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Farm prices plummeting from virus shutdown

From dairy farmers with nowhere to send their milk and cattle ranchers reeling from plummeting beef prices, the impact of the coronavirus is rippling through farm country. Corn, cotton and soybean futures have tumbled, ethanol plants have been idled, and some fruit and vegetable farmers are finding their best option is leaving produce in the field.

Price forecasts for most agricultural products are bleak. In the past month, dairy prices have dropped 26% to 36%, corn futures have dropped by 14%, soybean futures are down 8% and cotton futures have plummeted 31%. Hog futures are down by 31%. A surge in demand for beef emptied grocery store meat aisles, but there is no lack of supply. Despite a rise in retail prices in some areas, the prices paid to cattle ranchers have fallen 25%.

Dairy producers were optimistic at the start of 2020 that it would be a turnaround year, with milk prices on the rise and feed costs holding steady.… Continue reading

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Ohio’s agribusinesses committed to service through coronavirus outbreak

In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, farmers across Ohio continue to operate to their fullest in order to keep Ohio’s food supply strong. Standing behind them are Ohio’s agribusinesses, which, as an essential industry, continue to diligently serve their farmer customers, while also managing the risks related to coronavirus.

Nearly all areas of the agriculture industry are considered essential, ranging from feed manufacturers and feed delivery, to agronomists and custom applicators, to support personnel such as IT, mechanics and operations. Due to the inherent seasonality of agriculture, agribusinesses have capacity to hire those individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of mandated business closures. Interested individuals should contact their local agribusinesses to inquire what seasonal positions may be available or visit www.oaba.net/careers for open positions.

“Our members understand the risk COVID-19 represents, but also know their importance to operating as an essential business,” said Chris Henney, OABA president and CEO.… Continue reading

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Ohio NRCS seeks new proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking new proposals for cutting-edge projects that will provide new conservation opportunities with its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Through the CIG program, Ohio will invest up to $300,000 for new projects in fiscal year 2020.

NRCS CIG emphasizes projects that have a goal of providing benefits within a limited geographic area. Ohio priorities in fiscal year 2020 will be Soil Health, Water Quality and Forestry-Based Sustainable Natural Ecosystem projects. Projects may be farm-based, multi-county, small watershed or Statewide in scope. For additional information about State CIG competitions, please contact Ohio CIG program manager Cheryl Rice or search for the latest postings at Grants.gov.

All non-federal entities and individuals are invited to apply, with the sole exception of federal agencies. Projects may be between one and three years in duration and the funding minimum for a single award is $25,000 and the funding maximum for a single award is $150,000.… Continue reading

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Pollinators and honey bees

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

A good deal of attention has been given to honey bees and other pollinators the last several years. Honey bees first began to draw notice back in 2006 when concerns over Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) first emerged. CCD is defined by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service as a dead colony with no adult bees and with no dead bee bodies, but with a live queen, honey and immature bees. More recently, attention has been given to habitat for other pollinators as well. The USDA has looked at existing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts in a Mid-Contract Management (MCM) process to address growing pollinator habitat concerns. Along with reducing soil erosion and improving water quality, CRP aims to ensure plant diversity and wildlife benefits as well. Several producers with CRP contracts for grass filter strips received letters from the FSA offices notifying them of recent revisions to the MCM process that require all CRP contracts undertake a MCM activity.… Continue reading

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Challenging conditions remain into April

By Jim Noel, NOAA

Temperatures and rainfall

Temperatures will start the first 7 days of April 1-3 degrees F above normal. Rainfall will start April below normal — about half of normal. That is some good news as the end of March (as forecast) was very wet. However, most indications are for after the first week of April, temperatures will be near normal and rainfall slightly above normal. This will put pressure on early spring planting in April. Evaporation and evapotransporation will be held in check by closer to normal temperatures as we go through April. The May outlook calls for warmer than normal and a little wetter than normal but not as wet as last year.

