Country Life



Ohio legislative summer update

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

Following a flurry of activity before its break, the Ohio General Assembly can now enjoy a few lazy days of summer. While the legislature spent much of its energy passing the state budget, it also moved several bills affecting agriculture. Here’s the latest update on legislation that’s moving down at the capitol.

Enacted bills

Solar and wind facilities 

We wrote earlier about S.B. 52, the wind and solar facility siting bill the legislature passed in late June. Despite pressure to veto the bill, Governor DeWine signed the legislation on July 12; its effective date is October 9, 2021. The new law requires developers to hold a public meeting in a community at least 90 days prior to applying for project approval, allows counties to designate restricted areas where wind and solar projects may not locate, sets up a referendum process for county residents to have a voice in restricted area designations, adds two community officials to the project review process at the Power Siting Board, and establishes rules for decommissioning of projects, including performance bonds.… Continue reading

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Back this year for an in-person show: Farm Science Review 2021

Ever want to climb into the cockpit of a plane and glide over a field? 

At this year’s Farm Science Review Sept. 21 to Sept. 23, visitors will have that chance without leaving the grassy ground under them. 

The upcoming, annual farm trade show will offer a series of virtual reality experiences such as operating a crop duster, high-tech planters, combines, and other equipment.

Sitting in a mini IMAX-type theater, visitors to FSR can watch videos projected on a domed screen around them. They’ll get an expansive view — a bit wider than peripheral vision—so they can feel as if they’re flying a plane. Or riding a high-tech planter. Or peering into a beehive.  

To film the videos, Ohio State University Extension educators mounted cameras to various spots on planters, tractors, combines, and other vehicles, so viewers can get a perspective they wouldn’t normally get. 

“It’s a little bit like having a bug’s eye view of all of these places,” said Brooke Beam, Extension educator in Highland County. … Continue reading

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New Priority Area and EQIP funding announced to improve northern bobwhite quail habitat

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has designated a new priority area in Ohio focused on improving and creating northern bobwhite quail habitat. Private landowners and producers can apply for funding through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Interested landowners in the selected townships are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center, ODNR private lands biologist or Pheasants Forever biologist to learn more.  

·   NRCS: Nick Schell, nick.schell@usda.gov, 614-255-2490

·   Ohio Division of Wildlife: John Kaiser john.kaiser@dnr.ohio.gov, 937-203-7511

·   Quail Forever: Cody Grasser, cgrasser@pheasantsforever.org, 419-551-3875

“Private landowner involvement is such an important part of preserving this iconic species,” said Lori Ziehr, Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service Acting State Conservationist.  “The northern bobwhite quail is an edge species, and through priority area funding, we can incentivize and promote conservation practices that generate the high-quality early successional habitat crucial to their survival.” 

Ohio is near the northern edge of the species’ range, and winter weather conditions can contribute to dramatic fluctuations in bobwhite quail populations.… Continue reading

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City of Maumee caught after 20 years of sewage dumping 🎙

Unlike permitted livestock farms, such as CAFOs, that are not allowed to discharge an ounce of manure into Ohio’s waterways, municipalities have agreements with Ohio EPA to allow for a certain amount of sewage to be dumped directly into tributaries located in watersheds that flow into Lake Erie.

For Maumee, Ohio, that agreement is 25 million gallons per year. However, due to an outdated sewer infrastructure, the municipality has actually been adding as much as 150 million gallons of sewage into the Maumee River for each of the past 20 years.

City Law Director David Busick confirmed that Department of Public Service Sewer Division employees, who keep track of sewer discharge levels, did not comply with the law when they failed to self-report the incidences of annual sewer overflow in Maumee. The City Council has since approved an action plan that requires mandated maintenance upgrades and infrastructure replacement guidelines. The city has also been fined by Ohio EPA to the tune of $29,936, which can be applied to remediation steps.… Continue reading

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Unions and property rights

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth

On June 23, 2021, the United States Supreme Court decided Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid. Many legal analysts are touting this case for upholding property rights. A closer look, however, reveals that the impact is more about unions and access and the viability of a very specific California law, unlike any other in the country.

