Country Life

Test your water for peace of mind

By Karen Mancl

Every day in the news we hear a lot about testing. COVID-19 tests give us assurance that we are not sick and passing on the virus. School testing is looking at student progress in the wake of virtual learning. But what about the water we use in the home? If you pay a water bill, the water company must test the water and send you a report once a year in the water bill. They must also notify you if the water exceeds safe limits. However, if your home is served by a private well, no tests are required. It is up to the property owner to test the water to ensure that it is safe to use for their family and visitors.

Fortunately, in Ohio more than two dozen testing labs accept water samples from the public to test it for bacteria contamination or toxic chemicals like lead.… Continue reading

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Easy Internet marketing for local foods

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

When COVID-19 hit, it was not uncommon for shoppers at many grocery stores to find nearly empty shelves. At the time, George Duggan had no idea how much the pandemic would also impact his business. A veteran of Internet marketing for over 20 years, specializing in registering domain names and websites, Duggan is the founder of

“I always had an interest in the local food movement, and eating healthy,” Duggan said. 

Out of that interest came the idea of 

“Seven years ago, we launched the website and on-line farm store builder,” he said. “We currently serve over 150 farms and are still growing, helping them create websites and on-line stores.” 

Headquartered in the Albany, New York area, is a family business that initially started helping farmers in the Northeast United States, but now has helped farms all across the country, as far away as Alaska, and also up into Canada.… Continue reading

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USDA to Invest $15 million in Conservation Innovation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing up to $15 million to support the development of new tools, approaches, practices and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.

 CIG partners use creative problem solving and innovation to address our nation’s water quality, air quality, soil health and wildlife habitat challenges, all while improving agricultural operations. This year, funded CIGs will focus on climate-smart strategies for water resources, soil health (focused on carbon sequestration and climate resilience), nutrient management, grazing lands conservation and strategies to increase conservation adoption.  

 “Through Conservation Innovation Grants, we’re able to co-invest with partners on the next generation of agricultural conservation solutions,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “Using creative problem solving and innovation, CIG partners work to address our nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns, all while helping to ensure the health and longevity of American agriculture.”… Continue reading

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New human coronavirus identified

Researchers have identified and completed the genetic analysis of a newly discovered coronavirus — one that has evolved from a coronavirus that afflicts dogs to one that infects people and may contribute to respiratory illness.

The discovery of the first dog coronavirus found to have crossed over to infecting people underscores the treacherous nature of coronaviruses and the need to monitor animal viruses as a way of predicting possible threats to public health, researchers say. 

“At this point, we don’t see any reasons to expect another pandemic from this virus, but I can’t say that’s never going to be a concern in the future,” said Anastasia Vlasova, an assistant professor in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

She conducted the study with Gregory C. Gray, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases of the Duke University School of Medicine, and Teck-Hock Toh, a professor at SEGi University in Sarawak, Malaysia.… Continue reading

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Waterman set to build on urban agricultural traditions

By Matt Reese

A long-time haunt for agricultural students in the shadow of the downtown Columbus skyline is building upon its unique history and location on The Ohio State University campus. The Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory already has a little bit of all things agricultural and there are a number of updates and changes on the way that will allow the options and potential to grow.

“People know the tradition and history of enhancing educational opportunities, thinking about the connectivity and excitement around career paths in food, agricultural and environmental sciences, and that is a priority for the College. We achieve many of those goals through our Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory,” said Dewey Mann, director. “We want to showcase the breadth of Ohio agriculture. We see this as an exciting platform for public engagement. If you are going to have a comprehensive University where hort and crop science faculty interact with medical center faculty, you have to have a physical space for them to do their work and come together.… Continue reading

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All 94 Ohio county and independent fairs to receive $50,000 from SB 109

On May 17 Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 109 into law, providing the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) $4.7 million in grant funding to distribute evenly to all 94 county and independent agricultural societies. As a result, ODA will be allocating $50,000 to each agricultural society to be used on their operating expenses, projects, or any other items related directly to the fair.

“Ohio’s fairs not only provide us fond memories of our childhood, they are also important to our local communities and provide a valuable forum for the next generation of responsible food producers,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “We sincerely thank Governor DeWine and the General Assembly for this generous support of our fairs that have lost significant revenue and have struggled over the past year. It is my hope that this funding can help breathe new life into our fairs as they move toward a successful 2021 season.”… Continue reading

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Ohio legislature spending energy on energy legislation

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

Energy is a hot topic at the statehouse these days. The Ohio General Assembly is reviewing several proposals dealing with energy sources, including solar and wind facilities, oil, gas, and gas pipelines. The proposals raise a critical question about where control over energy production activities should lie: with the state or with local communities? The proposals offer contrasting views on the answer to that question.

