Country Life

USDA announces listening session on impacts of COVID-19 on new farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a virtual listening session for beginning farmers and ranchers to learn how COVID-19 impacted their farming operations and to get their feedback on USDA assistance. The listening session will take place on May 6, 2021, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Eastern time.

“We invite beginning farmers and ranchers to share their experiences in navigating USDA’s resources for assistance after the pandemic,” said Gloria Montaño Greene, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

“We need to understand what worked well and where we can improve, while deepening our understanding of how farmers were affected by the pandemic and how they are modifying their operations,” said Mae Wu, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Montaño Greene and Wu will be joined by Zach Ducheneaux, USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator, and Sarah Campbell, USDA’s National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator.

This feedback will inform USDA preparations for outreach strategies, programmatic needs, technical assistance and accessible program delivery for beginning farmers and ranchers through Pandemic Assistance for Producers.… Continue reading

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Farmers helping food banks

By Vince Hall, interim chief government relations officer at Feeding America

My father spent 30 years in the rice business and I remember driving a “bank out” wagon to transport the grain before I ever drove a car. From those rural roots I came to appreciate that farmers are the foundation of our nation’s food system, providing the nourishing foods we all need to lead healthy, happy lives. Farmers — through advocacy, fundraising and more — are also critical partners in our nation’s fight against hunger, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today I’m proud to serve Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Working together, in 2020 we provided a record-number of meals to our neighbors in need amid new challenges to putting food on the table: a once-in-a-generation pandemic made going to the grocery store an uncertain experience, food prices reached a 50-year high and unemployment rates rivaled those of the Great Depression.… Continue reading

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NFU: USDA must prioritize climate change across all programs

Agriculture is uniquely positioned to mitigate climate change — but farmers need the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) support to fully realize that potential, according to National Farmers Union (NFU).

In comments submitted, the family farm organization outlined ways UDSA could better “encourage the development, adoption, and equitable delivery of climate smart practices.” While the agency already has a suite of programs that can achieve this goal, they are falling short in some respects. For one, many programs do not currently prioritize climate in their criteria, making it difficult for farmers to use them to meet climate goals on their operations. As a remedy, NFU President Rob Larew encouraged USDA to “publicly state that climate change is an urgent priority. . .and ensure programs reflect this prioritization.” Additionally, it should give precedence to applications that result in “positive soil health, carbon sequestration, and resilience outcomes in line with local climate change resource concerns.”… Continue reading

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New grant program to enhance Ohio’s Lake Erie water quality

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded ODA’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation a five-year, $8-million grant to assist in Ohio’s work to improve water quality in Lake Erie.

Administered by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the grant funding will support Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative by assisting farmers in developing nutrient management plans and conservation practices in Crawford, Erie, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, and Wyandot counties.  

Farmers in these counties can begin enrolling through their local soil & water district office in late summer. 

“Our partnership with NRCS will pave a way for Ohio to cover even greater ground in its statewide goals of clean water through Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director. “Ohio is grateful for NRCS and its insight as we work together to improve water quality through proven conservation best practices.” … Continue reading

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Forecasting weather challenges ahead

By Jim Noel, NOAA

There are challenges ahead so we will break them into short-term and long-term.


The recent snow was a rare event for the amount that fell across Ohio. However, the minimum temperatures in the 20s and 30s was not that far off of normal for last freeze conditions for Ohio.

The strongest typhoon ever in the northern hemisphere occurred east of the Philippines last week and this energy will come across parts of North America over the next week. When that happens weather model performance often drops. Hence, if you see more bouncing around of forecasts the next 10-15 days that may be one reason why.

We have a big warm-up the first half of this week ahead of a strong storm that will move through Ohio the second half of the week with wind and rain. We could see anywhere from 0.50 inches to over 2 inches across Ohio later this week but placement is not certain and seems to favor central and southern Ohio with the highest amounts.… Continue reading

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Testing a new way to kill harmful algal blooms

As the weather warms and draws people to the water, tests are about to begin on a new technique for killing off harmful algal blooms in Ohio’s streams and lakes. 

The technology being tested creates ozone and injects it into a waterway in the form of microscopic bubbles. Once in the water, the ozone can kill unwanted algae, destroy toxins, and boost oxygen levels, said Heather Raymond, director of the Water Quality Initiative at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

When these tiny bubbles of ozone called “nanobubbles” burst in the water, they produce hydroxyl radicals and peroxides. Those substances can further destroy harmful algae and possibly help cut off the algae’s food supply, thus preventing future blooms.  

How well this technology works to combat Ohio’s harmful algae will be tested in the lab, in test ponds, and in several state lakes and rivers.… Continue reading

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USDA awards 85 new partnership projects to help mitigate climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). 

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Terry Cosby NRCS Acting Chief. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.” 

Across America, producers are seeing the impacts from climate change. Farmers, landowners and local communities can be a major part of the effort to combat climate change. 

USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water.… Continue reading

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Growing Climate Solutions Act introduced

The Senate Agriculture Committee last week approved a bipartisan bill that encourages farmer participation in the carbon credit offset markets.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced earlier in the week by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would create a certification program at USDA to solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. USDA’s certification program would provide transparency, legitimacy and informal endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture and forestry-related practices.

The bill would also create an advisory council comprised of agriculture experts, scientists, producers and others, to ensure the certification program remains relevant and credible. National Pork Producers Council is among numerous agricultural groups in support of the bill — just as it backed the legislation last year— and believes it will ensure U.S.… Continue reading

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USDA seeks proposals for innovative approaches to conservation on agricultural lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking proposals through June 21 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials). On-Farm Trials, part of the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches.

This program harnesses the expertise, resources and capacity of partner organizations nationwide to help NRCS boost natural resource conservation on private lands and support climate smart agriculture. 

“USDA is a leader in using the latest science, research and conservation tools to reduce the impacts of climate change,” said John Wilson, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Ohio. “We’re doing our part in helping America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the natural resources we all depend on, like clean air and water, while supporting the health and resiliency of their operations for the future.… Continue reading

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Fish don’t realize they’re a dam site better off

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

It’s been almost three years since the Sandusky River’s controversial Ballville Dam near Fremont was removed, in part to allow fish species such as walleyes and white bass to move farther upriver to spawn. But so far, that’s not happening.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) figured it might take a few seasons for fish to make their way upstream during their annual spring spawning migrations, but they didn’t know how long the natural process would take. Since 2019, ODNR has been conducting post-dam removal studies to determine changes in fish populations.

Although the main obstacle for fish to move upstream has been removed, no walleye or white bass were found last spring or so far this spring during the spawning migration between the former dam site at Ballville and the first dam near Tiffin, according to Eric Weimer, fisheries biologist supervisor at ODNR’s Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit.… Continue reading

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USDA expands and renews Conservation Reserve Program in effort to boost enrollment

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will open enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture, including $330 million in 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is working to leverage USDA conservation programs for climate mitigation, including continuing to invest in innovation partnership programs like RCPP and On-Farm Trials as well as strengthening programs like CRP to enhance their impacts.

“Sometimes the best solutions are right in front of you. With CRP, the United States has one of the world’s most successful voluntary conservation programs.… Continue reading

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Much more legislation in progress in Ohio

By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Hopefully, Ohio’s planting season will soon be as busy as its legislative season. There’s a lot of activity down at the capitol these days, with many bills on the move. Here’s a summary of bills that could impact agriculture and rural communities. Note that the summary doesn’t include the budget bill, which is also currently being debated.

Water quality bonds 

A joint resolution recently offered in the Senate supports amending Ohio’s Constitution to create permanent funds for clean water improvements. S.J.R. 2, a bipartisan proposal from Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Hts.) would place a ballot issue before voters in November. The issue proposes amending the Constitution to allow for the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund clean water improvements. Up to $1 billion over 10 years would be permissible, with no more than $100 million allocated in any fiscal year.… Continue reading

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Heritage Cooperative expands grain storage by 1.7 million bushels at Marysville Ag Campus location

Heritage Cooperative is excited to announce the construction of two new grain silos providing an additional 1.7 million bushels of grain storage at the Marysville Ag Campus, 15090 Scottslawn Rd., Marysville. 

The $5 million project will consist of building two grain storage bins on the north side of the property, increasing the grain storage capacity to just under 5 million bushels. This additional storage will benefit Heritage growers in the Marysville area as well as those growers in Kenton, Urbana, Upper Sandusky, and other locations on the western side of Ohio. Access to grain storage becomes much more available for growers when stored grain is shipped to Marysville freeing up space needed in other areas. 

“We are really excited about this project. It will provide immediate grain storage solutions for our growers and allow us to take their grain when they need to unload it during the busy harvest season,” said Jeff Osentoski, President and CEO of Heritage Cooperative.… Continue reading

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Cicadas about to emerge in Ohio

Significant portions of the state are about to be bombarded by a swarm of very noisy, very large bugs. A type of cicada that only comes out every 17 years is about to emerge.

The Brood X Cicadas (periodical cicadas) have burrowed underground for almost two decades and will make their way to the surface late April into early May. They will not cause any damage to your home, gardens, crops, or animals. They also won’t harm mature trees, but you should consider protecting newly planted trees by wrapping them with a mesh net.

The noise Brood X cicadas make is loud and distinct. In large groups, the sound can reach as high as 100 decibels, which is equivalent to a motorcycle, low-flying plane or lawn mower starting. The sound of a group of cicadas is often compared to the sound of electricity. 

