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Sustainability defined, and defining agriculture

By Dave White, Ohio Livestock Coalition

A couple of months ago I attended two professional conferences about animal agriculture where they used the “S” word and the “T” word throughout both of them, the “S word being “sustainability” and the “T” word being transparency.

When you hear the term “sustainability” being used in agricultural circles, what comes to mind? Is there a definition that we can all agree upon? Are we all talking about the same thing?

When I “searched” for a definition for sustainable agriculture, I came across this: a practice of farming that uses the principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment, an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term to:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs,
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends,
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls,
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations, and
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
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Use caution with plants for biomass

The biofuels industry is hitting its stride, with both small farms and large-scale farms considering the production of renewable crops that can be converted to energy. But scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) caution that many of these crops also are known as invasive weeds in some of the regions where they are planted. Growers must exercise caution in order to protect our natural ecosystems.

“We don’t yet have sufficient research and risk models to predict the environmental impact of these new crops in the field,” said Jacob Barney, assistant professor of Invasive Plant Ecology at Virginia Tech. “In many ways it’s a large-scale experiment, with few regulations or policy guidelines. Voluntary precautions taken by stakeholders are virtually our only line of defense.”

A recent report from the National Wildlife Federation cites several examples of species cultivated for biofuels that have the potential to become harmful invaders. Among them are:

  • Giant reed (Arundo donax) an invasive weed known for crowding out native plants in fragile riparian areas.
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Ohio Sheep Day to be held at Buckeye Acres Farm

By Roger A. High, State Sheep Extension Associate

The 2012 Ohio Sheep Day is scheduled for Sat., July 14, 2012. It will be held at Buckeye Acres Farm, home farm of the Ron and Carla Young family. The farm is located in scenic Van Wert County, at 12282 Harrison-Willshire Rd., Van Wert, Ohio 45891.

Buckeye Acres Farm is a purebred oriented sheep operation, historically concentrating on Purebred Suffolk’s, but now concentrating on the Katahdin breed of sheep. The farm is located in Western Ohio where the terrain is very flat, making it an ideal location for grain crop production, but also an exceptional place to grow forages for sheep production.

This year’s Ohio Sheep Day will focus on programming which will increase and improve the profitability of sheep operations. Daryl Clark, Vice-President, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Retired, OSU Extension Agriculture Agent, will be the keynote speaker.

Programming for the day will also include EQIP programming, internal parasite control, manure management, farm tours, forage demonstrations, grazing management and many other topics.… Continue reading

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Air quality final rule coming later this year

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed updates to its national air quality standards for both coarse and fine particulate matter. EPA proposed no changes to its standards for coarse particles, which include dust commonly generated by typical farming practices and driving on unpaved rural roads.

“Although we’re pleased with EPA’s decision not to propose changes to its standards for coarse dust particles at this time, there’s much more to this story,” said Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation President. “We remain concerned that the final rule EPA will publish later this year could look very different from the initial proposal.”

EPA is expected to publish a final rule on its National Ambient Air Quality Standards in December. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review ambient air quality standards every five years.

“America’s food producers — farmers and ranchers — need stability and certainty regarding government regulations, which is why Farm Bureau supports the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act,” Stallman said.… Continue reading

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“Focus on Soybeans” provides latest information for producers

To make the most of every acre, U.S. soybean farmers need the latest production research and management information. One thing that can help them get it is the soy checkoff-funded “Focus on Soybeans” webcast series. And with the new, quicker summary versions, U.S. soybean farmers can get the latest information they can use on the farm in five minutes or less.

“The webcasts provide valuable information to help soybean farmers better manage pests, diseases and other crop stresses,” said Jimmy Sneed United Soybean Board (USB) communications chair. “They also bring to U.S. soybean farmers new developments in production practices, irrigation management, seeding rates, seed-quality preservation and others that are included in the series, too.”

Now the webcasts are available in a shorter format. And although that provides more convenience for some farmers, the full-length versions, which include a lot more science-related information, still remain available for soybean farmers who prefer the longer format.… Continue reading

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Trans-Pacific Partnership may be expanding

This week, the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement took steps to possibly further expand the agreement in the future.

President Obama announced that the United States and the other countries negotiating the TPP have extended an invitation to Canada and Mexico to join the trade negotiations. In addition to the United States, the current TPP countries are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Many in agriculture are supportive of the TPP. The American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among others, have both been very supportive of the TPP.

“TPP has the potential to be the beginning of a new era in global trade where tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated and standards are based on sound, objective science instead of political protectionism,” said Bob McCan, NCBA vice president. “This agreement could likely become much more than a multi-lateral free trade agreement.… Continue reading

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Sorghum should be part of the bioenergy mix

Sweet and biomass sorghum would meet the need for next-generation biofuels to be environmentally sustainable, easily adopted by producers and take advantage of existing agricultural infrastructure, a group of researchers led by Purdue University scientists believes.