Solar and wind projects 

We reported in March that companion bills H.B. 118 and S.B. 52 were on hold due to conflicts with the proposals, which would have allowed citizens to use the referendum process to reject proposed large scale wind and solar energy developments in their communities. On May 12, the bill sponsors offered a substitute bill to the House Public Utilities Committee. The new approach in the substitute bill would allow a township to adopt a resolution designating all or parts of the township as “energy development districts.”… Continue reading

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A growing solution to the plastics problem

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Plastics are all around us. Cookware and eating utensils, toys and games, car and truck fenders, syringes, fence posts, single-use water bottles, signs, and even human anatomical parts made on 3-D printers. They’re all made of plastic.

We have Leo Baekeland, a brilliant, but eccentric, Belgian-born chemist, to thank for setting us on the course to our world of plastic. Experimenting with formaldehyde and phenol formulations, he invented, in 1907, the first type of plastic, which he named Bakelite. A solid heat-resistant product that could be molded into different shapes, it was used primarily for electrical equipment like telephones. 

For his history-making invention, Baekeland landed on the cover of Time magazine. And for founding the first plastics company, the Bakelite Corporation, he became known as the Father of the Plastics Industry. The tagline for his company’s star product: “The Material of a Thousand Uses.” 

Bakelite drew the kind of attention given today to innovations like cell phones, smartwatches and robotic machines.… Continue reading

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Ag groups expressing concerns about tax reform

The Tax Aggie Coalition sent a letter Monday to congressional leadership reiterating that any tax reform needs to have built-in protections for family-owned farms.  
“As Congress turns its attention to making investments in our nation’s infrastructure and human resources, we urge you not to alter or eliminate long-standing tax code provisions that are fundamental to the financial health of production agriculture and the businesses that supply its inputs, transport its products, and market its commodities,” the letter explained. The letter focused primarily on the current proposal to eliminate the step-up-in-basis and impose capital gains taxes at death. These proposals have gained significant traction in recent weeks as the Biden administration proposed such measures to pay for upcoming infrastructure investment, with few details on how farms will be exempted.

The letter also emphasized coalition support for maintaining Section 199A deductions and “like-kind exchange” provisions as key to maintaining profitability amongst farm operations.… Continue reading

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Walleye breach the century mark

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

Great news for northwest Ohio anglers: a walleye has been found in the Sandusky River upstream of the recently demolished Ballville Dam near Fremont. University of Toledo graduate student Taylor Sasak has spent the last two springs searching for signs that walleye are moving past the site of the former Ballville Dam that was removed in 2018 on the Sandusky River near Fremont, and finally struck gold.

The fish was captured in late April while electrofishing in a boat as part of Sasak’s ongoing research project. She actually caught 13 walleye near Portage Trail Park and one walleye near Wolf Creek Park above the former obstacle, the first time walleye have accessed the habitat that had been blocked for more than a century.

“The Ballville Dam blocked migratory fish, such as walleye, from accessing upstream areas of suitable spawning habitat for over a century,” Sasak said.… Continue reading

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Gov. DeWine ending supplemental unemployment aid

On Thursday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that on June 26 Ohio will be ending the supplemental unemployment aid from the federal government. The unemployment checks, totaling $300 per week, were part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

“The unemployment supplement from the federal government helped many Ohioans get through a very challenging time, but it was intended to be a short-term solution,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “As businesses continue to do their best to respond to the growing demand across the food and farm sector, there are plentiful opportunities for the state’s workforce to get back on the job to help Ohio’s economy return to pre-pandemic levels. We appreciate Gov. DeWine taking the steps needed for the long-term success of Ohio’s employers and their employees.”… Continue reading

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Understanding climate adaptation in the Eastern Corn Belt

In light of climate-induced risks and uncertainties, such as increasing extreme rainfall events and warmer temperatures, an interdisciplinary team of research, extension, and outreach professionals at Ohio State are working together to identify how to promote sustainability and resilience in the Eastern Corn Belt. 

The team seeks to understand how farmers’ can adapt to these changing conditions while supporting both agricultural production and the protection of critical ecosystem services. View these brief videos to understand the project focus, the past and expected future climate conditions, and how and what farmers plan to adapt. Our climate infographic demonstrates how mean daily maximum temperatures could increase as much as 10 degrees, while annual total precipitation could increase as much as 15 inches. These changes will impact the growing season and create challenges with water availability at different times of the year. 

