Country Life

Is the future of Ohio farmland preservation at stake in Union County?

By Matt Reese

Arno Renner predicted the future for his farm and he did not like what he saw. He decided to take action to preserve his farmland near Marysville in Union County and in the clear path of potential development. To protect his farm for perpetuity, Renner donated the development rights to his 231.25 acres of land valued at over $3.5 million on Nov. 5, 2003. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) accepted the donation. At the time, the ODA Office of Farmland Preservation entered into an agreement with the Union Soil and Water Conservation District to monitor the easement on the land.

The Agricultural Easement Donation Program (AEDP) is one tool for landowners to protect their farm’s soils, natural resource features, and scenic open space. It provides landowners the opportunity to donate the easement rights on viable farmland to the ODA. In addition to the donation program, the State also has an easement purchase program using Clean Ohio Conservation Fund.… Continue reading

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Trade talks

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

International trade discussions often take place thousands of miles away from the soybean fields of Van Wert County. That was not the case recently when U.S. Congressman, Bob Latta, hosted USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Affairs, Ted McKinney, in Northwest Ohio. McKinney participated in a roundtable discussion with area farmers at the home of Ohio Soybean Council member Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger.

Congressman Bob Latta, Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger, and Under Secretary Ted McKinney

“Ted McKinney grew up on a family farm in Tipton, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue,” said Latta. “He was a state FFA Officer, and served as the Indiana Director of Agriculture under then Governor Mike Pence.”

The Under Secretary spent about an hour taking those in attendance for a trade “spin” around the world to discuss the current status of negotiations with key trade partners.

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Purple paint to warn trespassers?

By Ellen Essman, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

SB 290 seems to be moving in the Ohio Senate again after a lengthy stall, as it was recently on the agenda for a meeting of the Local Government, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee. 

If passed, SB 290 would allow landowners to use purple paint marks to warn intruders that they are trespassing.  The purple paint marks can be placed on trees or posts on the around the property.  Each paint mark would have to measure at least three feet, and be located between three and five feet from the base of the tree or post.  Furthermore, each paint mark must be “readily visible,” and the space between two marks cannot be more than 25 yards.  You can see the text, along with other information about the bill here. … Continue reading

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Fall agritourism operations: Safety and accessibility are key this season

By Dee Jepsen, Lisa Pfeifer, and Laura Akgerman

The fall agritourism season is in full swing — even during a pandemic. And while businesses of all kinds have met unprecedented challenges, there are recommended practices that will go a long way for agritourism operations to keep their doors open while remaining safe and accessible in this environment.

At first glance, agritourism may seem similar to fairs and festivals, but agritourism is quite different. Agritourism farms operate over a series of weeks, sometimes months. Many are open and operate pick-your-own activities or farm market/produce stands throughout the year. They are well staffed and have adopted effective tools to manage all types of customer situations, even engaging in emergency planning. Their livelihood depends on their ability to manage crowds and keep customers safe, be it a weather event or a national health crisis.

Staying safe during COVID-19

The state of Ohio requires all businesses, including farms open to the public, to follow safety protocols for preventing and managing COVID-19.… Continue reading

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Food security important during the pandemic

On Friday, the United Nation’s World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The program was recognized for its role in addressing a growing food security challenge worldwide, including a surge in the number of victims of hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related food supply chain disruptions.

According to Nobel Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

Last week, Smithfield sent a letter to local, state and federal leaders calling for prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to food and agriculture workers, along with the country’s healthcare workers and first responders.

“Food and agriculture workers are heroes. They have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, and they should be at the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine as well….This prioritization will ensure that our employees remain as healthy and safe as possible so that Americans continue to have food,” Smithfield wrote.… Continue reading

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Changes to Ohio drainage law considered in Senate


By Ellen Essman, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

The Ohio Senate’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee continues to hold hearings on HB 340, a bill that would revise drainage laws.  The bill was passed in the house on June 9, 2020.  The 157 page bill would amend the current drainage law by making changes to the process for proposing, approving, and implementing new drainage improvements, whether the petition is filed with the board of the Soil and Water Conservation District, the board of county commissioners, or with multiple counties to construct a joint county drainage improvement.  The bill would further apply the single county maintenance procedures and procedures for calculating assessments for maintenance to multi-county ditches and soil and water conservation districts.  You can find the current language of the bill, along with a helpful analysis of the bill, here. … Continue reading

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COVID relief remains murky

COVID relief negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remain ongoing, but an agreement remains uncertain. On Thursday, Pelosi objected to proceeding with a standalone measure to help airlines unless the administration also agreed to a broader aid package.

“I have been very open to having a single standalone bill for the airlines or part of a bigger bill, but there is no standalone bill without a bigger bill,” she said.