Soil moisture and temperatures

Soil temperatures have come out of winter above normal due to heavy saturation and the mild winter. However, soil moisture remains in the top 1% to 10% wettest on record, so it is wet.… Continue reading

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Navigating and understanding the CARES Act for small businesses

On March 27, President Donald J. Trump signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) into law with provisions to provide financially distressed consumers and small businesses greater access to bankruptcy relief. The legislative package, which quickly passed the House of Representatives, provides a $2 trillion economic stimulus for U.S. industries and citizens faced with the challenges of the COVID-19 coronavirus. It is the largest modern stimulus package in the country.

The COVID-19 impact on agriculture includes a rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closure of ethanol plants, the dramatic decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand, and the reduction in direct-to-consumer sales. The agreement includes a $14 billion increase in USDA’s borrowing authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators.

“Of course there are provisions in there that affect everyone as taxpayers and specifics in there that affect agriculture.… Continue reading

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Ohio FFA Convention cancelled, other events postponed

The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio FFA have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Ohio FFA Convention according to an email from Matt Winkle, Ohio FFA Advisor.

On March 9, 2020 Governor DeWine issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Ohio due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak; and on March 30, 2020 ordered Ohio’s school-building closure until May 1st. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate in the U.S. and Ohio, raising numerous issues and questions. The Governor has made it clear to limit large gatherings regardless of their sponsorship or purpose.

The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio FFA remains committed to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of its members. Therefore, it has been determined that the 2020 Ohio FFA State Convention is cancelled. In addition, all in-person events and competitions scheduled through May 1st have been postponed until further notice.

“The decision to cancel and postpone events was not made lightly,” said Winkle.… Continue reading

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NRCS services available by telephone appointment only

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field offices in Ohio are open by telephone appointment only until further notice. NRCS staff are available to continue to provide one-on-one, customer-specific advice to producers to help them meet their unique conservation and business goals.

All USDA Service Centers, including those with NRCS field offices, are not currently accessible to customers in person. NRCS staff are working with customers through telephone, mail and online communications, and field work continues with appropriate social distancing to help producers with conservation planning and financial assistance through Farm Bill programs.

“Our team is here to work with you and we are looking at every possible option and flexibility to support the conservation needs of Ohio farmers,” said Jon Bourdon, acting NRCS State Conservationist. “We want to continue our customer assistance while also taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

NRCS offers year-round continuous signup for its Farm Bill programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.… Continue reading

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Free online listings available to all sustainable farm and food businesses during COVID-19

Recognizing that farmers are trying to reach consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is taking steps to get the word out and is making its online searchable database available to all sustainable and organic farmers to list their products for sale.

The Good Earth Guide gives consumers an online tool to search for farms and food businesses by product, name, county (Ohio only), and additional options such as community supported agriculture (CSA) and certified organic. Consumers can find out what farms and businesses in Ohio and beyond offer and how to contact them.

“We know farmers, farmers’ markets, and farm-related businesses are scrambling to market their products online, and the Good Earth Guide can help people find them,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director.

Users can find many food and farm related products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, beef, pork, milk, cheese, flour, maple syrup, mushrooms, honey, jams/jellies, breads, sauces, teas, and more.… Continue reading

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H2Ohio signup deadline moved back to March 31

The much-discussed H2Ohio signup deadline had been moved to early June due to challenges associated with COVID-19. In an effort to preserve resources for H2Ohio, however, the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced it will be is suspending the acceptance of new applications after March 31 but will continue to process all current applications.

“Due to changes from the Ohio Department of Agriculture we now need to have EVERYONE interested in participating in H2Ohio signed up by March 31, 2020,” said Janelle Mead with the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

While each district is different, please reach out to your SWCD district office and be prepared to answer the following questions:

• Entity Name

• Address

• Phone (please leave a telephone number where you can be reached 24/7.)

