roadway Safety (farmer perspective)

Tuesday, March 2 – Caretaker Support (caring for aging or ill family members)

Wednesday, March 3 – General Farmer Wellness (staying healthy overall)

Thursday, March 4 – Mental Health (coping with stress)

Friday, March 5 – Community Roadway Safety (motorist perspective) 

“As recent severe weather and coping with its aftermath continues to affect people across most of the country, focusing on safety becomes even more important on the farm and ranch,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president.… Continue reading

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Partnership to advance financial literacy in Ohio

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced a partnership with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) to advance and expand the use of the college’s Real Money. Real World. financial literacy program statewide. The announcement coincides with the annual America Saves Week, which aims to raise awareness about financial literacy education while helping individuals to achieve financial stability. 

“Securing a sound and prosperous financial future for our state starts with our young people, and that means preparing them for the challenges that come later in life,” said Treasurer Sprague. “I’ve seen the benefits of the Real Money. Real World. curriculum first-hand, and the Treasurer’s office looks forward to working with Ohio State University Extension to reach more students and give them the personal finance skills needed to be successful.”

With the new partnership, the Ohio Treasurer’s office will assist OSU Extension with its outreach efforts to shine a brighter light on Real Money.… Continue reading

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Agriculture and the Biden Administration

By Matt Reese

With a new Administration in the White House comes a whole new set of challenges, concerns and opportunities for agriculture. What can U.S. agriculture expect moving forward with President Joe Biden?

Mary Kay Thatcher works in government relations for Syngenta. At the recent Ohio AgriBuisiness Association Industry Conference she offered some insights on what to expect from the Biden Administration with regard to agriculture. 

“I’m looking at Mr. Biden a lot like I looked at President Ford. You know when [Ford] was named president he had served in the House for 24 years, and as minority leader for nine of those years, so he knew people. He knew how the House operated,” Thatcher said. “President Biden has 36 years in the Senate. Until four years ago he was president of the Senate by virtue of being vice president. So my point is, he’s got a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle and he really is much more of a negotiator than he is an administrator, so I look for him to reach out and do as much bipartisan work as he can.” … Continue reading

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CFAP deadline extended

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented today on USDA’s decision to extend the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) application deadline. AFBF sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting an extension for farmers and ranchers.

“AFBF applauds Secretary Vilsack for his swift response to our call for an extension to the CFAP application deadline. Coronavirus aid is a lifeline for farmers and ranchers who are suffering from losses due to the pandemic. Recent severe weather and the suspension of CFAP payments led to challenges and confusion surrounding the application process. The extra time will help ensure America’s farmers have the opportunity to apply for help.

“We encourage USDA to quickly complete its review of CFAP so resources can be distributed to the people who are working to feed families across the country.”… Continue reading

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Still time to be counted in the 2020 local food marketing practices survey

Farmers and ranchers still have time to respond to their 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). NASS will continue to accept responses through April to ensure an accurate picture of U.S. local and regional food systems.  

“The Local Food Marketing Practices Survey is conducted in support of the growing demand for local and regional food systems,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “The data are vital to understanding the many benefits of this sector. They will inform industry decisions and assist producers, researchers, policymakers, USDA officials, and more. NASS is committed to giving producers every opportunity to be counted in this special study.”    

The 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey is part of the Census of Agriculture program and as such is required by federal law. These federal laws require producers to respond and USDA to keep identities and answers confidential. Over… Continue reading

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Mature buck harvest on the rise

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

I hosted Kip Adams of the National Deer Association on Buckeye Sportsman earlier this month, and the organization’s Chief Conservation Officer had some interesting information to share. According to the organization’s 2021 Deer Report, hunters in the United States took more adult and mature bucks in the 2019-20 hunting season than ever reported, based on a near-record buck harvest of 2.9 million and a record 39% of those bucks estimated to be 3.5 years or older. 

“Hunters now shoot far more bucks that are at least 3.5 years old than 1.5 years,” said Adams, adding “This is very different from hunting seasons a decade or two ago.”

He explained that the steadily climbing percentage of 3.5-and-older bucks in the harvest is the result of steadily declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1.5 years old). Only 28% of the 2019 antlered buck harvest was yearlings, the lowest rate ever reported.… Continue reading

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Vilsack confirmed as Secretary of Ag


On Feb. 23 Tom Vilsack was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of Agriculture in a 92-7 vote. The confirmation demonstrated strong bipartisan support for President Joe Biden’s pick for the position. Vilsack previously held the position for eight years under President Barack Obama.

The news was welcomed by agricultural organizations ready to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture moving forward. 

“AFBF congratulates Tom Vilsack on his confirmation as the next Secretary of Agriculture. His strong track record of leadership and previous experience at USDA will serve rural America well,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Secretary Vilsack and I have spoken several times in recent weeks about opportunities and challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers, and I look forward to close collaboration. We have a lot of work to do as we overcome obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must commit to resuming CARES Act programs and continue to build on advances made in trade.… Continue reading

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