Our farmer infographic demonstrates that the preferred adaptation strategies are installing more drainage tile, increased the use of conservation tillage, changing one’s crop insurance coverage, and retired land for conservation.… Continue reading

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What is happening with lumber prices?

By Brent Sohngen, Professor Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, The Ohio State University

In case you haven’t noticed, lumber prices have increased a lot over the last year. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Lumber Price Index, which you can find here, lumber prices have increased 180% since April, 2020. This increase started last fall, and has continued ever since. So, why have they risen, and how high will they go?

Let’s start with the first question, why have they risen? The economic explanation is relatively straightforward: demand rose rapidly due to pandemic related building, and supply is really inelastic, as we say in economics. Thus, while the demand of wood has increased dramatically, the supply of wood hasn’t been able to keep up. Let’s break this down.

Consider the demand side first. The construction sector, specifically building and remodeling houses, is one of the largest demanders of lumber in the U.S.… Continue reading

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Bright future or a long shadow for solar in Ohio?

By Matt Reese

The solar debate is heating up in rural Ohio.

“It is huge here in Ohio and it is growing. I think we have probably a dozen projects in various stages of development in terms of utility scale solar development,” said Brandon Kern, with Ohio Farm Bureau. “There are a lot of mixed feelings about this. You have landowners and farmers who see this as an opportunity to diversify income. You have others who are concerned about the competitive strain it could put on trying to acquire farmland. If you are out there trying to rent ground and some of this ground is being taken up with solar development, you are probably concerned. We understand that. You also have another element of concern out there about what level of local engagement is appropriate for community members to have input into the process for where these utility scale developments get sited.… Continue reading

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On the road again with delicious breakfasts aplenty

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

The excitement of traveling is in the air. We have all been cooped up for over a year now and we are itching to get out of Dodge. Traveling abroad, across the U.S. and through the wonderful state of Ohio has taken me on quite the gamut of accommodations from a yurt in The Wilds, and camping in Betty, our T@B teardrop, to high-end hotels and of course everything in between. Experiencing unique lodging and my foodie ways have become a bucket list pursuit for me that started even from a young age. In the summer of ’83, the unique choices of lodging and food primarily fell to bed and breakfasts and their regional cuisine. Our family vacation that year took us across New England notches, lakes, foothills, the Atlantic Coast and White Mountains. In those days without mobile phones, and google maps to help you secure overnight accommodations, we were left with a bed and breakfast book and the good old fashioned Rand McNally Atlas to assist us on our trek.… Continue reading

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Tax concerns from House lawmakers

More than 130 Republican House members sent a letter to leadership on last week, opposing to the use of two tax provisions — the elimination of stepped-up basis allowances from the tax code and capital gains taxes at death — which could be offered as pay-fors under President Biden’s “American Families Plan” proposal. 

“A recent EY study found that these two changes to the tax code had the potential to reduce wages by $32 for every $100 in new taxes collected, and to eliminate 80,000 jobs per year right now, and up to 100,000 per year by 2030,” the letter explained. “We agree 21st century transportation networks, utilities, and broadband are vital to economic growth as we rebuild our economy and get Americans back to work. We also believe repealing stepped-up basis and taxing capital gains at death would be counterproductive to these goals. We oppose their inclusion in any legislation, and we look forward to working with you on ways to responsibly fund the improvements needed to ensure America’s farms, ranches, and small businesses fully benefit and can continue serving their customers here and around the world,” the lawmakers wrote. … Continue reading

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Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation awards Action and Awareness grants

The Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation recently awarded grants to fund efforts in agriculture-related programming.

“A robust farm and food community is something that everyone in Ohio is reliant upon,” said Mike Townsley, chairman of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation board. “These fantastic grant recipients share a common goal to forge new programs and projects that will create enthusiasm for innovation and will promote growth in the interest and investment in Ohio’s farm and food community.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation funds programs that create a positive, measurable impact in four core areas of giving through its Action and Awareness grants program:

Education — Providing grants for professional development programs allowing individuals to advance their knowledge of agriculture, share ideas and improve people’s lives.

Environment — Funding sensible solutions that contribute to a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable Ohio by focusing on increased care for land and water.

Economic development — Capturing opportunities that build prosperity, create jobs and enhance the quality of life for Ohioans by funding projects that spur economic growth in local communities.… Continue reading

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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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