            In 2015, two California businesses, Cedar Point Nursery (a grower of strawberry plants) and Fowler Packing Company (a shipper of table grapes and citrus), challenged a California state law that allowed unions to access private property, before and after the working day, 3 hours per day, 120 days per year to recruit new members. The regulation was issued in 1975, in the days of Caesar Chavez and the Farm Workers Union. It is a law unique to California. The law’s history indicates that the provision was a practical way to give farmworkers, who can be nomadic and poorly educated, a realistic chance to consider joining a union.… Continue reading

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NBB disappointed in DC Circuit decision on SREs in 2019 RFS rule

The National Biodiesel Board expressed disappointment in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision on the 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard rule. NBB joined other biofuel industry associations (the case is known as Growth Energy v EPA) to challenge EPA’s failure to account for a flood of retroactive small refinery exemptions that undercut the annual volumes by 7% in 2019.

“Small refinery exemptions harm biodiesel and renewable diesel producers when they retroactively reduce demand for advanced biofuels,” Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s Vice President for Federal Affairs. “Today’s decision creates renewed uncertainty for our industry because it does not require EPA to account for retroactive exemptions — something the 10th Circuit Court identified as ‘a gaping and ever-widening hole’ in the RFS.

“On behalf of NBB’s members, I call on EPA to quickly issue the 2021 and 2022 RFS rules, provide a strong signal of growth for advanced biofuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel, and fully account for any small refinery exemptions it plans to grant—as it has already done in the 2020 RFS rule.”The… Continue reading

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AEP Re-Creation Lands purchased

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

Among more than $70 billion in state spending priorities is a major item of importance to Ohio’s sportsmen. During negotiations late last month between the House and Senate, Gov. Mike DeWine successfully advocated for $29 million for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife to purchase the remaining 18,000 acres of the AEP Re-Creation Lands. 

Back in 2015, the power company announced its intention to sell the 60,000-acre property, which has long been used by Ohio hunters, anglers and trappers. It was thought that the state of Ohio would be first in line to purchase the prized property, which amounts to 10% of all available public land for sportsmen in the state.

After 2 years, with very little progress, AEP began to consider private buyers, a result Ohio sportsmen were unwilling to tolerate. Led by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, a Columbus-based coalition of the state’s top sportsmen’s groups united in 2017 under the banner of Protect What’s Right to advocate for funding for AEP and to restore the financial security of the Division of Wildlife, which had deteriorated over the previous years.… Continue reading

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OSHA signs alliance with Ohio Agribusiness Association to address grain handling hazards

To combat the dangers workers face in grain handling, the U.S. Department of Labor’sOccupational Safety and Health Administration, the Ohio On-Site Consultation Program, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Ohio Agribusiness Association signed an alliance on July 9, 2021. The two-year alliance will help train workers on the grain industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards and OSHA’s Grain-Handling Safety Standard

“Grain handling can expose workers to serious and life threatening hazards, such as fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, engulfment in grain bins, and injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment,” said OSHA’s Acting Region Administration William Donovan in Chicago. “This alliance aims to provide training and resources to improve workplace safety in this industry.”

An implementation team, comprised of representatives of each organization, will meet to develop a plan of action, determine working procedures and identify the roles and responsibilities of the participants.… Continue reading

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OABA seeking emerging leaders for 2022 LAUNCH Class

Tomorrow’s agribusiness leader will need to be nimble and lead change in addressing workforce pressures, consumer demands, and governmental challenges, all while fostering networks and collaborative work styles. Emerging agribusiness leaders can build their skills through LAUNCH – Leaders Achieving Unexpected New Career Heights – to rise to the challenges and opportunities facing agribusinesses today and tomorrow.

Hosted by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, in partnership with Shift-ology Communication, the LAUNCH program is geared to help Ohio agribusinesses Elevate People, Elevate Ideas and Elevate the Industry.

The program is designed for emerging leaders with a desire to meet higher level goals than the scope of their current position. The course is designed for leaders with all levels of experience — from entry level to seasoned employees — who seek to rise within their company.

“Agribusinesses continually compete with all industries to recruit and retain the best talent, but there is also a need to invest in those who are already passionate about agriculture,” said Chris Henney, OABA president and CEO.… Continue reading

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Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative partners with H2Ohio to host farmer meetings

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) welcomes the recent expansion of the H2Ohio farmer incentive program into 10 additional Western Lake Erie Basin counties. In an effort to spread awareness of the program and amplify the continued commitment farmers have to preserving Ohio’s lakes, streams and waterways, OACI is partnering with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and H2Ohio to host a series of informational meetings for farmers and producers.

