Country Life

Today the last day for USDA’s Market Facilitation Program signup

Agricultural producers have until Feb. 14, 2019, to sign up for USDA’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP), launched last year to help producers suffering from damages due to unjustified trade retaliation. Producers can apply without proof of yield but must certify 2018 production by May 1, 2019. Since its launch in September 2018, more than 864,000 producers have applied, supporting those hit hard with nearly $8 billion in estimated payments.

Producers of corn, cotton, dairy, hogs, shelled almonds, sorghum, soybeans, fresh sweet cherries and wheat should apply at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.

“Farmers are very resilient, and these payments are helping agricultural producers meet some of the costs of disrupted markets in 2018,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “We view it as a short-term solution to help America’s farmers, and we encourage impacted producers to apply for this program by the February 14 deadline.”… Continue reading

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A deeper look at the Lake Erie Bill of Rights

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

Lake Erie once again made headlines when the Ohio Supreme Court recently decided that a “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” (LEBOR) initiative could be placed on the Toledo ballot on February 26, 2019. The decision raised alarm in Ohio’s agricultural community and fears that, if passed, the measure will result in litigation for farmers in the Lake Erie watershed.

The OSU Extension Agricultural and Resource Law Program took a close look at LEBOR. Specifically, we wanted to know:

What does Toledo’s Lake Erie Bill of Rights petition mean?
What does the petition language say?
What happened in the legal challenges to keep the petition off the ballot?
Have similar efforts been successful, and if not, why not?
Who has rights in Lake Erie?
What rights do business entities have?
We examine all of these questions, plus a number of frequently asked questions, in a new format called “In the Weeds.”… Continue reading

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Lake Erie Bill of Rights issue to go to Toledo voters

By Ellen Essman, Sr. Research Associate, Ohio State University Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The Ohio Supreme Court recently decided that a “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” initiative could be placed before Toledo residents in a special election Feb. 26, 2019. The Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) is a proposed amendment to the Toledo City Charter. Josh Abernathy, an opponent to the initiative, brought the lawsuit, seeking a “writ of prohibition”— meaning he wanted the Ohio Supreme Court to determine that the Lucas County Board of Elections must remove LEBOR from the special election ballot.

The Supreme Court began its analysis in the case by explaining that in order to obtain a writ of prohibition in an election case, the party bringing suit must prove all of the following:

  • The board of elections exercised quasi-judicial power,
  • The exercise of that power was unlawful, and
  • The party bringing suit has no adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
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Hemp, Lake Erie water quality among several OFU policy priorities for 2019

The Ohio Farmers Union added hemp cultivation and specific recommendations for Lake Erie water quality woes in its 2019 statement of public policy proposals.

Adopted at its recent state convention in Lima, OFU’s “Special Orders of Business” outline the organization’s legislative and executive branch priorities on both the state and national level for the year.

Two topics new on OFU’s slate this year are industrial hemp production in Ohio and a call for state political leaders to lessen the tax burden on Ohio’s woodlands.

“While we are grateful for the recent changes to the CAUV formula, there still exists issues with some outlandish tax assessments on woodlands around the state. Woodlands provide immense environmental benefits and we’ll be talking to state leaders this year about tweaks to their valuation for tax purposes,” said Joe Logan, OFU president. “With harmful algal blooms and other water quality issues, we need to make sure we don’t negatively incentivize farmers and rural landowners regarding conservation.”… Continue reading

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Common sense about an uncommon frog

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

With all of the talk of the political divide in this country, it is nice to know there is still some common ground. On Nov. 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a case about the dusky gopher frog, Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2018). The common ground turned out to be 1,544 acres of private land in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Let me explain.

