Country Life

Ohio State ATI adds new certificate program

Starting autumn semester 2024, Ohio State ATI in Wooster will offer a new 9-month certificate program in feed mill operations to meet a growing demand in animal agriculture. It is the only program of its kind in Ohio. 

According to The American Feed Industry Association, there are more than 5,800 animal food manufacturing facilities in the United States which provide more than 944,000 jobs. 

Students enrolled in the certificate program will take classes in the feeding and nutrition of horses, swine, small ruminants, and dairy and beef cattle. They will also study feed mill operations, quality assurance, and feed technology, formulation, and safety. The state-of-the-art feed mill located on the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Wooster campus will provide ample opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience. 

Students enrolled in associate degree programs in animal sciences or agronomy may find the feed mill operation certificate an attractive add-on to enhance their position in the job market after graduation.… Continue reading

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USDA selects Ohio State to support new effort in urban agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently selected The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) to support the creation of a new USDA Urban Service Center designed to further urban agriculture and innovative production in Ohio. 

The USDA is opening 17 new Urban Service Centers in 15 states nationwide, including in Ohio. The Cleveland USDA Urban Service Center is a first for Ohio and is supported by Ohio State University Extension. The five-year collaborative partnership will later expand to metropolitan sites across northeast, central, northwest, southwest, and urban Appalachian areas in Ohio.

FSA awarded cooperative agreements to organizations located in the 17 cities where USDA is opening an USDA Urban Service Center or will have an urban county committee, said John Patterson, state executive director for the USDA FSA in Ohio.  

“Until now, there has been no vehicle for urban growers to easily access USDA priorities and funding,” Patterson said. “Whether a farm is in a rural area or the middle of a city, the USDA FSA is committed to working with farms of all sizes and in all locations.… Continue reading

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Artificial intelligence or illusion?

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Recently I attended an artificial intelligence (AI) conference at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. It was an eye-opener. And it gave this old fogey a bit of a headache as I pondered the implications on my drive back to Ohio.

We’re witnessing incredible advances in using computers to manage huge amounts of data for analysis, interpretation and development of new strategies. Some warn that these advances could have downsides. For instance, Goldman Sachs predicts that 300 million jobs worldwide will be lost because of AI. The American press just loves writing about such dire forebodings.

Yet, financial experts like Porter Stansberry, a futurist and incredible stocks picker, suggest that these reports of doom are fantasy. The advances are in machine learning, neural networks and large language models (LLM), an AI algorithm that uses massive data sets to find solutions and create new content.

None of these advances, though, are truly AI.… Continue reading

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A look at the Fair Labor Standards Act

By Leisa Boley-Hellwarth     

Agriculture enjoys special treatment in some federal and state laws. One specific perk is the exemption from paying overtime to agricultural workers according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Agriculture is exempt from being required to pay overtime. Some employers, however, may opt to pay overtime in order to stay competitive and keep employees, but that is optional. Let’s look at a recent case that discusses this exemption.

In the early 2000s, Jose Ageo Luna Vanegas, a Mexican citizen, entered the U.S. legally on an H-2B visa (used by various industries for labor shortages). The hours were long, and the construction work was hard, but Vanegas received overtime pay.

In 2017, Vanegas, took a position with the same company, Signet Builders, but this time on an H-2A guest worker visa that authorizes foreign workers to perform “agricultural” work in the U.S. on a temporary basis, if the proposed employer can show that there are too few domestic workers willing and able to do the work and that the use of the guest workers will not undercut local workers wages and working conditions.… Continue reading

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Engaging students with GrowNextGen

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

The Punnett square has long been an excellent tool for teaching students about genetics to comply with Ohio’s Learning Standards set by the Ohio Department of Education. Punnett squares have also long been an excellent tool for encouraging back-of-the-classroom mid-afternoon naps. 

An increasing number of teachers are finding GrowNextGen programs to also be very helpful tools for helping students meet the expected academic standards with less nap facilitation. Amanda Northstine is a science teacher and Springboro Junior High in Warren County. She has seen a great response from her students after incorporating GrowNextGen curriculum into her classroom, including Chickenology.

“It’s important to be able to tie to the standards. We have such a limited amount of time and such a large number of standards to teach. We want to teach students in a very engaging way and using this Chickenology class covers all of the life science standards.… Continue reading

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Lorain County Jr. Fair perseveres in Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer

Farm Credit Mid-America’s ‘Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer’ contest saw great competition for the good cause of raising food for local communities in 2023. The results are in and for the second year in a row, the Lorain County Jr. Fairboard has again seized the winning place across Ohio with a total of nearly 24,000 pounds of food donated. In this video, Ohio Ag Net hears from Evan Han of Farm Credit Mid-America alongside Lorain County Fair’s Holden Harker and Nolan Norman about how they persevered through a year of flood conditions to continue giving back to their community.… Continue reading

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EQIP opportunities expedited

Ohio producers interested in the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Inflation Reduction Act — Environmental Quality Incentives Program — (IRA-EQIP) funding can take advantage of the ACT NOW process, which immediately approves and obligates applications when the application meets or exceeds a state-determined minimum ranking score. Applicants will experience a targeted, rapid streamlined application and contract approval process.