The Democrat-controlled House already passed a $2.2 trillion aid package, but its chances in the Senate remain uncertain and Mnuchin previously countered with a $1.6 trillion proposal. However, midday on Friday, the White House indicated it had a new $1.8 trillion proposal. Pelosi and Mnuchin were expected to discuss the proposal later in the day.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, President Trump injected further uncertainty into the negotiations when he abruptly postponed talks until after the November election, but then reversed course on Thursday, noting negotiations have continued.… Continue reading

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Ohio farm custom rates for 2020 released

By Barry Ward, Leader, Production Business Management, OSU Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources, John Barker, Extension Educator Agriculture/Amos Program, Ohio State University Extension Knox County and Eric Richer, Extension Educator Agriculture & Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension Fulton County

Farming is a complex business and many Ohio farmers utilize outside assistance for specific farm-related work. This option is appealing for tasks requiring specialized equipment or technical expertise. Often, having someone else with specialized tools perform a task is more cost effective and saves time. Farm work completed by others is often referred to as “custom farm work” or more simply, “custom work”. A “custom rate” is the amount agreed upon by both parties to be paid by the custom work customer to the custom work provider.

Ohio Farm Custom Rates

This publication reports custom rates based on a statewide survey of 377 farmers, custom operators, farm managers, and landowners conducted in 2020.… Continue reading

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Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation golf outing scores $70,000 for scholarships

The 2020 Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Golf Invitational, sponsored by Nationwide, raised over $70,000 for foundation scholarships, grants and programs that enhance agricultural communities.

“The success of this event exemplifies our agriculture community’s commitment to providing resources that enable our future young professionals to grow and develop their knowledge and leadership skills,” said Doug Miller, Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation board member and co-chair of the event. “Participation by so many, including our sponsors, during the challenging times we find ourselves in, speaks volumes about our industry and the partnerships within it.”

With current CDC and state guidelines in place, foursome teams split between two flights competed against each other Sept. 28 at Pinnacle Golf Club in Grove City for low score and closest to average and individually for closest to the pin, longest drive and longest putt.

Dick Isler was the invitational honoree. A lifelong supporter of the agricultural community, Isler became the executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council in 1973.… Continue reading

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Ohio Court of Appeals confirms decision not to allow weddings on hay farm as “agritourism”

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

When does the business of hosting weddings on a farm qualify as “agritourism” under Ohio law? That was the question faced by Ohio’s Second District Court of Appeals in a legal battle between Caesarscreek Township and the owners of a farm property in Greene County. The answer to the question is important because local zoning can’t prohibit the hosting of weddings and similar events if they fall under Ohio’s definition of “agritourism.” Those that don’t qualify as “agritourism” are subject to local zoning prohibitions and regulations. According to the court’s recent decision, the determination depends largely upon the facts of the situation, but merely taking place on an agricultural property does not automatically qualify a wedding or event as “agritourism.”

The case regards the Lusardis, who own a 13.5-acre property in Caesarscreek Township containing a pole barn and outbuilding, a one-acre pond, several acres of woods, and an 8-acre hayfield on which the Lusardis had produced hay for several years.… Continue reading

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A common-sense approach to regulations

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

All too often the words “common sense” and “environmental regulations” have not been used in the same phrase when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Andrew Wheeler, Administrator for the U.S. EPA wants to change that perception. A native of Fairfield, Ohio, Administrator Wheeler recently visited Clardale Farms just outside of Canal Fulton. He was hosted by Frank Burkett and his family. Burkett is the current president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. While there, Administrator Wheeler toured the farm and shared comments regarding the EPA and a number of issues pertinent to agriculture.

“I hope you have seen in this administration, a change in the way that the EPA is working with the agriculture community,” Wheeler said. “I want to work cooperatively with farmers. Farmers are the first environmentalists and conservationists.… Continue reading

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Positivity during the pandemic

By Matt Niswander, a Farm Bureau member in Tennessee and member of American Farm Bureau Federation’s Grassroots Outreach Team

I’ve been in the medical field for 15 years, and in my medical training I was taught that you should sing happy birthday twice while washing your hands to get off all the germs — high-level stuff that I learned at a very prestigious school. Well, now that we can’t get together for birthday parties then I suppose your next best choice is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, because some days it feels like we are just trying to keep going. Even here in rural America, COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in our homes, our communities and our country.

In the past, I might have taken care of one or two people a day for mental health issues, but now there are days that 90% of my patients want to discuss anxiety associated with the pandemic.… Continue reading

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Enjoy the autumn outdoors, but watch for ticks

With the great outdoors being a popular destination during the pandemic, it’s important to watch out for another potential threat you might not easily see: ticks. 

Be on the lookout for them through late fall. The warmest months are the most common times these tiny, blood-sucking bugs pass on diseases.

“I always tell people the outdoors is healthy for you. You need to be outdoors,” said Risa 

Pesapane, an assistant professor with the colleges of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University. 

Pesapane researches ticks in Ohio. She actually thrives on going through tick-infested areas and collecting ticks, even off of deer shot by hunters. In January, Pesapane launched a study tracking the frequency of ticks on Ohio deer, and another on stray dogs. 

Pesapane discussed tips on how to avoid tick bites as well as the risks associated with each of the four main ticks found in Ohio.… Continue reading

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Auctions may look different, but still going strong in 2020

By Matt Reese

The global pandemic hit home for auctioneer Bart Sheridan when Governor Mike DeWine announced plans to ban mass gatherings in Ohio.

