Country Life

USDA offers new forest management incentive for Conservation Reserve Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices. Existing CRP participants can now sign up for the Forest Management Incentive (FMI), which provides financial incentives to landowners with land in CRP to encourage proper tree thinning and other practices.

“We are offering CRP landowners an opportunity to use forestry practices for a more targeted approach to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on their land,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The Forest Management Incentive enables landowners to maximize the conservation outcomes on their land, such as supporting wildlife, conserving soil and improving water quality.”

Right now, less than 10% of land currently enrolled in CRP is dedicated to forestland. But, these nearly 2 million acres of CRP forestland, if properly managed, can have enormous benefits for natural resources by reducing soil erosion, protecting water quality, increasing water quantity, and diversifying local farm operations and rural economies.… Continue reading

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Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: Highlights of tax issues impacting farm businesses

By Barry Ward, Leader, Production Business Management/Director, Ohio State University Income Tax Schools

Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 which was signed by the President on Dec. 27. The CAA funds the government through Sept. 30, 2021, implements COVID-19 relief provisions, and extends a number of expiring tax provisions. The $2.3 trillion bill provides $900 billion in COVID-19 relief. This article highlights key provisions for farm related issues from several Acts within the CAA’s 5,593 pages.

Economic impact payments

The Act provides for “additional 2020 recovery rebates for individuals.” The additional recovery rebate credit is $600 for “eligible individuals” or $1,200 for “eligible individuals” filing a joint return. “Eligible individuals” are entitled to a $600 credit for each “qualifying child.” (This generally includes dependent children under the age of 17.) Phaseouts apply for higher income taxpayers.

Paycheck Protection Program loans — Covered expenses now deductible

Previously, the IRS and Treasury indicated that the expenses covered by PPP loans that were forgiven (or would be forgiven) would not be deductible.… Continue reading

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Farm Bureau scholarships available

Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and Geauga County Farm Bureau are offering scholarship opportunities to students pursuing post-high school education. The scholarship amount is determined by the number of acceptable qualifying applications. 

For Ashtabula County, applicant’s parent/legal guardian or themselves must be a resident of the county and a current Farm Bureau member at the time of application and payout. The student must be a full-time enrollee of an accredited two or four-year college, university, or technical school working towards an undergraduate degree. Applicants must show a 3.0-grade point average. A major in agriculture or a support field is preferred but NOT required. Eligibility and approval of applicants will be determined at the discretion of the Ashtabula County Board of Trustees or their designee. The fillable form is available online at, on our website at, or by emailing No handwritten forms will be accepted. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM on April 1, 2021.… Continue reading

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Water quality Wednesdays

By Boden FisherMatthew RomankoJordan BeckRachel CochranBrigitte Moneymaker

Water quality concerns continue to be at the forefront of environmental-impact discussions across many industries. Since agriculture occupies much of the land area in Ohio, adapting farming operations to include “best management practices” has been an area of focus for agricultural producers, governmental agencies and other stakeholders working to contribute to solutions. As water quality concerns remain, so do opportunities for reviewing the current research and considering adopting practices that work for your situation. Join The Ohio State University Extension-Water Quality Team and guest speakers for a webinar series discussing several timely topics in preparation for the 2021 growing season. Register for specific events or the entire series at: .

Following Events

February 10th 10-11:30am
Cover Crops and Water Quality: Sarah Noggle, Jason Hartschuh, Rachel Cochran

February 24th 10-11:30am
Best Management Practices for Water Quality

March 3rd 3-3:30pm
Lake Erie Water Quality Litigation Update: Peggy Hall

April 14th 10-11:30am
Water Quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin… Continue reading

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Growing the bioeconomy in uncertain times

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, the U.S. bioeconomy is facing challenges.

On Friday, Feb. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon, The Ohio State University’s Advanced BioSystems Workshop will look at those challenges and will brainstorm ways for research, technology, and the government to address them.

Workshop organizer Ajay Shah, agricultural engineer with Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), said plant-based fuels and products “have the potential to decrease U.S. dependence on petroleum feedstocks, improving energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating new industries.”