ODA and OACI will host four virtual meetings explaining H2Ohio’s expansion in the Maumee Watershed and how agriculture and conservation fit into the program’s goals and priorities. The meetings will be held on the following dates, and full details and access to the links are available at h2.ohio.gov:

·  July 20, 6:00 p.m.

·  July 22, 9:00 a.m.

·  July 28, 6:00 p.m.

·  July 29, 1:00 p.m.

“We are committed to reaching as many farmers as possible to spread the word about the expansion of the H2Ohio program and the dedicated work farmers are putting in to improving water quality across the state,” said Kris Swartz, OACI chair and northwest Ohio farmer.… Continue reading

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USDA seeking new partnerships to restore wetlands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $17 million for conservation partners to help protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is prioritizing proposals that focus on assisting historically underserved producers conserving wetlands. Proposals from partners are due Aug. 15, 2021. 

Restored wetlands help to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce impacts from flooding and provide recreational benefits.

“Our goal is to support agricultural producers in their efforts to conserve natural resources on their land, improve water quality downstream and enhance wildlife habitat,” said Lori Ziehr, State Conservationist in Ohio. “Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnerships help partners and producers work together to protect wetland ecosystems on working lands.”

Through WREP projects, eligible conservation partners protect, restore and enhance high-priority wetlands on agriculture lands. WREP enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.… Continue reading

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Union County landowners file suit over farmland preservation dispute

Attorneys for Union County farm families filed two lawsuits on July 12 to protect the farmland from eminent domain for the construction of a commercial gas pipeline.

Don Bailey, Successor Trustee to Arno L. Renner, Charles Renner and Patrick and Whitney Bailey, successor landowners and operators of lands preserved by the Arno L. Renner Trust and over which Arno Renner donated an Agricultural Easement to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2003 filed the lawsuits in Union County Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuits:

 1) ask for a writ of mandamus to the ODA, the holder of the Ag Easement, to enforce its terms, and  2) seek injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment against Columbia Gas of Ohio who seeks to acquire commercial gas pipeline easements to  construct the Marysville Connector.

The mandamus action also includes the Union Soil and Water Conservation District due to its responsibility to monitor and report violations of the Ag Easement to ODA.… Continue reading

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What did we learn about food safety and food security from the pandemic?

By Gönül Kaletunc

First, the good news! No farm workers have died due to COVID-19 related outbreaks in Ohio according to data collected by the Food & Environment Reporting Network. COVID-19 cases and related deaths in agriculture mainly occurred in the meat processing industry.

As a direct impact of COVID-19 pandemic to human health in Ohio, 1.1 million people were infected with virus and 20,000 lives were lost (through May 24, 2021). COVID-19 is a respiratory disease transmitted by direct uptake of droplets or aerosols produced by a person infected with coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Coronavirus in droplets landing on surfaces may remain infectious and may be transmitted to humans who touch the surfaces and then their faces. However, it is not known whether the amount of contamination on surfaces is sufficient to make a person sick. Maintaining a good hygiene such as washing hands is important to prevent virus transmission as well as wearing a mask.… Continue reading

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Get your hot dogs!

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie & Chevrolet. They go together… in the good ol’ USA. This quote from an iconic 1974 ad showcased Americana in its finest. Nothing says down home American culture like a hot dog. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council states Americans purchased 9 billion hot dogs at retail stores. Throw in the 19.4 million hot dogs eaten at ballparks across the country and street vendors/food trucks throughout the cities estimating a total of over 20 billion hot dogs eaten in a year. That is about 70 hot dogs per person a year! Who eats the most hot dogs? LA beat out NYC, Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia consuming nearly 30 million pounds of hot dogs. Quickly calculating 8 per package…that is 240 million hot dogs!. 

