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The dirt on soil health

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

As more is learned about the complexities of the soils serving as the basis for our civilization, it is becoming apparent to many that agricultural management practices need to change. Les Siler, a farmer from Fulton County, said farmers need to be intentional to improve the quality and health of their soil.

“Treat the soil like a living thing. You need to take care of it, keep it covered and not tear it up,” Siler said. “Along with the use of cover crops, having a multiple crop rotation is beneficial. “Crop diversity is very beneficial to the soil health and the soil life. Farmers also need to think about anything they do to the soil. If it is applying fertilizer or making a tillage pass. They need to think about how that impacts building the soil.” … Continue reading

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Laughing — One of life’s best medicines

By Don “Doc” Sanders

There are plenty of benefits of laughing. A good guffaw:

  • Lowers blood pressure and stroke risk 
  • Reduces stress hormone levels 
  • Works abs, as I described earlier  
  • Improves cardiac health. Laughter provides a great cardio workout. 
  • Boosts T-cells, which are specialized immune system cells that fight off illness
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers, making you feel good
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

Laughter also comes in handy as home therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a condition where an individual becomes moody and depressed in the winter when daylight becomes a scarce commodity. 

I know of individuals that have SAD every year. The symptoms include feeling depressed nearly every day, losing interest in the activities that normally bring you joy, being unmotivated and being unable to concentrate. It can become extreme with a feeling of hopelessness, and maybe guilt. Some individuals with SAD border on being suicidal.… Continue reading

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USDA offers additional assistance through CFAP

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide additional assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), expanding eligibility for some agricultural producers and commodities as well as updating payments to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for the program. Producers who are now eligible and those who need to modify existing applications due to these updates can contact USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) between Jan. 19 and Feb. 26. Some of these changes are being made to align with the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 while others are discretionary changes being made in response to ongoing evaluation of CFAP.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep impact on the farm economy, and we are utilizing the tools and monies available to ease some of the financial burdens on American producers to ensure our agricultural economy remains strong, independent and a global leader in production,” said Secretary Perdue.… Continue reading

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Weather outlook to spring

By Jim Noel, NOAA

La Nina remains in full swing, the cooling of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Typically the impacts kick in for Ohio by late December or January.  

You can keep up on La Nina and ENSO at the links below:

Therefore, the climate pattern supports big swings for temperatures for the rest of winter through early spring with the tendency toward above normal temperatures. This will also support snow that comes and goes for most of Ohio. This can expose winter wheat to temperature changes with limited snowpack.

As for rainfall and precipitation, expect above normal conditions to ramp back up for later January into February and March. Northwest Ohio subsoils remain drier than normal but the expectation is for wetting up to continue late winter into early spring.

Going forward through spring, the wetter conditions typically shutdown at some point and that varies for each La Nina event but often it is by May or June.… Continue reading

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Improving fertilizer efficiency with the planter pass

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

An important part of crop production with environmental stewardship is efficient fertilizer application. The 4Rs are a consideration that can partly be addressed by adding fertilizer to the planter. Selecting the right source, the right rate, the right time, and the right place all come into play with the planter.

• The right source: making at fertilizer application at the time of planting can utilize various fertilizer sources, and can be managed by adding either a liquid or dry fertilizer system.

• The right rate: the fertilizer rate can be variably applied with new technologies that are available on planters.

• The right time: research has shown that the timing of fertilizer placement is important and placing fertilizer during the planting application is beneficially both agronomically and environmentally.

• The right place: proper fertilizer placement can be made with a planter, compared to making an application either prior to, or after planting, so that the fertilizer is in a location where the new developing root systems can reach it when it is needed.… Continue reading

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Master Gardener volunteers supplying Ohio food pantries

Master Gardener Volunteers from across Ohio grew nearly 80,000 pounds of produce in 2020 statewide and donated it all to 101 food pantries in cities and towns across the state.