The scientists from Purdue, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Illinois and Cornell University believe sorghum, a grain crop similar to corn, could benefit from the rail system, grain elevators and corn ethanol processing facilities already in place. Their perspective article is published early online in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.

“The Midwest is uniquely poised to get the biorefining industry going on cellulose,” said Nick Carpita, a Purdue professor of botany and plant pathology. “As we move to different fuels beyond ethanol, the ethanol plants of today are equipped to take advantage of new bioenergy crops.”

The scientists argue that no single plant is a silver-bullet answer to biofuels, but sorghum should be a larger part of the conversation than it is today.… Continue reading

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Prevent heat-related work illness

As temperatures rise, so does the chance of those working in areas susceptible to high heat conditions of becoming ill.  To prevent heat-related work injuries and illnesses, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) suggests employers and employees take safety precautions now and be aware of factors that can lead to heat stress; the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke; ways to prevent heat stress; and, what can be done for heat-related illnesses.

Each year, thousands of outdoor workers experience heat illness, which often manifests as heat exhaustion. If not quickly addressed, heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, according to the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which can be deadly.

“Heat and humidity are a serious safety threat to workers during the summer – from utility workers, to agriculture, construction,  firefighters, roadway workers and more,” ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, of Long Beach, CA,  said today.… Continue reading

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Senate agrees to move forward with Farm Bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow says the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement to move forward with the farm bill – a measure that affects 16-million American jobs. With that – the Senate is expected to begin debate on the legislation this afternoon. In addition to a Manager’s amendment – Senators will consider more than 70 amendments. Stabenow says her colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand it’s important to act as soon as possible to give farmers the certainty they need to keep growing the economy. She says this Farm bill is unlike any other – cutting spending, ending subsidies, improving accountability and strengthening healthy food systems.

Crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP – are each the subject of several of the amendments. Senator Tom Coburn’s amendment to reduce MAP funding and Senator Jim DeMint’s amendment to make checkoff programs voluntary are also on the list.… Continue reading

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Grazing management in dry conditions

By Jeff McCutcheon, Extension Educator, Morrow County

Talk about extremes. Last year we were still talking about planting at this time. This year, first cutting hay is in the barn and we are wondering if there will be any more. According to the information in the Ohio Pasture Measurement Project (weekly reports can be found at forage growth has not been what we have come to expect the last few years. With no rain in the forecast what is a grazier to do? Relax. Remember, we have been here before — dry periods are expected, but not enjoyed. Of course, if you just started managing grazing in the last two wet years, consider this a crucial part of your education. Many experienced graziers refer to it as the school of hard knocks.

Rotations need to slow down. Grass is growing slower, it takes longer to start regrowth after being grazed and it takes longer to reach optimum grazing mass (height) for the next grazing.… Continue reading

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Ohio weekly crop progress report for June 18th

The average temperature for the State was 70.8 degrees, 1.3 degrees above normal for the week ending Sunday, June 17, 2012. Precipitation averaged 0.26 inches, 0.73 inches below normal. There were 148 modified growing degree days, 12 days above normal.

Reporters rated 6.6 days suitable for fieldwork during the seven-day period ending Friday, June 15, 2012. Topsoil moisture was rated 31 percent very short, 46 percent short, 22 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.


The state continued to experience warm and dry conditions. The heat is putting significant stress on livestock. The heat also hampered growth of corn, soybeans, and hay. Soybean emergence has been slow due to dry weather. Reporters commented that some areas have become too dry to replant soybeans or double crop soybeans. Insect infestation has been a problem in alfalfa fields. Field activities included side-dressing corn with nitrogen, spraying herbicides, and baling hay.

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Blackberry research seeks hardier cultivars

Researchers with Ohio State University Extension are in the midst of a three-year trial to determine which blackberry cultivars (varieties) can best thrive in Ohio’s colder climate. This is part of an effort to increase the varieties available to local growers in order to boost the state’s acreage of the increasingly popular fruit.

The major challenge of growing blackberries in Ohio is that the fruit lacks a large degree of winter hardiness, said Gary Gao, an OSU Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops at the OSU South Centers at Piketon.

“If the region experiences a mild winter, such as this winter, the plants will come through winter fine and produce a good crop,” he said. “But if the winter is too cold, as are many Ohio winters, the harsh weather can cause severe injuries to blackberry crops.

“If blackberry floral canes are damaged in the winter months and the blooms are killed, then growers won’t have a crop.… Continue reading

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Retail Farm Market Tour next month

Farmers, producers, business owners, farm market managers, consumers and others interested in learning more about local food systems, food direct marketing and agritourism can participate in a Retail Farm Market Tour in July.