“This process allows us to fund promising projects immediately, rather than waiting for all applications to come in for the fiscal year,” said John Wilson, Ohio State Conservationist. “I urge producers and landowners to take advantage of this flexibility.”

EQIP and IRA-EQIP provide financial and technical resources to producers and landowners to improve their operations, commodity production and environmental benefits. 

Financial assistance is now available through the following categories.


Conservation opportunities exist in cropland, forestry, pasture operations, seasonal high tunnels, socially disadvantaged producers, conservation activity plans, on-farm energy, and organic/those transitioning to organic. Producers… Continue reading

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Ag lessons from the earth to the sky

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

Jamie Brown, a 6th-grade science teacher at Miami East Junior High, was named the GrowNextGen Teacher Leader of the Year for her work to connect the science of agriculture to Ohio classrooms by making science more relatable through the real-world use of biology, chemistry, and environmental science.   

“I have been involved with GrowNextGen since 2018. I had a friend that worked for Pioneer and she thought I would be interested in it. I’m the one friend out of my friend group that is not involved in agriculture — I’m the one teacher. My husband works in agriculture too, so GrowNextGen helped me better understand something I’ve always been passionate about. Since then, I’ve kind of just been hooked,” Brown said. “The program has helped me get students to understand that soil is a natural resource that we need to take care of. Without it, we can’t feed a growing population.… Continue reading

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Enrollment open for ARC and PLC programs for the 2024 Crop Year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that agricultural producers can now enroll in the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2024 crop year. Producers can enroll and make election changes for the 2024 crop year starting Dec. 18, 2023. The deadline to complete enrollment and any election change is March 15, 2024.  

On Nov. 16, 2023, President Biden signed into law H.R. 6363, the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024 (Pub. L. 118-22), which extended the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-334), more commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, through September 30, 2024. This extension allows authorized programs, including ARC and PLC, to continue operating.

“Having the Farm Bill extension in place means business as usual for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage program implementation for the 2024 crop year— nothing has changed from previous years,” said Zach Ducheneaux, FSA Administrator. … Continue reading

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Fueling the Cure surpasses $2 million

Fueling the Cure fund-raising reached over $2 million, 14 years after its inception. This milestone was celebrated at this year’s annual check presentation held at The James Cancer Hospital in Columbus in December. Funds raised over the past year to tip $2 million were $226,323.

Fueling the Cure was established in September 2009 as a joint philanthropy effort supported by Ohio agriculture and energy cooperatives. Current partners are Heritage Cooperative, Sunrise Cooperative, Centerra Co-op, and Premiere Energy. Each cooperative donates $1 per delivery of bulk propane to benefit the “Cooperatives for the Cure of Cancer” endowment fund.

Money pooled from the endowment fund supports cancer research through The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Funding specifically supports food-based prevention efforts, as well as post-recovery therapy and survivorship support.

The $2 million funding milestone has been a long-anticipated landmark for Ray Etgen, Propane Manager at 1st Choice Energy Services, a division of Heritage Cooperative.… Continue reading

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Neighbors helping neighbors

By Kim Baldwin, farmer and Farm Bureau board member in Kansas

It wasn’t that long ago that fall harvest was in full swing on our central Kansas farm. The only corn remaining in the middle of one of the recently harvested fields was our popcorn crop.

We baby our popcorn like no other crop on our farm. It is strategically planted in areas near windbreaks that will hopefully help protect the plant from the brutal winds we sometimes experience. It’s always planted on irrigated acres to ensure it gets the water it needs during the growing season. It also receives the most verbal affirmations and words of encouragement from me during the growing season compared to any of our other crops. And it’s the crop that generally tests my patience and my nerves the most as harvest time is determined by a very narrow range of moisture present within the grain.… Continue reading

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Ag literacy certification program rolls out

Ohio Farm Bureau has announced a one-day certification program designed to empower members with the necessary skills and resources to effectively present in the classroom.

Mary Klopfenstein is Ohio Farm Bureau’s ExploreAg and ag literacy program specialist who will be overseeing the new Ag Literacy Volunteer Certification program. 

“We’re really looking to equip our volunteers to effectively engage with youth about ag literacy topics,” Klopfenstein said. “This is specifically just for our Ohio Farm Bureau members. It’s going to be a free training opportunity where they’ll walk away with the skills and the knowledge that they need. Each of our county Farm Bureaus will actually have a resource kit that those volunteers can use to start reaching out in their community to young folks about ag literacy.”

Attendees can expect specialized training on curriculum developed by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for agriculture and the national Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, including insights from subject matter experts.… Continue reading

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Smoothing out CAUV variability

By Matt Reese

With 41 counties undergoing their valuation updates in 2023, many in agriculture are bracing for higher property tax bills in 2024. The dramatic ups and downs — particularly the ups — of taxes with Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) have been a source of concern for Ohio agriculture over the last 25 years.

“Ohio’s average per acre CAUV value varies substantially more than either Ohio’s average per acre cash rent or cropland value,” said Carl Zulauf, professor emeritus from Ohio State University. “Year-to-year change has varied from -24% to +84% for CAUV versus -7% to +12% for cropland value and 0% to +14% for cash rent.”  