• Email

• Acres you wish to put in each of the practices for EACH year (2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023)

“We know this is a crazy time and appreciate your patience as we work through this change,” Mead said.… Continue reading

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Federal steps being taken to address coronavirus concerns

By Matt Reese and Dave Russell

On March 27, President Donald J. Trump signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) into law with provisions to provide financially distressed consumers and small businesses greater access to bankruptcy relief. The legislative package, which quickly passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote, provides a $2 trillion economic stimulus for U.S. industries and citizens faced with the challenges of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The COVID-19 impact on agriculture includes a rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closure of ethanol plants, the dramatic decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand, and the reduction in direct-to-consumer sales. The agreement reportedly includes a $14 billion increase in USDA’s borrowing authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators.

“The timeline is very much up in the air in terms of when things will come out and what things might look like,” said Ben Brown, Ohio State University Farm Management Program Manager.… Continue reading

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FSA offices open by phone appointment only

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices are open in Ohio by phone appointment only until further notice, and FSA staff are available to continue helping agricultural producers with program signups, loan servicing and other important actions. Additionally, FSA is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

FSA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into to the office, they will be working with our agricultural producers by phone and using email and online tools whenever possible.

“FSA programs and loans are critical to Ohio farmers and producers, and we want to continue our work with customers while taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” said Leonard Hubert, FSA State executive director. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this.… Continue reading

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Ohio’s Stay at Home Order and agricultural businesses

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

We’ve received several questions about Ohio’s Stay at Home Order and how it affects agricultural businesses. As you well know, the Order states that residents are to stay at home and may leave “only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to participate in Essential Businesses and Operations.” All non-essential businesses and activities are to cease. It remains in place until the end of the day on April 6. Here are the relevant parts of the Order that answer the questions we’ve received:

What businesses are “essential”?

The Order lists (on pages 5 and 6) the “Essential Businesses and Operations” that may continue during this period. The list specifically includes many agricultural activities, such as:

12 b. Stores that sell groceries and medicine. Grocery stores, pharmacies, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, prepared food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products), and specifically includes their supply chain and administrative supp0rt operations.… Continue reading

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Coronavirus aid package moves forward

The coronavirus aid package negotiated by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and agreed to by Senate leaders and the White House will help ensure farmers and ranchers are able to continue feeding America in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, according to many of the nation’s agricultural organizations.

“Thanks to Leader McConnell and all the senators who diligently fought for farmers and ranchers to ensure they have our backs in the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. The aid to farmers in this package, including funding for the CCC and the Office of the Secretary, will allow USDA to begin crafting an appropriate relief program for agriculture,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau president. “America’s farmers and ranchers face enormous volatility as markets and supply chains rapidly react to changes, but I’ll say again that farmers and ranchers will not let Americans down. All members of Congress must understand that farmers have almost no control over the prices of the goods we produce, so fulfilling our commitment to America requires a team effort.… Continue reading

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OCJ columnist has first hand Ohio run-in with COVID-19

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Late on a recent Thursday night I returned home from a weeklong dairy consultation trip in Minnesota to find my wife, Kris, coughing and feeling poorly. Even though she put on her brave face, I could tell that Kris was suffering from more than a common cold.

Two weeks before, Kris and I attended a conference in Gainesville, Fla. It didn’t dawn on me until later that perhaps her illness traced back to our flight and stay there.

Since Friday is always a tough time to get in to see our doctor, I suggested that we go to the emergency room to get her checked out. Kris was too ill to argue.

Kris ended up staying in the hospital eight days, diagnosed initially with viral pneumonia, and eventually, coronavirus. She took ill before the virus was classified as COVID-19. She had never before been that ill.

The good news is that she survived and has been home from the hospital three weeks.… Continue reading

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Local food connections abound in Athens

By Madi Kregel, OCJ field reporter

A push for local products has connected local farmers and businesses with the Athens and Ohio University communities in southeastern Ohio.

In the hills of Athens county, local farms range from beef cattle to honey bees and herb farms. These farms are connected with the rest of the community through groups such as Farm to Ohio Working Group and Athens Own.