“Our first all online auction was sort of an emergency. We do the annual FFA alumni association auction here in Greene County to replenish their scholarship funds. On March 13 we were setting up. We had 82 consigners that had brought equipment into the Greene County Fairgrounds and Gov. DeWine said there could be no more crowds. On the fly, we converted it to an online auction and it went tremendously well. We have been doing online as the situation warrants for the past 12 or 15 years, but we went all online at that time,” said Sheridan, with Sheridan & Associates based in Cedarville. “When COVID raised its head we said, ‘We’d better get moving on this.’ And, to be honest, a lot of our clients prefer online.… Continue reading

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USDA awards $495,000 to support wetland mitigation banking in Ohio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will award $495,000 for a new wetland mitigation banking project in Ohio through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program. This program helps conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs.

“Ohio’s USDA wetland mitigation bank will provide agriculture producers an affordable mitigation option to remain in compliance for USDA Farm Bill programs while establishing banks that support wetland functions and values,” said Terry Cosby, Ohio NRCS State Conservationist. “Healthy wetlands help filter our water, sequester carbon, curb soil loss, and provide habitat for wildlife.” 

The environmental consulting firm EnviroScience, Inc. headquartered in Stow, Ohio is collaborating with the Hondros Family of Companies to restore an approximately 100-acre property ideally suited to wetland restoration located within the Upper Scioto River watershed. Approximately 35 acres of the restored property will be used in the USDA Wetland Mitigation Banking Program.… Continue reading

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House passes COVID relief bill

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion COVID-relief bill with numerous provisions sought by the National Pork Producers Council including:

1) Compensation for hog farmers who are forced to euthanize or donate market-ready animals that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions;

2) $300 million to support animal health surveillance and laboratory capacity;

3) Amendment of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding; and

4) $350 million to address the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program user fees funding shortfall that pay for U.S. agriculture inspectors at our borders and ports.

NPPC appreciates inclusion of these provisions, designed to help hog farmers weather this crisis. In particular, NPPC is grateful to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for his continued efforts to ensure hog farmers receive much-needed assistance during this unprecedented crisis. While the bill has passed the House, its chances in the Senate remain uncertain.… Continue reading

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Farm Office Live scheduled for Oct. 7, 2020

David Marrison, Ohio State University Extension

Join the OSU Extension Farm Office team for discussions on the latest agricultural law and farm management news. The next session will be held on October 7, 2020 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

Farm Office Live will be back for a review of the latest on round two of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), 2020 crop enterprise budgets, new custom rates and Western Ohio Cropland Values and Cash Rents survey summary, Ohio’s COVID-19 immunity legislation, and other current issues in farm management.

Join our experts for quick presentations and Q & A. Go to to register or view past webinars and PowerPoint slides.… Continue reading

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Virtual Farm Science Review still adding content

Neither too hot nor rainy, this year’s virtual Farm Science Review allowed viewers to nestle into a recliner or tractor seat to learn about canning soups, butchering meat on the farm, and operating new technology to better manage their crops.

This was the 58th annual Farm Science Review, but the first one held solely online because of health concerns.

Overall, turnout was a success, FSR manager Nick Zachrich said. The FSR website recorded 40,000 visits, initial statistics show. That figure does not include visitors who were sharing their screens on their devices, Zachrich said.

“I do know of teachers who attended sessions and played them live to their class, so we know that one device could realistically have the potential of 20 views,” he said.

On social media, more than 33,000 users engaged with the FSR channels, and the show’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts have reached more than 300,000 users in the month of September, Zachrich said.… Continue reading

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USDA designates three Ohio counties as primary natural disaster areas

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated three Ohio counties as primary natural disaster areas. Producers who suffered losses due to recent natural disasters may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans.

This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

Polar vortex and extreme cold

Producers in Fairfield and Licking counties who suffered losses due to a polar vortex and extreme cold that occurred May 7 through May 13, 2020, may be eligible for emergency loans. Producers in the contiguous Ohio counties of Coshocton, Delaware, Franklin, Hocking, Knox, Muskingum, Perry and Pickaway are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

Excessive moisture and rainfall

Producers in Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties who suffered losses due to excessive moisture and rainfall that occurred during March 1 through May 22, 2020, may be eligible for emergency loans.… Continue reading

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Harvest weather outlook

By Aaron Wilson, Ohio State University Extension

Ohio’s weather has been dominated by high pressure of late, bringing with it a pattern of warm, sunny days and cool nights for the last couple of weeks. During this time, little to no rain has fallen across the state. As daylight hours are growing shorter, evaporation is not as strong as it is during the summer. Therefore, drought conditions are not rapidly expanding across Ohio. However, persistent dryness is evident across areas of northwest, southwest, and far northeast Ohio, where soils remain dry. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor indicates about 18% of Ohio is still experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. For more information on recent climate conditions and impacts, check out the latest Hydro-Climate Assessment from the State Climate Office of Ohio.

The first in a series of cold fronts is crossed Ohio on Monday evening, with light to moderate rain showers.… Continue reading

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