Zulauf said the open market naturally smooths out volatility.

“Markets do not expect either low or high income to continue over the life of a long-lived asset, such as land. Evidence suggests an acre of cropland changes ownership once every 25 to 30 years,” Zulauf said.… Continue reading

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CAUV update as 2024 draws near

By Matt Reese

With nearly half of the state’s counties being reappraised this year for new tax bills in January, the tax savings, and limits, of the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) program are top of mind for Ohio agriculture as 2024 looms. 

“In the time period where 41 counties are going to be undergoing their valuation updates, a lot of people are going to see a difference in their property value, so we’ve been getting of questions lately about what that might mean for them. Home values will also be seeing an increase as well,” said Leah Hetrick, Ohio Farm Bureau Director of Legal Education and Member Engagement. “There are a lot of questions because we’ve been seeing some pretty big increases in those values and that has to do with a number of factors. We understand that farmers are a little wary of what that’s going to mean for their tax bill, especially because farmland is how they make their living.… Continue reading

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ODA announces $6 million for farmland preservation

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is proud to announce that nine land trusts, seven counties or townships and 25 Soil and Water Conservation Districts will receive funding to help preserve farmland across the state. These organizations will receive allocations from the Clean Ohio Fund to select, close and monitor easements under the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP).

Ohio landowners interested in selling an agricultural easement on their farms can fill out an application with their LAEPP sponsor organization. A total of $6 million will be made available in this round of funding. Local sponsors have been certified to accept applications in 51 counties. Landowners should contact the certified local sponsor in their county for application details.

The program allows landowners to voluntarily sell easements on their farms to the state of Ohio.

The easement requires the farm permanently remain in agriculture production. Selected farms must be 40 acres or more, actively engaged in farming, participate in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, demonstrate good stewardship of the land, have the support of their local government, and not lay directly in the path of development.… Continue reading

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Americans for Clean Aviation Fuel

A transformative new initiative has taken flight with the formation of Americans for Clean Aviation Fuels (ACAF), a national coalition comprised of industry leaders from the aviation, manufacturing, energy, and agricultural sectors. ACAF is committed to expanding the use of clean aviation fuels (CAFs), driving national efforts to expand the use of American-grown feedstocks and harnessed energy — benefitting the American economy, heartland farmers and growers, the environment, and national security.

CAFs provide an environmentally sound alternative to using conventional jet fuel by significantly reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encompass the universe of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) — biofuels or synthetic fuels derived from renewable biomass feedstocks, waste resources, and renewable energy resources, as well as captured carbon and hydrogen.

“Americans for Clean Aviation Fuels brings together industry leaders from diverse sectors to highlight the broad benefits of homegrown fuels to our nation’s economy and energy security.  We are leading a national movement to build a future where aviation is powered by American energy sources that are good for the economy and our environment,” said Nick Boeyink, ACAF States Director.… Continue reading

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ODA releases schedule for 2024 fairs

Ohioans can start planning visits to all of their favorite fairs across the state. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) released the official dates for the 2024 fair season, which includes Ohio’s 94 county and independent fairs and the Ohio State Fair. The Paulding County Fair will kick off the 2024 fair season on June 8, and the season will wrap up on Oct. 12 with the Fairfield County Fair. For a complete schedule, click here. In addition to setting and approving the dates for the independent and county fairs, ODA is responsible for helping to assure the safety of fair amusement rides, monitoring livestock shows to help assure honest competition and coordinating animal health efforts with local veterinarians.

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Natural resource officers sought

By Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is accepting applications through the end of the month for its new class of Natural Resources Officer cadets. Ideal candidates for this opportunity are active people who love spending time outdoors, which includes most OCJ readers. Natural Resources Officers patrol Ohio’s state parks, forests, preserves, and waterways. Duties include law enforcement, public service, education, and public relations. You can learn more about a not-so-typical day on the job from current officers in this Natural Resources Officers video: 

Top-scoring candidates will undergo interviews and a pre-employment evaluation. Those selected as cadets will complete a training program related to ODNR operations. Following that, cadets will attend the Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training Academy for five months. Cadets who are already certified as peace officers with the State of Ohio will begin field training and will not need to attend the academy. … Continue reading

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Conservation Stewardship Program funding available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications from landowners interested in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to build on existing conservation efforts to increase operational efficiencies and environmental benefits as well as reduce overall input costs. This year, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding is providing additional financial opportunities for select conservation practices and enhancements to increase direct climate mitigation benefits. 

Ohio NRCS is increasing the minimum annual payment for agricultural producers participating in CSP from $1,500 to $4,000 starting in fiscal year 2024. The increase addresses challenges faced by small scale, underserved, and urban producers and improves equity in the program by making participation more financially beneficial for smaller operations. The new minimum payment is available for new and renewed CSP contracts, and applications for the program.

Additionally, producers and landowners can take advantage of the ACT NOW process, which immediate approves and obligates applications when the application meets or exceeds a state-determined minimum ranking score.… Continue reading

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