But he said the COVID-19 pandemic and other uncertainties have affected biobased industries in major ways, including in the areas of funding availability and simply the ability of businesses to survive.

Following a keynote address, three breakout sessions, and a panel discussion and Q&A, the workshop’s participants will produce a report “that will help entrepreneurs, policymakers, and regulators develop strategies for moving forward,” Shah said.

Doris de Guzman of Tecnon OrbiChem and the Green Chemicals Blog will give the keynote address, “Developments in Biobased Materials Markets.”… Continue reading

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Laughing — One of life’s best medicines

By Don “Doc” Sanders

There are plenty of benefits of laughing. A good guffaw:

  • Lowers blood pressure and stroke risk 
  • Reduces stress hormone levels 
  • Works abs, as I described earlier  
  • Improves cardiac health. Laughter provides a great cardio workout. 
  • Boosts T-cells, which are specialized immune system cells that fight off illness
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers, making you feel good
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

Laughter also comes in handy as home therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a condition where an individual becomes moody and depressed in the winter when daylight becomes a scarce commodity. 

I know of individuals that have SAD every year. The symptoms include feeling depressed nearly every day, losing interest in the activities that normally bring you joy, being unmotivated and being unable to concentrate. It can become extreme with a feeling of hopelessness, and maybe guilt. Some individuals with SAD border on being suicidal.… Continue reading

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USDA offers additional assistance through CFAP

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide additional assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), expanding eligibility for some agricultural producers and commodities as well as updating payments to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for the program. Producers who are now eligible and those who need to modify existing applications due to these updates can contact USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) between Jan. 19 and Feb. 26. Some of these changes are being made to align with the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 while others are discretionary changes being made in response to ongoing evaluation of CFAP.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep impact on the farm economy, and we are utilizing the tools and monies available to ease some of the financial burdens on American producers to ensure our agricultural economy remains strong, independent and a global leader in production,” said Secretary Perdue.… Continue reading

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Weather outlook to spring

By Jim Noel, NOAA

La Nina remains in full swing, the cooling of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Typically the impacts kick in for Ohio by late December or January.  

You can keep up on La Nina and ENSO at the links below:

Therefore, the climate pattern supports big swings for temperatures for the rest of winter through early spring with the tendency toward above normal temperatures. This will also support snow that comes and goes for most of Ohio. This can expose winter wheat to temperature changes with limited snowpack.

As for rainfall and precipitation, expect above normal conditions to ramp back up for later January into February and March. Northwest Ohio subsoils remain drier than normal but the expectation is for wetting up to continue late winter into early spring.

Going forward through spring, the wetter conditions typically shutdown at some point and that varies for each La Nina event but often it is by May or June.… Continue reading

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Master Gardener volunteers supplying Ohio food pantries

Master Gardener Volunteers from across Ohio grew nearly 80,000 pounds of produce in 2020 statewide and donated it all to 101 food pantries in cities and towns across the state.

The Master Gardener Volunteer program is a U.S.- and Canada-wide effort that in Ohio is run by Ohio State University Extension, in the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The produce grown included fruits, vegetables, and herbs and was equivalent to 65,200 meals, according to Pam Bennett, state master gardener volunteer program director and horticulture educator with OSU Extension.

Although Master Gardener Volunteers have grown and donated food through this program for 20 years, growers ramped up their production efforts to help deal with the growing issue of food insecurity issues faced by individuals and families in 2020 statewide, said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator who facilitates the program in Franklin County.

That’s significant, considering the rising unemployment and other financial hardships people have faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused food banks to have increased demand for food but receive fewer food donations from grocery stores, according to research from Zoë Plakias, a CFAES assistant professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics.… Continue reading

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Bundle up: A polar vortex could be on the way

If you were thinking this winter has been fairly mild so far, it has been, but gear up. 

Frigid temperatures could be gripping Ohio, the Midwest, and the Northeast around the last week of January. 

The polar vortex, a wide area of swirling cold air near the North Pole, has weakened and split in two, which happens from time to time when air in the stratosphere above it warms. With the split, forecasts indicate one of the portions of the vortex may drift south toward Canada and the northern United States. 