The Master Gardener Volunteer program is a U.S.- and Canada-wide effort that in Ohio is run by Ohio State University Extension, in the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The produce grown included fruits, vegetables, and herbs and was equivalent to 65,200 meals, according to Pam Bennett, state master gardener volunteer program director and horticulture educator with OSU Extension.

Although Master Gardener Volunteers have grown and donated food through this program for 20 years, growers ramped up their production efforts to help deal with the growing issue of food insecurity issues faced by individuals and families in 2020 statewide, said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator who facilitates the program in Franklin County.

That’s significant, considering the rising unemployment and other financial hardships people have faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused food banks to have increased demand for food but receive fewer food donations from grocery stores, according to research from Zoë Plakias, a CFAES assistant professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics.… Continue reading

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Bundle up: A polar vortex could be on the way

If you were thinking this winter has been fairly mild so far, it has been, but gear up. 

Frigid temperatures could be gripping Ohio, the Midwest, and the Northeast around the last week of January. 

The polar vortex, a wide area of swirling cold air near the North Pole, has weakened and split in two, which happens from time to time when air in the stratosphere above it warms. With the split, forecasts indicate one of the portions of the vortex may drift south toward Canada and the northern United States. 

These weakened polar vortex conditions often drop temperatures well below normal (think single digits and sub-zero) and may lead to more snow, said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“We’re watching this evolve,” Wilson said. “It’s eye-catching from a meteorologist’s standpoint. It can obviously cause some storms and lead to very cold conditions.” … Continue reading

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American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention highlights

The American Farm Bureau hosted multiple days of virtual programming this week focused on the future of agriculture and the most pressing issues for farmers, ranchers and consumers for the 2021 American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, farmers and policy experts at both live featured workshops and on-demand sessions. Members from around the country also met virtually to set policy for the coming year.

“2020 has been a year of challenges and high expectations for our farmers — expectations that we will continue to grow the food, fiber and energy for our country and a lot of the rest of the world. We have risen to that challenge and those expectations, all along trying to protect our employees and families from this pandemic,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “I am so proud of Farm Bureau as we have worked with our counties and states to help our farmers get through this difficult time.”… Continue reading

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Check out the 2020 eFields Report

By Elizabeth Hawkins and John Fulton

Now that 2020 has wrapped up, it is time to look forward and make decisions to set our farms up for success in 2021. Each year, Ohio State University Extension partners with Ohio farmers to bring local research results to you through the eFields program. The 2020 eFields Research Report highlights 218 on-farm, field scale trials conducted in 39 Ohio counties. Research topics included nutrient management, precision crop management, cover crops, and forages. Other information about crop production budgets, planting progress, and farm business analysis was also included. New in 2020 was the addition of soil health and water quality trials.

The 2020 report is now available in both a print and e-version. To receive a printed copy, contact your local OSU Extension office or email The e-version can be viewed and downloaded at with the online version readable using a smartphone or tablet device.… Continue reading

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Addressing the challenges from within

By Matt Reese

Mother Nature certainly can offer no-till farmers plenty of external challenges, but sometimes the greatest difficulties from no-till come from within.

“When I started into the no-till, I wondered why everybody wasn’t doing this. I pushed and pushed and after a while I decided, this is not going to work unless that person wants it to work,” said Gary Shick, a Hardin County farmer who was named the 2020 No-Till Farmer of the Year by the Ohio No-Till Council. “Unless you want to make it work, it is not going to work.”

Shick farms mostly rolling ground, with some flat fields and heavy, wet soils mixed in. Some of his fields were a natural fit for no-till in the early 1970s, though many were not.

“I graduated from high school in ‘65 and I had my foot in the door for farming. I had a dad who was helpful and was looking for some help.… Continue reading

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Understanding soil health terms

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Service

Soil health can be hard to understand if you do not know the “lingo” or terminology.  Talking to a doctor, sometimes you need a dictionary to know what they are saying.  Here’s a short primer on soil health terms.  “Soil health” is defined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Soils contains living organisms that perform functions for humans but these organisms need food, shelter, and certain environmental conditions to thrive.