The dusky gopher frog, Rana Sevosa, has dark coloring “dusky” and lives underground “gopher.” Adults are usually 3 inches long with a large head, plump body and short legs (sounds like half of the lawyers roaming the halls of the courthouse). Warts dot its back, and dark spots cover its entire body. The dusky gopher frog is noted for covering its eyes with its front legs when it feels threatened, peeking out periodically until danger passes.… Continue reading

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NFU applauds Green New Deal Congressional action on climate change

U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York today released a framework for what they call a “Green New Deal.” The resolution is meant to kickstart broad discussions on how the U.S. will both mitigate and adapt to climate change, which is current projected to drastically alter the U.S. economic and social stability.

“Farmers Union members understand the need for action on climate change, and they will be active in ensuring farmers have the tools and incentives they need to both adapt to and help mitigate climate change,” said Rob Larew, National Farmers Union (NFU) Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications. “American family farmers are primary stakeholders in the battle against climate change, as they’ve been withstanding increasingly devastating natural disasters, including floods, drought, wildfires and hurricanes. The impacts on not only their individual bottom lines, but also on their communities, have already been significant, and they will be exacerbated by more severe disasters.… Continue reading

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Anti-dumping investigation into Mexican tomatoes

The Commerce Department has indicated the United States will withdraw from a previous agreement with Mexico and resume an anti-dumping investigation into imports of Mexican fresh tomatoes. The measure is supported by the American Farm Bureau.

“The renewed anti-dumping investigation against Mexican fresh tomato imports is a necessary action. Despite a previous accord that banned artificially low prices, Mexican producers have found ways to exploit the agreement and increase their market share,” said  Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Farm Bureau believes in free and fair trade. North American agricultural trade has been an enormous boon for the United States, Mexico and Canada, but the United States must take action when that trade ceases to be fair.”… Continue reading

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“Deal or No Deal” appearance yields big win and lasting memories for an Ohio family

By Matt Reese

In March of 2018, the Anderson family got more bad news. Randy Anderson, who had been fighting cancer for several years, found out it had spread. His daughter, Casey Heath, wanted to do something to help her father focus on something other than his pain and health issues. At the same time, Casey and her husband were contemplating selling their home in Sandusky so she could move closer to Bluffton to work at Anderson Tractor Supply, the family’s business in northwest Ohio.

The situation prompted Casey to do an unusual Google search to find out about the television game show “Deal or No Deal.”

“Dad was going through a lot of health issues and he is a tremendously big fan of the show. We had gotten some bad news about him and I thought, ‘I’m just going to Google this to see if we can get on the show.’… Continue reading

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Weather outlook into spring


By Jim Noel, NOAA

The weather and climate pattern has been on a real roller coaster ride and it is expected to continue right into spring.

Currently, the climate models are struggling to deal with the ocean conditions in the Pacific Ocean. Most models have been forecasting an El Nino this winter into spring and it just has not happened as of this time. In addition, without an El Nino or La Nina going on, this creates greater uncertainty in our weather and climate. It appears this may at least last into early spring.

February is shaping up to be wet with significant temperatures swings. Rainfall is forecast to range from about 2 inches in far northern Ohio to possibly 6 in southern Ohio over the next two weeks. Combine the rain with recent snowmelt and icemelt and conditions will be very wet and muddy.

Many climate models are suggesting a warmer and drier than normal spring but based on recent trends, it appears to be shaping up to be normal or wetter than normal into April but uncertainty is high.… Continue reading

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USDA launches high-speed broadband e-Connectivity resource guide

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a new toolkit to help support the deployment of high-speed broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities.

“High-speed broadband e-Connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for schoolchildren, doing homework in rural communities,” Hazlett said. “This user-friendly tool will help rural customers find the many resources USDA has available to support the expansion and use of e-Connectivity in rural America.”

The e-Connectivity Toolkit (PDF, 4.3 MB) features 27 USDA programs that support broadband deployment. The easy-to-use resource is a simple guide that allows customers to identify their type of e-Connectivity project and locate resources the federal government offers for planning, equipment, construction, research and other e-Connectivity projects. Resources such as grants, loans and technical assistance are available from multiple Mission Areas at USDA, including Rural Development, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Forest Service.… Continue reading

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Trump touches on ag issues in the State of the Union

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress and subsequently the nation this week in an hour and 21-minute State of the Union address. It was clear that border security was at the forefront of the President’s agenda, as he mentioned the quickly approaching deadline for government funding which, if an agreement isn’t reached, will end in a government shutdown.