These weakened polar vortex conditions often drop temperatures well below normal (think single digits and sub-zero) and may lead to more snow, said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“We’re watching this evolve,” Wilson said. “It’s eye-catching from a meteorologist’s standpoint. It can obviously cause some storms and lead to very cold conditions.” … Continue reading

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American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention highlights

The American Farm Bureau hosted multiple days of virtual programming this week focused on the future of agriculture and the most pressing issues for farmers, ranchers and consumers for the 2021 American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, farmers and policy experts at both live featured workshops and on-demand sessions. Members from around the country also met virtually to set policy for the coming year.

“2020 has been a year of challenges and high expectations for our farmers — expectations that we will continue to grow the food, fiber and energy for our country and a lot of the rest of the world. We have risen to that challenge and those expectations, all along trying to protect our employees and families from this pandemic,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “I am so proud of Farm Bureau as we have worked with our counties and states to help our farmers get through this difficult time.”… Continue reading

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New rule improves partner flexibility in Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule for its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The rule updates USDA’s partner-driven program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others. 

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a powerful program that enables us to co-invest with partners on win-win solutions that benefit agriculture and natural resources,” said Terry Cosby, State Conservationist of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Ohio. “The final rule contains some minor adjustments made in response to public comments, and we now look forward to continuing our work with Ohio partners to use this unique and innovative program to extend the reach of conservation.” 

RCPP promotes coordination of NRCS and partner conservation activities that aid farmers, ranchers, and private landowners in Ohio with addressing on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.

NRCS received comments from more than 65 organizations and individuals on the RCPP interim rule, which was published February 13, 2020.… Continue reading

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DeWine signs H.B. 7 to improve water quality

By Jeffrey Lewis, attorney and research specialist, Ohio State University Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Ohio is thirsty for some quality H2O, but the legislature has recently struggled with how to get it. After debating two separate water quality bills for over a year, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate finally passed H.B. 7 in December. The bi-partisan bill aims to improve water quality in Ohio’s lakes and rivers but doesn’t establish a permanent H2Ohio Trust Fund as the House had first proposed. 

Even so, H.B. 7 will help fund and implement Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohioprogram. DeWine unveiled his water quality plan in 2019 to help reduce phosphorus runoff, prevent algal blooms, and prevent lead contamination in Ohio’s waterways. In July 2019, the Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million to fund the H2Ohio initiative. H.B. 7 continues those efforts by creating a statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program and directing the Ohio Department of Agriculture to implement a pilot program to assist farmers and others in phosphorus reduction efforts.… Continue reading

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Despite concerns, Vilsack may be well-suited withstand agribusiness influence

By Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union

In a sprawling, diverse U.S. family farm community, questions are being asked about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Tom Vilsack to lead the USDA in the next administration.

Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union president

 Like most of my colleagues around the country, I have often been asked about the wisdom of appointing Secretary Vilsack a second time. The former and likely future Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had represented dairy processors and exporters for the past few years, so many small farm advocates had become concerned that he might be too close to “Big Ag.” 

State and National Farmers Union organizations have been among those who had fought against corporate concentration and mega mergers in the ranks of the nation’s seed and feed and food processing businesses. These global ag corporations have taken over markets, putting the squeeze on farmers at the bottom of the supply chain and increased prices to consumers.… Continue reading

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Broadband investment for southern Ohio

Lt. Governor Husted announced that Southern Ohio Communication Services, Inc., in collaboration with JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE) and Pike County Economic & Community Development, plans to invest $3.8 million to provide high-speed Internet service over 64 miles to 1,300 residential and business customers in southern Ohio.  Southern Ohio Communications Service received a $50,000 JobsOhio Inclusion Grant toward building and engineering costs. The project will provide 1 Gig optical fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed Internet to the service area.