Ohio State University Extension, along with Penn State University Extension, will sponsor the tour to several farm markets in Ohio and Pennsylvania to demonstrate successful operation of local food systems, said Julie Fox, OSU Extension direct marketing specialist at the OSU South Centers at Piketon.

The “Are You Crazy?” Retail Farm Market Tour will be held July 9-10 and will feature several farms, farm markets and farm businesses throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The two-day event features farms and businesses that offer seasonal or year-round produce, food, agritourism, value-added products, entertainment and educational farm direct-to-consumer marketing.

“The tour demonstrates how farms, farm markets and farm businesses are using direct marketing to promote their businesses in a hands-on way for participants to see how direct marketing strategies have helped make these businesses successful,” Fox said.… Continue reading

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OPGMA field day June 27

The Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA) invites fruit and vegetable growers and marketers to participate in its annual educational and networking event, the OPGMA Summer Tour & Field Day, June 27.

The event will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes stops at three locations in Sandusky and Huron counties.

The tour will begin at Eshleman Fruit Farm at 781 East Maple St., Clyde. A family-owned business since 1977, the farm features more than 200 acres of orchards. Tours of the farm will be from 8-11:30 a.m. At noon, OPGMA will host a brief session during lunch, which will be available for sale onsite. Average cost for lunch is $6 to $9, with only cash accepted.

Attendees can then drive approximately 30 miles to visit the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Muck Crops Agricultural Research Station at 4875 State Route 103 South and Buurma Farms at 3090 Kok Road, both in Willard.… Continue reading

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EPA moves E15 past final hurdle


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the final approval to move forward with the sale of E15 ethanol blends. The final issue preventing E15 from moving forward focused on residual fuel left in the hose of single hose pumps that would offer E15 and other fuels. Most importantly, this announcement knocks down the lone, significant regulatory hurdle standing in the way of getting E15 into the marketplace for passenger vehicles 2001 and newer. With guidance on that issue from the EPA, fuel providers and retailers wishing to sell E15 can do so provided they register with EPA and follow approved misfueling mitigation protocols.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for American consumers. Since filing the Green Jobs waiver three years ago, the ethanol industry has worked extensively with the EPA to meet the conditions they placed on the approval of the waiver last year. At each step along the way, the industry has done its part to meet these conditions to get E15 into the marketplace,” from a statement from the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy.… Continue reading

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Ohio to host international flour millers

A team of Spanish and Italian flour milling executives will visit the United States June 17 to 23 to learn more about the U.S. spring wheat, durum and soft red winter (SRW) wheat crops and the U.S. marketing system. U.S Wheat Associates (USW) is sponsoring this trade team with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, state wheat commissions in North Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio, and private exporters. “The United States and Canada compete in European spring and durum markets like Spain and Italy,” said Goris van Lit, USW European regional director. “These millers hope to learn more about what changes might happen after the Canadian Wheat Board loses its marketing monopoly on Aug. 1. In Ohio, the Spanish millers will learn more about the new soft red winter crop from farmers and the grain trade.” In northwest Ohio, the millers will get the chance to see a soft red winter crop only days before harvest and meet with local grain handlers and flour millers. 
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Crop insurance reminders for fruit producers

An early warm up that brought on budding and pollination in many fruit crops was followed by freezing temperatures that damaged much of this year’s crop. Brian Frieden, USDA’s Risk Management Agency Director for the Springfield Region, offers a few basic reminders for producers with crop insurance.

If you have a crop loss, notify your crop insurance agent. Your crop insurance company will discuss your options and send a loss adjuster to work the claim. For producers contemplating whether to maintain the crop for harvest, keep in mind that to adjust the production for quality the crop must reach maturity. The company can establish representative areas or strips to determine production if you decide not to maintain the entire crop. These areas must be maintained as you would under normal conditions until harvest.

If you are considering removal of trees or vines, contact your insurance company before doing so to insure it doesn’t impact your claim.… Continue reading

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OCWGA pushing for a farm bill

The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) and Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) are urging their members and all agricultural stakeholders to contact Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park) today to encourage quick action and a yes vote for the Senate Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill.

“This bipartisan bill, which reduces the federal deficit more than $23 billion, is of utmost importance and it’s critical to move forward now,” said OCWGA President Mark Watchman. “Not only for the security of our state’s more than 26,000 grain farmers, but for the food security and food affordability of all Ohioans.”

OCWGA and OSA are in support of the revenue-based Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program currently in the Senate’s version, as it offers a true safety net for grain farmers. Both organizations advocate for the consideration of germane amendments only. Non-germane amendments could delay or derail passage of the bill. OCWGA and OSA are encouraging a confirmation vote for the Senate Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill.… Continue reading

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