Agriculture was mentioned when President Trump boasted his administration’s elimination of the estate or death tax, mentioning specifically family farms and U.S. ranchers. That comment received a roar of applause from those in attendance. The farm bill got a nod from the Commander in Chief in the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation. Trade was also a talking point, saying that the United States has placed tariffs on $350 billion of goods imported from China. President Trump also said that the negotiations will have to include a structural change to the deal that protects American jobs and ends the trade deficit, but there was no direct mention of how that will impact agriculture.… Continue reading

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Ohio hunters harvest more than 172,000 deer during 2018-2019 season

Hunters checked 172,040 white-tailed deer throughout Ohio’s 2018-2019 deer season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Last year, 186,247 deer were checked during the 2017-2018 season.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio’s deer populations. The goal of Ohio’s Deer Management Program is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists.

Deer hunting regulations over the past four seasons have been designed to allow for moderate herd growth throughout most of the state. Herd growth is achieved by reducing harvest and protecting female deer.

Hunting Popularity

Ohio ranks fifth nationally in resident hunters and 11th in the number of jobs associated with hunting-related industries. Hunting has a more than $853 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation publication.… Continue reading

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Lake Erie Bill of Rights up for a vote on Feb. 26

By Matt Reese and Joel Penhorwood

The folks in Toledo are at it again and this time they have secured a place on the ballot on Feb. 26 for the creation of a Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). There was a failed attempt to get this on the 2018 November ballot in Toledo. The effort to get LEBOR on the ballot is being supported by out-of-state interests but it could have a very real in-state impact for a wide range of businesses.

LEBOR opens up the possibility of thousands of lawsuits against any entity that could be doing harm to Lake Erie. This includes agricultural operations.

“This is a proposed amendment to the Toledo City Charter that would essentially seek to give the Lake standing in court. It would allow citizens of Toledo the ability to bring cases on behalf of the Lake. It says the Lake should be free of pollution and things that could harm the Lake.… Continue reading

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AFBF Foundation’s Feeding Minds Press publishes first book

Feeding Minds Press announces the publication of its first book, “Right This Very Minute: A Table-to-Farm Book About Food and Farming” by award-winning author Lisl H. Detlefsen. The book, stunningly illustrated by Renée Kurilla, explains to children how every minute of every day, someone, somewhere, is working to bring food to their table.

“Right This Very Minute” is geared toward children in kindergarten through third grade. The 32-page picture book follows children through an entire day of meals and snacks, with each one emphasizing how critical farmers and agriculture are to society.

“We’re pleased to launch Feeding Minds Press with the publication of ‘Right This Very Minute,’” said Christy Lilja, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. “This book is the first of many titles from Feeding Minds Press that will bring modern agriculture to life for young readers.”

Hardcover copies of “Right This Very Minute” may be ordered online at… Continue reading

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Agricultural Trade Promotion Program funding

On Jan. 31, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced details of a key component of the Trump administration’s trade mitigation package designed to address the effects of retaliatory measures impacting exports of U.S. agricultural products. The Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) provides additional funding to help U.S. exporters develop new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is one of 57 organizations that will receive ATP funding through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

“USMEF appreciates the Trump administration’s recognition of the extremely competitive environment U.S. agricultural products face in the global marketplace, and how changes in trading partners’ tariff rates can put these products at a significant disadvantage,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “As authorized by FAS, this funding will help USMEF and other organizations defend existing market share and develop new destinations for U.S.… Continue reading

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Can “ag-gag” prevent secretly filming at livestock facilities?