Company officials said the investment represents the first phase of a two phase approach to providing expanded optical fiber-to-home high-speed internet service within its rural footprint in Pike and Scioto Counties. In the second phase of the project, Southern Ohio Communication Services will make an additional investment that will result in optical fiber-to-home high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses in Southern Ohio. The current project will result in the creation of at least five new jobs and construction of a new warehouse to store equipment.… Continue reading

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DeWine vetoes bill aimed at reopening fairs

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 375 on Jan. 11. The bill aimed to override Ohio’s statewide health order that limits Ohio’s county and independent fairs. It also provided the framework for the working group responsible for setting the 2021 fair season’s safe operating guidelines. The proposed working group included representatives from the legislature, health department, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Fair Managers Association, Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association, Ohio’s livestock organizations, Ohio Agricultural Educators Association, Ohio 4-H and the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

In his veto message, DeWine said it was a difficult decision to limit county fairs in the state last July to limit the spread of COVID-19. Legislative advocates of the bill made the case that fairs suffered financial loss after the statewide restriction reduced fairs’ income.

DeWine’s statement also pointed out the $4.7 million in funding provided to fairs by the state, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s waiver of the $50,000 local match requirement of the agricultural society facility grant.… Continue reading

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Where are we going with U.S. and global trade?

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

Agricultural trade was the topic of the first in a series of winter outlook meetings hosted by the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics (AEDE) at The Ohio State University’s College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES). Dr. Ian Sheldon, Ohio State’s Andersons Chair of Agricultural Marketing, Trade and Policy, led the discussion examining the effects of the pandemic on global trade and U.S. agricultural trade, including an evaluation of the Phase 1 Trade Agreement with China.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an impact on international trade.

“Global trade was forecast to decline by 9.2% in 2020, but then rise 7.2% in 2021 according to the World Trade Organization,” Sheldon said. “Those forecasts were originally made in late October and November of 2020. Forecast estimates initially looked much worse as their April forecast was for a decline of anywhere from 13% to 32%.”… Continue reading

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Organic production winter webinar series

By Cassandra Brown, Ohio State University Extension

Ohio State will host a series of organic production webinars on Wednesdays this winter, from 11-11:45 a.m. The series will provide opportunities for Ohio’s organic community to learn about Ohio State research and resources. Each session includes time for questions and discussion. We hope participating organic farmers and those interested in organic production will share their own experience, observations, questions, and ideas. Farmers considering organic certification or seeking ways to lower their farm inputs will also benefit from the presentations, as will educators and researchers interested in organic issues and management. A range of topics are planned. Some sessions of interest to agronomic crop producers are listed below.

According to the 2019 USDA Census of Agriculture, Ohio ranks 5th among U.S. states in the number of certified organic farms. Since the 2016 organic census, Ohio’s organic sales and cropland acres have both increased by more than 35%.… Continue reading

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Farmers gain improved access to small business support as PPP reopens

Farmers who run their operations as sole proprietors, independent contractors, or otherwise self-employed individuals will have newly expanded access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under changes made in the COVID stimulus package Congress approved. 

Producers who were denied PPP loans or whose loan amounts did not consider self-employment compensation may now be eligible for the vital federal small business support. Eligibility information and more details can be found here. Those wanting to apply for a PPP loan should contact lenders directly for more information on when PPP will be open for that specific lender.

“NMPF is pleased that many of our dairy farmers will have fewer restrictions and limitations on the PPP support available to them as the program reopens this week,” said Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation’s president and CEO. “We have been grateful for the support already extended to dairy through PPP, and we deeply appreciate the improved access found in the latest stimulus package.” … Continue reading

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Right-to farm win after a long and costly battle

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth, a dairy farmer and attorney near Celina

Right-To-Farm (RTF) laws deny nuisance lawsuits against farmers who use accepted and standard farming practices and have been in prior operation, even if these practices harm or bother adjacent property owners or the general public. On Oct. 5, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari in Himsel v. Himsel. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that the plaintiffs’ nuisance and trespass claims are barred by the RTF laws stands as the final decision.

            Samuel Himsel has farmed in rural Hendricks County, Indiana his entire life. His sons, Cory and Clinton, also make their living farming in the county. In 2012, the three decided to start a hog-raising operation at 3042 North 425 West in Danville. This property had been in their family for more than two decades. Samuel’s parents acquired this farmland in the early 1990s, and the land had been used for agricultural purposes since at least 1941.… Continue reading

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