“We have a work group here on campus, Farm to Ohio that is also working and help us bring more local products to different locations on campus,” said Drew Banks, general manager of the Ohio University Campus Cafes.

The Farm to Ohio Working Group (also known as FOWG) consists of Ohio University’s culinary services, office of sustainability, and center for community engagement. It began with a grant initiative with two Southeast Ohio organizations Rural Action and Community Food Initiatives. FOWG meets monthly and aims to find impactful ways for local food to be obtained by more consumers in the Athens area.… Continue reading

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COVID-19 in Ohio Q&A

Linda Saif knows more about coronaviruses than just about anyone. They’re her life’s work.

Saif, a faculty member in Ohio State’s Food Animal Health Research Program, is known nationally and internationally for her research on viruses that affect food-producing animals, wildlife and humans. She’s also a member of Ohio State’s Infectious Diseases Institute, where she is a co-director for the Viruses and Emerging Pathogens program.

Here, she talks about COVID-19’s possible origins, how it compares to similar diseases and why we should take the coronavirus seriously.

 

Q: How seriously should we take this virus, and how worried should we be?

A: It is serious. This is a national and global emergency.

Based on epidemiologic predictions for a new disease in a fully susceptible population, some epidemiologists suggest as many as 66% of people in the United States could become infected, whereas others indicate 30% to 40% as the best case scenario.… Continue reading

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OSU Extension March madness Tournament of Education

Did your usual conference get canceled? Looking to fill the void of the big basketball tournament? Ohio State University Extension is here to help with a new virtual education program for the agricultural community.

“Agriculture and Natural Resources Madness: A Tournament of Education” will include 64 educational events broken into daily brackets. Each day, a virtual educational session will be held at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. The educational tournament is free of charge and will likely continue until mid-May.

“This effort is a direct response to providing a variety of useful and timely sessions for farmers and families across the state during Gov. DeWine’s stay-at-home order,” said Jacqueline Wilkins, interim director of OSU Extension. “While our ‘tournament’ is being loosely tied to March Madness, it’s not a competition, and people can join in at any time for as many or as few sessions as they desire.”

The tournament opens on Wednesday, March 25, with the eFields 2019 Results webinar.… Continue reading

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Farmers at work keeping grocery store shelves stocked on National Agriculture Day (and every day)

On National Agriculture Day, as Ohioans are under a Stay At Home executive order, the state’s farmers remain dedicated to working tirelessly to ensure an abundant supply of nutritious food for families near and far. Organizations representing the state’s farmers, including the Ohio Poultry Association, American Dairy Association Mideast, Ohio Pork Council, Ohio Beef Council, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Agribusiness Association, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, and Ohio Soybean Association have joined together to continue their united, ongoing and unrelenting commitment to help feed the nation today and every day.

“It is our obligation to assure that the public continues to have a steady supply of wholesome and nutritious food—and that responsibility does not stop, even in a public health crisis,” said Frank Burkett III, president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “We know that families have seen shortages in some foods and products at grocery stores, but Ohioans can be confident that our farm community will do what is needed to help keep a steady supply of food available.”

National Agriculture Day, recognized on March 24, is a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of America’s agriculture community and how food brings everyone to the table.… Continue reading

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Happy National Ag Day!

President Donald J. Trump has proclaimed March 24, 2020 as National Ag Day. This year marks the fourth year that the administration has publicly recognized National Ag Day as a salute to the contributions of America’s farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses.

“More importantly, it reminds everyone that the affordable, abundant and nutritious food that they depend on every day comes to them thanks to the hard work and resilience of 2 million American farmers and ranchers,” said Greg Horstmeier, chairman of the board for the Agriculture Council of America, the national organization charged with promoting National Ag Day.

The proclamation highlights the timeless American values of hard work, perseverance, and stewardship of the land. It also stresses that farmers provide the foundation of a national economic supply chain that is critical to our national security and prosperity. The entire proclamation can be viewed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-agriculture-day-2020/.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA).… Continue reading

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