  The baseball and hot dog tale starts in 1906. Back in the day “hot dachshund sausages” were being sold at a baseball game played at the NYC polo grounds.… Continue reading

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Growing season weather outlook

By Jim Noel, NOAA

Conditions are fairly reasonable from the weather and climate front. Nothing is ever ideal but temperatures and rainfall have been reasonable to this point. July will likely go down as a bit wetter than normal with temperatures slightly warmer than normal mostly due to overnight lows being higher. It does not appear we will see maximum temperatures above 95 much in July which is good news. Rainfall is normally 3-4 inches in July across the state and it looks like most places will be in the 2-5 inch range. Isolated higher totals are also possible. So even the locations with below normal rainfall should not be too dry. If anything we may battle the slightly wetter and more humid side of things. The remainder of the growing season trend looks to continue with slightly wetter and warmer than normal. You can see all the latest outlooks at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center located here:  https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/lead01/off01_prcp.gifContinue reading

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Ohio big bass lake ready for big boats

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

The water level of Knox Lake, one of Ohio premier largemouth bass fishing destinations, has been rising since mid-May after being lowered a year ago for dam construction — which is now complete. Austin Levering, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) wildlife officer for Knox County, said, “The dam itself is complete. They’re just putting the finishing touches on it right now.”

ODNR began rehabilitating Knox Lake’s 60-year-old dam last June to adhere to safety standards and lowered the water level of the lake approximately six feet during construction. ODNR scheduled construction to be completed by the end of last month. 

“It took about a year; they were right on schedule,” Levering said. “Patrons of the lake have been allowed to use small watercraft, such as kayaks, during construction, but large watercraft have not been permitted throughout the low-level period.”… Continue reading

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Governor DeWine announces H2Ohio farmer incentive program expansion

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda announced that H2Ohio’s farmer incentive program is expanding into 10 additional counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

The program, which offers funding to farmers who implement proven conservation practices that limit agricultural phosphorus runoff from fertilizer, is now open to farmers in Seneca, Huron, Erie, Wyandot, Richland, Shelby, Sandusky, Marion, Ottawa, and Crawford counties, bringing the total number of counties eligible for the program to 24. Phosphorus runoff is the primary factor behind algal blooms on Lake Erie.

“Our food growers and producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin want to be part of the solution, as evidenced by the 1,800 farmers who participated in the program’s first year,” said Governor DeWine. “By expanding H2Ohio’s farmer incentive program into more counties in the area, we’ll continue to slow phosphorus runoff, which will ultimately contribute to a reduction in Lake Erie algal blooms over the long term.”… Continue reading

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Hanging on a word: U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of refineries in renewable fuels case

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

The meaning of the word “extension” was at the heart of a dispute that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court over small refinery exemptions under the nation’s Renewable Fuel Program (RFP). The decision by the Supreme Court came as a bit of a surprise, as questions raised by the Justices during oral arguments on the case last Spring suggested that the Court would interpret “extension” differently than it did in its June 27 decision.

Congress established the RFP in 2005 to require domestic refineries to incorporate specified percentages of renewable fuels like ethanol into the fuels they produce. Recognizing that meeting RFP obligations could be more difficult and costly for small-scale refineries, Congress included an automatic two-year exemption from RFP obligations in the statute for small refineries producing less than 75,000 barrels per day. … Continue reading

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Labor concerns plaguing U.S. agriculture

Access to labor was a concern for Ohio’s food and agriculture sectors before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which brought more volatility to the food supply chain. Now, the challenges with labor have only gotten worse.

In April 2021, the federal government moved to bolster the available labor supply in the U.S. by increasing the number of available H-2B (non-agricultural) visas, in part to help with the challenges of labor agriculture and the nation’s food supply chain. In May, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security published a joint temporary final rule making available an additional 22,000 H-2B temporary non-agricultural guest worker visas for fiscal year 2021 to employers who are likely to suffer irreparable harm without these additional workers. Of the supplemental visas, 6,000 are reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

DHS first announced the planned supplemental increase of 22,000 visas for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program on April 20, 2021.… Continue reading

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Ohio legislature passes solar and wind project siting and approval bill

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

It’s been a long and winding road to the Governor’s desk for Senate Bill 52, the controversial bill on siting and approval of large-scale wind and solar facilities in Ohio. The bill generated opposition and concern from the outset, requiring a major overhaul early on. A substitute bill passed the Senate on June 2 after six hearings and hundreds of witnesses testifying for and against the bill. It took the House five hearings to pass a further revised version of the bill, and the Senate agreed to those revisions the same day. Now the bill awaits Governor DeWine’s action. If the Governor signs the bill, it would become effective in 90 days.

S.B. 52 generates conflicting opinions on property rights and renewable energy. It would grant counties and townships a voice in the siting and approval of large-scale wind and solar projects, allowing a community to go so far as to reject facility applications and prohibit facilities in identified restricted areas of the county.… Continue reading

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