By Ellen Essman, Sr. Research Associate, Ohio State University Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Nationwide, it seems as though “ag-gag” laws are being challenged and overturned left and right. “Ag-gag” is the term for laws that prevent undercover journalists, investigators, animal rights advocates, and other whistleblowers from secretly filming or recording at livestock facilities. “Ag-gag” also describes laws which make it illegal for undercover persons to use deception to obtain employment at livestock facilities. Many times, the laws were actually passed in response to under-cover investigations which illuminated conditions for animals raised at large industrial farms. Some of the videos and reports produced were questionable in nature — they either set-up the employees and the farms, or they were released without a broader context of farm operations. The laws were meant to protect the livestock industry from reporting that might be critical of their operations — obtained through deception and without context, or otherwise.… Continue reading

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American Farm Bureau comments on FDA dairy food labels

Consumers associate dairy foods with specific positive nutritional characteristics, and those qualities do not necessarily carry over to nut- or plant-based products labeled as “milk,” “yogurt” or “cheese,” the American Farm Bureau Federation told federal regulators.

In formal comments to the Food and Drug Administration, AFBF said the mislabeling of nut- and plant-based beverages as “milk” confuses consumers from a nutritional equivalency standpoint. The FDA expects to issue a rule on the use of the names of dairy foods in the labeling of plant-based products later this year.

AFBF told regulators that consumers know the nutritional value of products labeled “milk,” and likely infer that any product bearing this term possesses the same, or at least an equivalent, nutritional profile. However, this is not the case. For example, one serving of traditional milk contains 8 grams of protein while many plant- and nut-based beverages have a lower protein content.

A recent survey conducted by IPSOS and commissioned by Dairy Management Inc.… Continue reading

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OABA Industry Conference Highlights

The Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) Industry Conference always features a diverse and interesting program and this year was certainly no exception. Thursday’s topics included an overview of the state’s livestock industries, a look at global grain markets, and regulations, just to name a few. The Friday program for the OABA event included consumer relation efforts, equipment hazards and safety, technology updates, herbicide challenges, and edge of field management.

One highlight was the recognition of this year’s OABA Industry Excellence Award winners: Jason Nowakowski, Centerra Co-op: Excellence in Safety & Stewardship; Kevin Brinkman, United Equity Inc.: Excellence in Customer Service; and Kevin Fall, Rosen’s Inc.: Achievement as an Emerging

Leader. In addition Chris Henney with OABA provided an update on the state of the agribusiness industry, future challenges and OABA’s new strategic plan. Keynote Speaker Tom Balzer of the Ohio Trucking Association kept attendees laughing when he shared leadership lessons found in YouTube videos.… Continue reading

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What road salt means for plant health

Salty cars and salty roads are a hallmark of this time of year. With so much NaCl (salt) being spread, the question arises of what effect it has on nearby plants.

Pamela Bennett is an Ohio State horticulture educator and state master gardener volunteer program director. She is often asked what will happen to plants come spring as the result of salt. She said salt buildup in soil and salt spray on plants themselves are chief concerns.

“There are two different ways plants can be damaged. Number one is the salt spray. That salt spray if it’s on the foliage long enough if it’s on the bud, it could cause the buds to dry out and it could cause bud and stem damage,” she said. “It’s more common to see this on evergreen trees such as white pines or on boxwoods which are evergreen shrubs, and those plants that are susceptible to salt injury.… Continue reading

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Ongoing HABRI research providing insights into water quality challenges

With three years of work under its belt, the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) has yielded useful results for Ohio residents. HABRI researchers are working directly with water treatment plant operators to provide practical guidance about producing safe drinking water for cities and towns dealing with algal toxins. Other scientists are examining lesser-known potential sources of algal toxin exposure and its human health impacts. And the initiative has driven ongoing collaborations between universities and agencies, positioning Ohio to better prevent and manage future crises.

“HABRI also continues to fund research projects that address harmful algal blooms and their impacts on the state,” said Kristen Fussell, assistant director for Ohio Sea Grant, which co-manages the initiative.

In early 2018, $4 million was awarded to 21 research teams studying topics that range from the creation of new therapies for toxin-induced liver problems to the impacts of toxic cyanobacteria on young Lake Erie sport fish.… Continue reading

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