The largest concentrations of these cicadas is expected in the following counties: Defiance, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Logan, and Montgomery.… Continue reading

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A Great Miami shark tale

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

Haley Weidner was walking along the Great Miami River in Piqua’s Groveside Park late last month when she detected a foul smell. Following her nose to the riverbank, she came upon the head of a shark that had washed up on the shoreline. 

After poking it with her foot to confirm it really was the head of a real (formerly) live shark, CNN Newsource reported that Weidner posted word of her unusual find on social media and contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). According to reports, wildlife officials at first figured someone had caught the shark on a trip to the coast and brought the head back to Ohio. 

The wildlife agency said in a statement to WHIO-TV:

“[The shark’s head] looks as though someone discarded it there … We have seen situations like this before with people discarding shark parts of carcasses after fishing trips to the ocean.”… Continue reading

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The troubling story of the Falun Gong of China

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Falun Gong is a religious movement in China. It involves the practice of qigong — a mix of meditation, energy exercises and regulated breathing — and is guided by a moral philosophy and the ultimate goal of achieving spiritual enlightenment. Falun Gong, with an estimated seven to 20 million adherents, is a Buddhist-like spiritual group that lives out compassion, truthfulness. patience and tolerance.

In one of my trips to China, I observed from my high-rise hotel room local citizens practicing qigong exercises in the village courtyard. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, claims the Falun Gong is evil because it demonstrates cult behavior, instills mind control in individuals, spreads heretical ideas and promotes methods for accumulating wealth — all the while endangering Chinese society. 

In 1999, the CCP decided they had had enough. They organized a secret police unit in June that year similar to the German Gestapo of World War II.… Continue reading

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Ohio Farm Bureau sees membership growth in 2021

Ohio Farm Bureau volunteers and staff worked tirelessly throughout another challenging membership campaign in 2021 and helped the organization increase its “active” membership, which now exceeds the 68,000 member mark. Active members are farmers or other Ohioans whose jobs or livelihoods are directly impacted by the agricultural industry. As active members, they are eligible to vote on Farm Bureau policies and hold elective office in the organization.

“I could not be more proud of the great work that all of those involved in this year’s membership campaign have done,” said Paul Lyons, Ohio Farm Bureau’s vice president of membership. “We completed last year’s campaign at the beginning of the pandemic and had hoped for a more normal campaign in 2021. Although that didn’t occur, in typical Farm Bureau fashion, volunteers and staff found new safe and socially distanced ways to connect with people, share their story and show the value that comes with joining our organization.”… Continue reading

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USDA extends deadline to comment on proposed revisions to national conservation practice standards

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced it will extend the deadline for public comment on proposed revisions to 23 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions were published March 9 with comments originally due April 8. Comments will now be due April 22.

NRCS is encouraging agricultural producers, landowners, organizations, Tribes and others that use its conservation practices to comment on these revised conservation practice standards. NRCS will use public comments to further enhance its conservation practice standards. The proposed revisions to the 23 conservation practice standards are available on the Federal Register.

Comments can be made through or by mail or hand delivery. 

“By extending the deadline as requested by customers, we hope to collect as much input as possible to ensure that the standards used to carry out these 23 specific conservation practices are relevant to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs,” said John Wilson, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Ohio.… Continue reading

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A look at the death tax

By Congressman Bob Latta (R_OH5)

 One of the most plainly unfair taxes in the entire U.S. tax code is the Estate Tax — also known as the “death tax.” Even though American families pay taxes their entire lives — income taxes, payroll taxes, Medicare taxes, capital gains taxes and more — the federal government can’t help but reach its hands into their pocket one last time after they die to grab 40% of their hard-earned money.  

The death tax creates real world problems for farmers, ranchers, and small business owners — groups we can least afford to penalize during this economic recovery. In sectors that require high capital investments, like agriculture, families often have difficulty meeting tax requirements imposed by the death tax because their cash assets are much lower than the value of land, property, and equipment. In addition to the costs imposed at death, the death tax also has a stifling economic impact beforehand due to the cost preparation and planning needed to plan and comply with the tax.… Continue reading

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How will your farm emerge from the pandemic?

By Chris Zoller, OSU Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County, David Marrison, OSU Extension Educator, ANR, Coshocton County and Mike Estadt, OSU Extension Educator, ANR, Pickaway County

It has been more than a year since Coronavirus was declared a pandemic.  Everyone has been touched by the pandemic either directly or indirectly.  As an industry, agriculture has experienced market disruptions and slowdowns in the processing sector due to the pandemic. In response, the United States government provided billions of dollars in economic relief in 2020 to assist farmers affected by the disruptions. This assistance has continued into 2021 as just recently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced details about the “Pandemic Assistance for Producers”Initiative.  This article takes a look at federal farm support, forecasts for net farm income in 2021, and challenges farm managers to examine how their  business will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. governmental farm support

The following figure from the University of Illinois (Figure 3) shares the government farm support programs for the past fifteen years with a forecast for 2021. … Continue reading

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