“Soil ecosystem functions” include processes like nutrient cycling, clean water (filtering, buffering, availability), soil physical stability, and soil habitat ( where organisms live). Ecosystem services are grouped into four categories: provisioning (food production and water), regulating (climate and disease control), supporting (nutrient cycles, crop pollination) and cultural (spiritual and recreational benefits). Many soils are degrading rapidly especially when  compared to their virgin state, before they were cultivated.

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Ohio Cattlemen’s Association moves forward with 2021 Ohio Beef Expo

Planning is underway for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association’s (OCA) 2021 Ohio Beef Expo scheduled for March 18 to 21 at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus. Maintaining a safe environment while providing Expo participants with the critical necessity to continue essential farm income are the objectives driving all decisions for the event.

Accomplishing these goals has required the Beef Expo to reformat several elements to comply with the current COVID related state health orders. The seven seedstock sales have been changed to reduce the number of buyers in one area and scheduled for one sale at a time utilizing only one sale ring in the Voinovich building.

The sales will start Friday afternoon March 19 and continue through Saturday, March 20. Most sales will also provide potential buyers with an optional online bidding opportunity. In addition, the Online Feeder Cattle Sale will continue at a new time on Friday morning.

Ohio Beef Expo Schedule of Events (tentative)

Thursday, March 18

3:00 – 7:00 Trade Show open

Friday, March 19

8:00 – Miniature Hereford Show

8:30 – 7:00 Trade Show open

8:00 – Shorthorn Show

10:00 – Online Feeder Cattle Sale

10:00 – Hereford Show

1:00 – Murray Grey Show

1:00 – Junior Show Showmanship

2:00 – Mini Hereford Sale

4:00 – Red Angus Sale

5:00 – Angus Sale

Saturday, March 20

8:00 – Junior Show Market Animals

8:30 – 7:00 Trade Show open

10:00 – Hereford Sale

11:30 – Shorthorn Sale

1:00 – Simmental Sale

3:00 – Maine Anjou Sale

Sunday, March 21

8:00 – Junior Show Heifers

8:30 – 2:00 Trade Show open

The Beef Expo’s trade show is being planned and exhibitor information will be available at the Expo’s website or by contacting OCA staff contact Bailey Eberhart at beberhart@ohiocattle.orgContinue reading

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New rule improves partner flexibility in Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule for its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The rule updates USDA’s partner-driven program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others. 

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a powerful program that enables us to co-invest with partners on win-win solutions that benefit agriculture and natural resources,” said Terry Cosby, State Conservationist of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Ohio. “The final rule contains some minor adjustments made in response to public comments, and we now look forward to continuing our work with Ohio partners to use this unique and innovative program to extend the reach of conservation.” 

RCPP promotes coordination of NRCS and partner conservation activities that aid farmers, ranchers, and private landowners in Ohio with addressing on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.

NRCS received comments from more than 65 organizations and individuals on the RCPP interim rule, which was published February 13, 2020.… Continue reading

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Controlling what we can in a world out of control

By Matt Reese

In one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis has some advice that hits very close to home as we muddle our way through the astonishing early days of 2021.  

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.Continue reading

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DeWine signs H.B. 7 to improve water quality

By Jeffrey Lewis, attorney and research specialist, Ohio State University Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Ohio is thirsty for some quality H2O, but the legislature has recently struggled with how to get it. After debating two separate water quality bills for over a year, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate finally passed H.B. 7 in December. The bi-partisan bill aims to improve water quality in Ohio’s lakes and rivers but doesn’t establish a permanent H2Ohio Trust Fund as the House had first proposed. 

Even so, H.B. 7 will help fund and implement Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohioprogram. DeWine unveiled his water quality plan in 2019 to help reduce phosphorus runoff, prevent algal blooms, and prevent lead contamination in Ohio’s waterways. In July 2019, the Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million to fund the H2Ohio initiative. H.B. 7 continues those efforts by creating a statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program and directing the Ohio Department of Agriculture to implement a pilot program to assist farmers and others in phosphorus reduction efforts.… Continue reading

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Despite concerns, Vilsack may be well-suited withstand agribusiness influence

By Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union

In a sprawling, diverse U.S. family farm community, questions are being asked about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Tom Vilsack to lead the USDA in the next administration.

Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union president

 Like most of my colleagues around the country, I have often been asked about the wisdom of appointing Secretary Vilsack a second time. The former and likely future Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had represented dairy processors and exporters for the past few years, so many small farm advocates had become concerned that he might be too close to “Big Ag.” 

State and National Farmers Union organizations have been among those who had fought against corporate concentration and mega mergers in the ranks of the nation’s seed and feed and food processing businesses. These global ag corporations have taken over markets, putting the squeeze on farmers at the bottom of the supply chain and increased prices to consumers.… Continue reading

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Broadband investment for southern Ohio

Lt. Governor Husted announced that Southern Ohio Communication Services, Inc., in collaboration with JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE) and Pike County Economic & Community Development, plans to invest $3.8 million to provide high-speed Internet service over 64 miles to 1,300 residential and business customers in southern Ohio.  Southern Ohio Communications Service received a $50,000 JobsOhio Inclusion Grant toward building and engineering costs. The project will provide 1 Gig optical fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed Internet to the service area.

Company officials said the investment represents the first phase of a two phase approach to providing expanded optical fiber-to-home high-speed internet service within its rural footprint in Pike and Scioto Counties. In the second phase of the project, Southern Ohio Communication Services will make an additional investment that will result in optical fiber-to-home high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses in Southern Ohio. The current project will result in the creation of at least five new jobs and construction of a new warehouse to store equipment.… Continue reading

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Bullish report for Jan. 12

By Doug Tenney, Leist Mercantile

Corn stocks were less than expected. Corn production was below trade estimates.

Plenty of changes were expected with this USDA report. The January USDA report today has been called one of the most important USDA report days for the entire year. This report details final U.S. corn and soybean for 2020. In addition, quarterly U.S. grains stocks were released. U.S. corn and soybean demand was expected to increase. South America corn and soybean production changes were expected for both Brazil and Argentina.

U.S. corn and soybean ending stocks along with South America corn and soybean production were the main features with this report. World grain ending stocks were closely watched as well.

Corn ending stocks were 1.502 billion bushels, last month was 1.702 billion bushels. Soybean ending stocks were 140 million bushels, last month was 175 million bushels. Wheat ending stocks were 836 million bushels, last month at 862 million bushels.… Continue reading

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DeWine vetoes bill aimed at reopening fairs

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 375 on Jan. 11. The bill aimed to override Ohio’s statewide health order that limits Ohio’s county and independent fairs. It also provided the framework for the working group responsible for setting the 2021 fair season’s safe operating guidelines. The proposed working group included representatives from the legislature, health department, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Fair Managers Association, Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association, Ohio’s livestock organizations, Ohio Agricultural Educators Association, Ohio 4-H and the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

In his veto message, DeWine said it was a difficult decision to limit county fairs in the state last July to limit the spread of COVID-19. Legislative advocates of the bill made the case that fairs suffered financial loss after the statewide restriction reduced fairs’ income.

DeWine’s statement also pointed out the $4.7 million in funding provided to fairs by the state, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s waiver of the $50,000 local match requirement of the agricultural society facility grant.… Continue reading

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Where are we going with U.S. and global trade?

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

Agricultural trade was the topic of the first in a series of winter outlook meetings hosted by the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics (AEDE) at The Ohio State University’s College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES). Dr. Ian Sheldon, Ohio State’s Andersons Chair of Agricultural Marketing, Trade and Policy, led the discussion examining the effects of the pandemic on global trade and U.S. agricultural trade, including an evaluation of the Phase 1 Trade Agreement with China.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an impact on international trade.

“Global trade was forecast to decline by 9.2% in 2020, but then rise 7.2% in 2021 according to the World Trade Organization,” Sheldon said. “Those forecasts were originally made in late October and November of 2020. Forecast estimates initially looked much worse as their April forecast was for a decline of anywhere from 13% to 32%.”… Continue reading

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